Vol.1, No.4

When to see a doctor about your sleep problems

If your sleeping problems last longer than 3 weeks, interfere with your ability to function, or are accompanied by loud snoring and shortness of breath, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any other serious medical conditions.

A sleep doctor
Photo Credit: Nancy Louie
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, sleep does not come easy for many. People are getting less and less sleep as their stress levels, family obligations, and work hours increase. While stress management, proper diet and exercise and better sleeping habits can improve your sleep dramatically for many people, others may need to seek medical attention to see what is the cause of their sleep deprivation.

Most sleep problems are caused by outside factors such as stress, consuming too much caffeine, or not sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Making certain lifestyle changes such as cutting out excessive stimulants from your diet, exercising regularly, and going to bed and waking up the same time everyday will usually improve the quality of your sleep. If you have made these changes and still see no improvement, you may be suffering from a more serious medical condition and should consult your physician. It is also important to know if your sleep problems are acute or chronic. Acute sleeping disorders are usually short in duration (lasting no more than three weeks) and usually resolve themselves by simply practicing better sleep hygiene habits. Chronic sleeping disorders are much more persistent and lasts for three weeks or longer. If your sleeping problems are chronic, you will need to see a doctor in order for your symptoms to improve.

You should consider seeing a doctor if your lack of sleep is interfering with your ability to function. If you are experiencing excessive tiredness, dependence on sleeping pills or are finding yourself unable to perform normal activities such as working, exercising, studying or driving as a result of your lack of sleep it is important to consult a physician. Persons who work the night shift and/or frequently travel across different time zones are especially vulnerable to having their mental and physical faculties compromised as a result of a lack of sleep, and need to seek treatment as soon as possible. Shift workers and "frequent flyers" may need to undergo a intensive treatment program supervised by a trained medical professional in order to improve sleep.

If you find yourself waking up several times during the night or have been told that you snore very loud it is imperative that you see a doctor immediately. You may suffer from a condition known as sleep apnea, a potentially fatal disorder in which a person stops breathing several times during sleep. Sleep apnea is very common in people who are obese, and your doctor may create a weight reduction program designed to help you breathe better while you sleep. In severe cases, special nose and throat devices and surgery may be required to treat the condition.

In addition to what has already been mentioned, other medical conditions such as restless legs syndrome, high blood pressure or kidney disease may be the culprit behind your sleep problems. Therefore, it is important that you get thoroughly examined by a doctor trained in sleep disorders who can rule out or treat any other underlying illnesses in addition to helping you get a better night's sleep.