Sleep Disorders: Do You Need a Doctor, a Therapist or Both?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that, “More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million report sleeping problems occasionally, according to the National Institutes of Health.” Suffering from a sleep disorder, whether it’s insomnia or sleep apnea, can drastically affect your overall health. While there are several disorders that might be causing your sleep issues, determining whether your issues are psychological or physiological is no easy feat.

Determine whether you have a sleep disorder

First, it’s crucial that you determine if you are in fact suffering from a sleep disorder. HelpGuide.org suggests, “Start by scrutinizing your symptoms, looking especially for the telltale daytime signs of sleep deprivation.” Taking the time to track your sleep patterns and any symptoms you’ve noticed will help you determine if you have a sleep disorder and which disorder you might be struggling to overcome.

Common sleep disorders

Common sleep disorders include: insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, delayed sleep phase disorder, shift work sleep disorder, and circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Once you’ve tracked your sleep patterns and symptoms for a month or so, begin researching these different disorders to see if your symptoms align with any one in particular.

Do your research

Researching these disorders can lead you to a variety of self-help remedies to treat your ongoing issues. For example, the National Sleep Foundation offers a variety of tools and tips for individuals to use to help improve their quantity and quality of sleep. From quizzes to an official sleep diary, the National Sleep Foundation’s free resources are a great place to start.

Consulting a sleep specialist

However, if you’re still incapable of getting a solid night of sleep and none of the self-help remedies are effective. In most cases, the best course of action is meeting with a sleep specialist. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers this definition: “A physician who is a sleep specialist is certified in the subspecialty of sleep medicine and specializes in the clinical assessment, physiologic testing, diagnosis, management and prevention of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders. Sleep specialists treat patients of any age and use multidisciplinary approaches. Disorders managed by sleep specialists include, but are not limited to, sleep related breathing disorders, insomnia, hypersomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, parasomnias and sleep related movement disorders.”

Prepare for your appointment

HelpGuide.org advises patients meeting with a sleep specialist prepare beforehand. “At your appointment, be prepared with information about your sleep patterns and provide the doctor with as much supporting information as possible, including information from your sleep diary.” It’s likely that a sleep specialist will want to observe you while you sleep to offer the best diagnosis. You’ll visit a sleep center where the specialist will monitor your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more using monitoring devices attached to your body.

Before making an appointment with a sleep specialist, take steps on your own to handle the issue at hand. This could not only save you time and money, but improve your sleeping habits long before you could get into see a specialist. Educate yourself about sleep disorders and make the effort to treat yourself using at-home remedies. Please consult a doctor or sleep specialist before taking any sleep medication, even over-the-counter pills.