Many medical professionals feel that sleep issues must be addressed holistically rather than solely by medicine. Lack of sleep is often caused by poor “sleep hygiene.” Other common causes for problems sleeping include depression, breathing problems, sleep apnea, unusual work shifts, and irregular sleep habits. Because medications for insomnia often cause short-term and long-term side effects, medicine is often used as a last rather than first resort in helping patients sleep better.
When doctors prescribe sleep medication, they often give alternative recommendations to improve the duration and depth of sleep. These include practicing sleep-promoting behaviors such as avoiding working, reading, or watching television in bed. People tend to sleep better when they have set bed-time routines, such as reading, drinking warm milk or tea (without caffeine) before laying down to sleep. Doctors stress that it is optimal to practice these activities at the same time each day.