Taking an anti-psychotic drug to treat insomnia

Q:  I am battling chronic insomnia, and have for many years.  Some nights I lie in bed for what seems like hours, and each day is difficult.  My doctor prescribes seroquel, but it’s not helping much.  I am fighting to beat this disease, but am running out of hope.  What can I do?

A:  First, it’s important to understand that insomnia is a symptom, not a disease.  Sleeplessness is only a symptom of something else going on deeper causing the problem.

Seroquel is an anti-psychotic drug approved for treating psychiatric disorders, primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Without knowing the specifics of your situation, it’s possible whatever underlying condition you have is also causing insomnia.

Doctors sometimes prescribe seroquel off-label to treat insomnia, and this may be the case with you.  It would be a good idea to find out for sure by talking to your doctor about your situation.  Try to identify why s/he prescribed this drug, and discuss any underlying medical or psychiatric issues causing your insomnia.

If your doctor cannot identify any underlying medical or psychiatric issues, then you are basically using a powerful anti-psychotic drug as a sleeping pill.

Many sleep experts take the position that the use of drugs to unnaturally force sleep in the absence of an underlying medical or psychiatric condition can actually do more harm than good.  That’s because the use of drugs tends to reinforce the idea that the solution to insomnia is external and resides out of your self-control.  Drug takers also risk dependency, both physical and psychological, and the true underlying cause unfortunately remains untreated.

By attempting to identify and treat the true underlying roots of your insomnia, your sleep stands to improve.  If you have no medical or psychiatric issues, then you have what’s known as primary insomnia, which is often caused by some non-medical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.

The good news is that the non-medical roots of primary insomnia can be successfully treated.  Cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for sleep (CBT-I) is the standard of care for primary insomnia, and helps most people who try it.

CBT-I methods will help you counter the negative sleep thoughts that often fuel and perpetuate insomnia, as well as address behaviors and environmental factors you can control to improve sleep.

So start with your doctor, as this person has examined you and knows your unique medical history.  But rest assured you have a number of proven, effective tools at your disposal to help naturally restore better sleep without drugs.

Explore posts in the same categories: Insomnia, sleep

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