Treatment options will depend on the type of sleep disorder. Below is an overview of the various treatments for some of the more common sleep disorders.
Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS): While there is no cure for DSPS, its symptoms usually go away on their own, and treatment is used to reprogram the body’s circadian rhythms and sync them to the patient’s work and/or school schedules. This reprogramming sometimes involves patients taking melatonin supplements 30 minutes to one hour before bed, as well as light therapy and chronotherapy. If treatment doesn’t work, the patient may need to adjust his work and/or school schedule to accommodate his internal clock.
Insomnia: Treatments for insomnia depend on the underlying cause (e.g., psychological problems, medications, etc.). Once the underlying cause is addressed, the insomnia may be taken care of as well. Also, your doctor may prescribe sedative-hypnotic medications to help you fall or stay asleep. These include zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and furazepam (Dalmane) among others. Over-the-counter sleep aids may also be used, as may melatonin agonists such as ramelteon (Bozeram) and sedating antidepressants such as trazodone (Desyrel). It's important to talk with your doctor before using sleeping aids, as they have the potential to cause side effects.
Narcolepsy: Unfortunately, narcolepsy, a neurological disorder, does not improve if the patient gets more sleep. However, medications, usually central nervous system stimulants, can manage symptoms and help patients stay awake during the day. Patients can also take certain antidepressants to suppress REM sleep, which helps control symptoms of cataplexy, hallucinations and sleep paralysis.
Night terrors: Usually, children with night terrors do not require treatment. In rare cases, medications such as clonazepam can be used in the short term to reduce symptoms, and certain antidepressants might help if the disorder affects the child’s school performance. Adults suffering from this disorder may also use these medications.
REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD): RBD is treatment symptomatically with medications, and all of these medications should be tried before a patient’s RDB is determined to be intractable. Clonazepam, for instance, is highly effective in 90 percent of RDB patients. Patients should also be mindful of environmental safety, and remove any potentially dangerous objects from the bedroom; the mattress should be placed on the floor or cushions should be placed around the bed.
Sleep apnea: Mild cases of sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes such as weight loss and quitting smoking. More severe cases may require devices and/or surgery to open the airway. One such device is a continuous positive airway pressure device, which delivers air through a mask placed over the nose during sleep, pushing air into the patient’s mouth when he or she inhales. Moderate and severe sleep apnea cases may require surgery, in which the extra tissue from the throat or nose that is blocking the airway passage is removed.