How To Talk To Your Doctor About Sleep? Common Question And Answers Update 05/2024

A good night’s sleep is essential for everyone. Consult your doctor if you’re experiencing problems falling asleep.

You can have a lower quality of life if you don’t get enough sleep, regardless of how often it happens. Your ability to concentrate at work or school may suffer, as may your ability to maintain your concentration while driving. You may also notice that you are more easily irritated than usual. Untreated sleep disorders have the potential to wreak havoc on one’s well-being. As a result, too many people put off seeking medical attention.

It’s good news that many sleep issues can be remedied or controlled if diagnosed and treated properly. For help, contact your doctor or a mental health professional.

When Should You Talk To Your Doctor About Your Sleep?

The following sleep-related difficulties should be brought up with your doctor to ensure that you have the greatest possible life, both in and out of bed.

1. Your partner or roommate says you snore a lot.

Snoring can raise the risk of developing sleep apnea, which can be a potentially life-threatening condition in which your breathing frequently stops and restarts while you sleep.

According to the Mayo Clinic, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of this disorder. When your throat muscles loosen and become flexible, you can have obstructive sleep apnea, according to Dr. Winter. You’re snoring now, that’s for sure.

If your throat muscles relax too much, it can cause your airway to constrict, resulting in a decline in oxygen levels in your body, which can interrupt your sleep. As a result, the Mayo Clinic adds, your brain essentially startle you awake so that you can catch your breath. According to the organization, this can occur anywhere from five to thirty times an hour in persons with sleep apnea, making it nearly hard to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing major health issues as well. If you experience rapid dips in oxygen levels, you may be at an increased risk of heart attacks and irregular beats, according to Mayo Clinic. Insulin resistance (when the body does not respond adequately to insulin, which is essential for managing blood sugar) is also more common in patients with sleep apnea. Type 2 diabetes can be exacerbated by this.
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If you have sleep apnea, you may not even be aware that you’re waking up in the night to catch your breath, Dr. Winter tells NPR. So if your boyfriend or roommate always informs you that you’re snoring loudly, you should really pay attention. Doctors can help you find out whether you have sleep apnea and set you on the road to healthier sleep and breathing in the future.

2. You consistently have trouble falling asleep.

Rita Aouad, M.D., a sleep medicine expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF that there are numerous reasons why this can occur. The blue light from your phone could be interfering with your circadian cycles if you use it immediately before going to bed. As Dr. Aouad explains, insomnia and restless leg syndrome are very typical causes..

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may have insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people suffer from chronic insomnia that lasts for months at a time, while others endure bouts of insomnia lasting just a few days or weeks. Anxiety and asthma, for example, can cause this type of insomnia on its own, or it might be a symptom of other medical issues. Insomnia can be exacerbated by sleep-inducing drugs such antidepressants and cold treatments that contain caffeine or alter neurotransmitters.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, restless legs syndrome is characterized by an inability to sleep due to an overwhelming desire to move your legs. As Dr. Winter explains, “a lot of people with RLS will go into bed and feel really exhausted, but their legs won’t relax sufficiently for them to fall asleep”. Keeping your feet firmly planted in dreamland can be difficult if your legs start twitching and kicking while you sleep.

Instead of attempting to figure out why you can’t fall asleep on your own, consult a doctor. Dr. Aouad explains, “Once we find out, we can treat the underlying reason.”

3. You have trouble staying asleep.

At night, there is a vast list of things that can awaken you. Sleep apnea, sleeplessness, and restless legs syndrome may be to blame for this problem. An acid reflux disorder, which occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, can also induce insomnia. In some cases, people who suffer from bruxism (a disorder that causes them to clench or grind their teeth) are woken up by sudden pain in their jaw.

Your doctor will want to do a comprehensive evaluation and ask questions about your symptoms if you are having difficulties falling or staying asleep because the list of possible explanations here is extensive and diverse. It’s possible that your doctor wants you to participate in a sleep study if there are no evident symptoms that point to a specific problem, such as insomnia. If they can figure out what is waking you up so frequently, they can offer treatment.

4. You always need over-the-counter sleep aids to actually get some rest.

Dr. Winter recommends taking an over-the-counter sleep aid if you’re flying for a long period of time and need a little help getting to sleep. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that sleeping pills might induce tolerance, so don’t count on them every night. In addition, you’re disregarding the root cause of your inability to go asleep in the first place.

Side effects include extreme grogginess the next day. Dr. Adusumilli says it’s better to see a doctor to get to the bottom of the problem rather than just bandaging it up.

5. You feel tired even when you’re convinced you got a good night’s sleep.

After a good night’s sleep, it’s normal to feel a little groggy. Dr. Adusumilli calls this phenomena “sleep inertia,” and he thinks it should subside as you spend more time awake. Depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hypothyroidism (when your thyroid doesn’t create enough hormones, making you tired) are just a few of the health disorders that can cause constant exhaustion.

Also, narcolepsy may be to blame. Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that those who suffer from persistent sleep disorders such as narcolepsy find it difficult to stay awake for lengthy durations, even if they had adequate sleep prior to their day’s activities.

Dr. Winter has treated patients who had fallen asleep during sports practice, concerts, and even during the birth of a child. Nausea and fatigue during the day are symptoms of narcolepsy in some people, although it can also be modest.

If you’re constantly exhausted, you should see a doctor. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale, a questionnaire that asks how often you doze off or fall asleep in specific scenarios, may be used to gather information from you. There is a range of zero to three points for each item, and the total is calculated. Dr. Winter notes that if your number is high, your doctor may suggest that you do a sleep study. They can use the information they gather to make an accurate diagnosis and get you started on the path to recovery.
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6. You keep doing bizarre stuff in your sleep, like snacking or having sex.

A doctor should be consulted if you wake up to find that you’ve eaten or wandered around while you slept, held late-night phone calls with your significant other that you can’t remember, or had sex while you were asleep. Sabra Abbott, M.D., Ph.D., a sleep medicine expert at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, tells SELF that all of these tendencies could be signs of a sleep condition called parasomnia. You’re basically doing something unusual in your sleep and not even aware of it, therefore this is bad news. According to Dr. Abbott, many people avoid discussing their behavior out of shame. In any case, a doctor’s advice is essential.

How To Prepare for Your Appointment

Arriving to your doctor’s visit prepared will help you get the most out of your time there. In the weeks preceding up to your appointment, keep a sleep journal. Not only should you keep track of the times you went to bed and awakened, but you should also note how long it took you to fall back asleep after each awakening and any additional symptoms you encountered. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your daily caloric intake and workout schedule.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, keeping a sleep journal might be a valuable resource in helping your doctor figure out what’s wrong. People are more likely to exaggerate their insomnia symptoms when questioned about them. 4. Keeping a sleep journal can help you get more accurate information about your sleep patterns.

You should also inform your doctor about any sleep-related tactics you’ve tried and how well they worked. List all of the medications you’re currently taking for any health issues you’re dealing with.

Last but not least, compile a list of questions you have for your physician regarding your sleep habits.

What Will Your Doctor Ask You About?

In order for your doctor to determine what is causing your sleep problems, they will ask a variety of questions. The following are examples of possible inquiries:

  • How long have you had sleep problems, and what are they?
  • When did you initially start to notice any symptoms? Was there anything else that changed at that point in your life?
  • The last time you had a restful night’s sleep, how did it make you feel?
  • In what ways are your sleep problems affecting you during the workday?
  • After going to bed, how long does it usually take you to fall asleep? Do you have a regular routine for going to bed and waking up?
  • Are there times when you wake up early and just can’t get back to sleep?
  • What stage of life are you at right now?
  • The following questions may be helpful in answering this question: On an ordinary day, how much alcohol or tobacco do you consume?
  • We want to know what kind of exercise you undertake, and when.
  • What’s the state of your mind? Stress, anxiety, and depression are all symptoms of stress.

If you’re having trouble sleeping or staying asleep, you may have insomnia, a sleep problem that affects up to one-third of individuals. Restless legs syndrome (RLS), for example, can be an early sign of a more serious sleep condition such narcolepsy or parasomnias like sleepwalking or REM behavior disorder.

Perhaps an undiagnosed or underdiagnosed illness is to blame for your insomnia. Chronic pain, cancer, acid reflux, diabetes, depression, and hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy or menopause are just a few of the health issues that can be exacerbated by a lack of good quality sleep.
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A physical check may also be required to identify if one of these illnesses is interfering with your sleep. They may, for example, check the size of your tonsils or neck, or listen to your heart and lungs.

What Can You Expect After Speaking to Your Doctor About Sleep Problems?

Your doctor will decide what the next measures should be based on your medical history and assessment. It is common for physicians to first prescribe sleep hygiene, counseling, or a referral to a specialist before prescribing medication as a first line of treatment for people with sleep disorders. Your doctor will likely want you to keep a sleep diary once you begin therapy so they can monitor its effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary.

Treatment for insomnia often begins with better sleep habits. To help you sleep better, your doctor may prescribe that you keep a regular sleep pattern, alter your diet or exercise routine, adopt a tranquil nighttime routine, or improve your bedroom surroundings.

It is possible that CBT-I, or cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, will be prescribed. For example, stress or concern at night might disrupt your sleep, thus CBT-I aims to help you identify the thoughts and behaviors that are preventing you from getting the rest you need.

A sleep expert may be recommended by your doctor if they believe you have a sleep condition. Before making a diagnosis or treatment recommendation, a sleep specialist will ask you further questions about your symptoms and training in the field of sleep medicine. Overnight polysomnograms, in which they record your brainwaves, respiration, eye and limb movements while you are asleep, are commonly used to diagnose sleep disorders. A polysomnogram can be used to rule out other diseases, such as sleep apnea, that may be present in persons with insomnia.

Treatment for the underlying issue can alleviate the symptoms of the sleep disturbance. He or she may begin by addressing the problem. Anxiety and depression can cause sleep problems, therefore your doctor may recommend antidepressants.

Diagnosis and treatment of many sleep disorders are possible. If you’re concerned about your sleep, see your doctor. It is possible that they will propose certain lifestyle adjustments and sleep hygiene tips to help you sleep better. Sleep hygiene, treatment, and medication may be used to treat more significant disorders.

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