American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Managing Insomnia Without Medication

While patients with insomnia may respond well to various sedatives and medications, non-drug strategies can also be helpful in getting a good night's sleep. 

“Women, older adults and people with physical or emotional difficulties tend to suffer most from insomnia,” says R. Gregory Lande, DO, an osteopathic psychiatrist from Bethesda, Maryland

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Some of the impairments that can be attributed to poor sleep include:

  • Chronic fatigue.

  • Inattention.

  • Irritability.

  • Diminished productivity.

  • Emotional problems.

  • More frequent health complaints.

Behavior Changes to Improve Sleep

While medications can be prescribed to improve sleep, behavioral techniques offer simple, cost-effective methods that can be used alone or in conjunction with medications to improve your sleep, Dr. Lande says.

Here are four ways to treat insomnia without medicine:

  • Sleep Hygiene — Applying the basic tenets of sleep hygiene can increase one’s total sleep time and improve sleep efficiency. For example, with a worry journal—a special diary used to record the trials and tribulations of the day along with possible solutions—people who tend to rehash their worries at night can write them down and then literally close the book on their troubles until morning.

  • Stimulus Control — The goal of stimulus control is to break bad habits, such as watching TV or reading while in bed, and to behaviorally associate the bedroom with sleep.

  • Sleep RestrictionThe goal of sleep restriction is to improve the relationship between the time spent actually sleeping versus the time spent in bed. 

  • Cognitive Treatment — Cognitive behavioral treatments for insomnia work through the identification of faulty thoughts that interfere with sleep and learning how to eliminate those thoughts.

Getting a Good Night's Sleep

If you're having trouble sleeping, Dr. Lande recommends scheduling an appointment with your physician to get to the root of your sleeping problem. Sleep may be delayed because of excessive worrying, nightmares, snoring or night sweats.

Dr. Lande adds that Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are particularly adept at evaluating lifestyle and environmental factors that may be contributing to a sleeping problem. They look beyond symptoms to understand how these factors affect your wellbeing.


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