Alternative Treatments for Insomnia

Is insomnia destroying your health? Have you tried flotation?

By Sean Sparks May 20, 2016 Edit

What is Insomnia?

According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30 percent of adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by having difficult to fall asleep, sleep soundly throughout the night, waking up after too little sleep, and/or waking up and still feeling tired after having slept. Insomnia can also be acute or chronic, with many people exhibiting all or some of the symptoms to the point where it has a severely detrimental effect on their lives. It can either be the cause or a symptom of other conditions, as well.

What causes insomnia?

According to The Mayo Clinic, common causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Medical conditions
  • Change in your environment or work schedule
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Medication
  • Caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol
  • Eating too much late in the evening

What are common symptoms?

The National Institute of Health says to look out for these symptoms:

  • Lie awake for a long time before you fall asleep
  • Sleep for only short periods
  • Be awake for much of the night
  • Feel as if you haven’t slept at all
  • Wake up too early
  • Wake up feeling tired or not well-rested
  • Feel tired during the day
  • Have trouble focusing on tasks
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritability

Why do we sleep?

What health risks are associated with sleep deficiency?

study was published on behalf of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society on why sleep is crucial to our health.  Sleep deficiency is associated with major health risks:

  • Data suggests that short (≤ 6 h) sleep duration may increase the risk for ischemic stroke
  • Short sleep duration is also associated with a greater risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Shift work has been found to be related to elevated risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, including ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis
  • Studies have reported associations between sleep duration and impaired sleep and metabolic risk, including obesity or body mass index (BMI) and type 2 diabetes
  • Short sleep duration (< 5 h per night ) has been found to increase the odds of having obesity 1.5 times
  • Short (≤ 5 h or ≤ 6 h per night) sleep durations have been shown to increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance
  • Short sleep duration has been associated with a greater risk of developing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer
  • Significantly increased risk of developing a number of malignancies, including breast, colon, prostate, and endometrial cancer in night shift workers
  • Sleep deprivation results in impairments in cognitive and motor performance that are comparable to those induced by alcohol consumption at or above the legal limit
  • Drowsy driving is a contributing factor in a significant proportion of traffic accidents, up to 20%
  • Sleep deprivation and related sleepiness are associated with work-related injuries and fatal accidents

What would happen if you didn’t sleep?

What treatments are available for insomnia?

WebMD and National Institute of Health suggest several treatment options for insomnia including behavior and lifestyle changes, medicines, and complementary medicines. Included in the list below are examples of complementary and alternative medicine for sleep discussed in this study. Always consult your doctor if you exhibit signs of insomnia to discuss what options may work best for you.

  • Relaxation Exercises
  • Breathing exercises
  • Guided imagery
  • Meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Relaxing your mind and body
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy  – a type of counseling that can help you understand why you have sleep problems and can show you how to deal with them
  • Lifestyle Changes
  • Avoid naps
  • Eliminate caffeine after lunch
  • Try to schedule your daily exercise at least 5 to 6 hours before going to bed
  • Don’t eat heavy meals or drink a lot before bedtime
  • Follow a routine that helps you wind down and relax before bed (read a book, listen to soothing music, or take a hot bath)
  • Stick to regular sleep habits
  • Reduce light exposure at least 30 minutes before bed (turn off phones, computers, and tvs)
  • Make it as dark as possible and slightly cool in the bedroom
  • Seek out morning light

Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of insomnia medicines as some medicines can be habit forming.

  • Over the counter medicines
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian
  • Prescription medicines (some for short term use and others for long term)
  • Aromatherapy
  • Relaxation tapes
  • Therapeutic Massage
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

Another alternative: Flotation Therapy

Flotation therapy removes many of the factors that cause insomnia and can provide a comfortable environment for a person to wind down from their day to help prepare them for a solid night of sleep. With the isolation tank soundproofed, light-proofed, and temperature controlled, it is free from distractions and a perfect place to practice breathing techniques or meditation. It may be best to float later in the evening as part of your winding down routine if you are considering flotation as a possible treatment for insomnia. Flotation is an excellent stress reliever both physically and mentally. Learn more about the benefits of flotation by clicking here.


One study used subjective and objective measures in evaluating long-term effectiveness of the flotation form of the Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) as a treatment for persistent psychophysiological sleep onset insomnia.  36 volunteers, 20 women and 16 men, with psychophysiological insomnia were randomly assigned to one of four conditions:

  1. Flotation REST only
  2. Flotation REST with autogenic relaxation
  3. Autogenic relaxation only
  4. Delayed treatment control

Each treatment group received four 2-hour treatment sessions within a fourteen day period. The remainder of the two hours was devoted to tasks related to the study. It was concluded that flotation REST (on its own and in combination with autogenic relaxation) improved both subjective and objective sleep latency up to twelve weeks after treatment.


Seventy patients, 54 women and 16 men, participated in a study aimed to investigate long-term effects of the flotation–REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) 4 months after treatment in patients with stress related ailments. Twenty-six participants had also the diagnosis of burnout depression. Participants were randomly assigned in equal numbers to either a control group or a flotation–REST group and participated in a total of 12 flotation–REST or control sessions. Results indicated that pain areas, stress, anxiety, and depression decreased, whereas sleep quality, optimism, and prolactin increased. Positive effects generally maintained 4 months after treatment. It was concluded that flotation tank therapy is an effective method for the treatment of stress related pain.


Another study was to explore, for the first time, sex differences among patients diagnosed with stress-related pain before and after flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) treatment, delivered 12 times during seven weeks. The present study included 88 patients (69 women, 19 men) from three different studies (post hoc analysis). They had been diagnosed by a physician as having chronic stress-related muscle tension pain. The analyses indicated that the flotation-REST treatment had beneficial effects on stress, anxiety, depression, sleep quality and pain and that there were few sex differences.

Find a Treatment that Works for You

We know that sleep is essential to maintain our health. There are several causes and symptoms of insomnia. Without some sort of medical intervention, being deprived of sleep can lead to some serious health problems. Consult with your doctor if you exhibit one or more symptoms of insomnia. Discuss your symptoms and find a safe form of treatment that will help you sleep through the night.