In addressing sleep disorders and possible solutions, there is often a lot of buzz surrounding melatonin. Research suggests that melatonin is useful in helping people to fall asleep faster (decreased sleep latency), to stay asleep longer, and to experience improved sleep quality. In order to test this, a study was conducted that compared subjects that had taken Melatonin to subjects that had taken a placebo pill in subjects with primary sleep disorders. Researchers assessed sleep onset latency, total minutes slept, and overall sleep quality in the Melatonin and placebo groups to note the differences. In the end, researchers found that melatonin decreased sleep onset latency, increased total sleep time, and improved quality of sleep significantly more than the placebo group.
None of these general approaches is sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. Rather, the choice of a specific treatment depends on the patient's diagnosis, medical and psychiatric history, and preferences, as well as the expertise of the treating clinician. Often, behavioral/psychotherapeutic and pharmacological approaches are not incompatible and can effectively be combined to maximize therapeutic benefits. Management of sleep disturbances that are secondary to mental, medical, or substance abuse disorders should focus on the underlying conditions.
Due to rapidly increasing knowledge about sleep in the 20th century, including the discovery of REM sleep in the 1950s and circadian rhythm disorders in the 70s and 80s, the medical importance of sleep was recognized. The medical community began paying more attention than previously to primary sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, as well as the role and quality of sleep in other conditions. By the 1970s in the US, clinics and laboratories devoted to the study of sleep and sleep disorders had been founded, and a need for standards arose.
^ Keckeis, Marietta; Lattova, Zuzana; Maurovich-Horvat, Eszter; Beitinger, Pierre A.; Birkmann, Steffen; Lauer, Christoph J.; Wetter, Thomas C.; Wilde-Frenz, Johanna; Pollmächer, Thomas (2010). Finkelstein, David (ed.). "Impaired Glucose Tolerance in Sleep Disorders". PLoS ONE. 5 (3): e9444. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009444. PMC 2830474. PMID 20209158.
Now consider noise. If a ticking clock disturbs you, buy one that doesn't tick, or use your phone. Turn clock radios and MP3 players to the wall and cover lighted screens. Lay in supplies of earplugs, eye masks, and anything else that helps screen out light as well as sound. Some people find a fan or white-noise machine is soothing and blocks out street noise. If you don't like wearing earplugs or an eye mask when you fall asleep, keep them on your bedside table in case you wake up later. Many people find they're more sensitive to light and sound in the middle of the night.
The natural internal clock that controls our 24-hour cycle of sleep and waking, circadian rhythms are easily upset by changes in schedule, and they're greatly affected by light and darkness. Jet lag is the best known circadian rhythm disorder, but this sensitive inner clock can also be disrupted by changes in routine resulting in an erratic sleep schedule.