Solve Your Sleep Problems

There's no one-size-fits-all cure -- pick the wrong sleep strategy and you might as well go back to counting sheep. To get the zzz's you need, find the lifestyle solution and medications targeted to your specific dozing dilemma.
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Sleep Solutions

Before going to bed every night, Ruth Danoff, 47, a small-business owner in Germantown, Maryland, turns on a white-noise machine (to muffle night sounds), blocks the entrance to her bedroom with a baby gate (to prevent her Labrador-poodle mix from jumping into bed), reads or listens to a CD for about 20 minutes (to help her unwind), and takes the sleep medicine Lunesta (she has tried others, but this helps her fall asleep and stay asleep). Sure, it's a lot of preparation just to get some zzz's, but, explains Danoff, "I'm a very light sleeper, and I need the help of my routines, as well as medicine."

"There's a growing recognition that using pharmaceutical sleep aids as you work on improving sleep habits can help nip insomnia in the bud so it doesn't bloom and become an ongoing issue," says Mary S. Esther, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Short-term use is the ideal, but we also know that for people with chronic sleep problems, taking a medication for a longer period of time can make a huge difference in their ability to enjoy life and function well."

Today's sleep medications are less likely to cause next-day drowsiness or addiction than older remedies. Some are safe enough to take intermittently over long periods. This is good news for women, who not only report more sleep problems than men but also take sleep aids 58 percent more often.

Sleeping soundly requires finding the lifestyle solution -- and, if needed, medicine -- geared to your specific type of sleep problem. Read on to see where you fit.

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