The first step in treatment for insomnia involves diagnosing and treating any underlying medical or psychological problems that may be contributing to your insomnia. The key to treating insomnia is to determine what is causing it and then eliminating those factors from your life. Often once the causes, such as jet lag or stress, are dealt with, insomnia goes away on its own.

However, there are some cases when other treatment is required. In addition to identifying the causes of insomnia and then trying to eliminate or reduce them, treatment may include the following.

Sleeping Pills

Typically, sleeping pills are prescribed at a low dose and for a short duration of time. They are not recommended for long-term use and should be taken under the close supervision of your doctor.

Behavioral Techniques

Behavior techniques may help to improve your sleep and include relaxation therapy, sleep restriction therapy and reconditioning.

Relaxation Therapy

Relaxation therapy can be used to reduce or eliminate nighttime stress, body tension and anxiety, and prevent your mind from racing, so you are able to fall asleep.

Sleep Restriction Therapy

You may find that if you are unable to fall asleep or wake up in the night, you spend a lot of time in bed trying unsuccessfully to sleep. If so, you may benefit from a sleep restriction program that initially allows only a few hours of sleep during the night. Gradually this time is increased until a normal sleep period is achieved.


Reconditioning aims to condition your body to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep. For most people, this means using the bed only for sleep and sex. People are advised to go to sleep only when very sleepy, wake and go to bed at the same time every day, and if they are unable to fall asleep, to get out of bed and leave their bedroom and not return until they feel sleepy again. Napping is not recommended during this process.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers


Sleep Disorders Center
2330 Post St., Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 885-7886
Fax: (415) 885-3650
Appointment information