NHS Treatments for Insomnia

It’s not always possible to resolve sleep by yourself and you may find that you need help from a doctor. You should make an appointment to see your GP if you are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep and it's affecting your daily life – particularly if you have had the problem for more than 4 weeks. Your GP will start by trying to identify and treat any underlying health condition, such as anxiety, that may be causing your sleep problems. They may ask you about your sleeping patterns and routines, your daily alcohol and caffeine intake, and your general lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise. They'll probably also explain some of the things that you can do to help improve your sleep.

These include:

  • going to bed and getting up at regular times
  • taking time to relax before bedtime
  • keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
  • avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals and exercise in the 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • not watching TV or using phones, tablets or computers shortly before going to bed
  • avoiding napping during the day
  • making a list of your worries, and any ideas about how to solve them, before going to bed to help you put them to the back of your mind until morning.

They will also check your medical history for any illness or medication that may be contributing to your insomnia and should discuss all your treatment options with you, and your views and preferences should always be taken into account when making decisions about your treatment.

Talking treatments

Several talking treatments have been developed for treating sleep problems, and have been shown to be very effective. Your GP may recommend that you try a special type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) designed for people with insomnia (CBTi). CBTi is the treatment that we offer through Sleepstation. This is a type of therapy that aims to help you avoid the thoughts and behaviours affecting your sleep. It can help lead to long-term improvement of your sleep. You are entitled to receive these free talking treatments on the NHS and you can ask for a referral from your GP to access Sleepstation on the NHS.

Medication

Prescription sleeping tablets are usually only considered as a last resort and should be used for only a few days or weeks at a time. This is because they don't treat the cause of your insomnia, are highly addictive and are associated with a number of side effects. They can also become less effective if they are taken very regularly.

Sleep clinics

Sleep clinics are used to assess sleep problems. If you’re asked to attend a sleep clinic, your sleep will be monitored by a polygraph machine. You will need a referral from your GP to access a sleep clinic on the NHS.

Alternative therapies

Some people have reported that alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology and hypnosis have been useful in helping them relax and improve sleep.

Did you know?
In a survey carried out of the BBC in 2016 1,000 people aged 18 and over, more than a third (37%) of Britons, said they did not get the right amount of sleep.
Doctor with stethoscope and files picture id508288522
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