If you are experiencing chronic sleep problems and improving your sleep hygiene has not made a difference, it's time to talk to your doctor. Here are five important questions to ask your doctor in determining the source of your sleep problems and finding a solution.
1. Are there any other health conditions that could be causing my sleep problems? What do you think is the underlying cause?
It is essential to rule out any other health conditions that might be causing you to lose sleep. If there is an underlying condition, an extensive medical history, full physical exam and select blood tests will help your doctore determine the cause of your sleep problem.
2. Could any of my current medications, vitamins, or supplements be interfering with my ability to fall asleep?
Many prescription drugs can have unwanted side effects that affect your ability to sleep. Some examples include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (a class of antidepressants), beta-blockers (a high blood pressure drug), corticosteroids (a class of asthma drug), stimulants (used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and diuretics. Watch out for over-the-counter painkillers that include caffeine and make sure you check with your doctor before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet.
3. How will you determine if I have a sleep disorder?
Diagnosing a sleep disorder can be difficult. Make sure your doctor does a thorough investigation of your problem. In addition to a physical exam and a blood test (to rule out other health problems), you may need to spend a night at a sleep center to determine if you have a disorder such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. At a sleep center, your brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, and eye movement will be tested as you sleep.
4. Will my sleep problem or disorder have any short-term or long-term effects on my overall health?
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for overall health. Lack of sleep can cause serious problems. Ask your doctor what the outlook is for your particular sleep disorder and try to work with him or her to mitigate any potential short-term and long-term health effects.
5. Are there any other lifestyle factors I can change to help with this problem?
Your primary care doctor may be able to direct you to resources that can help you develop a healthier, more sleep-friendly lifestyle. This could include recommending ways to quit smoking, directing you to a nutritionist, or referring you to a specialist who works specifically with people suffering from sleep disorders.