If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, you may have insomnia. If left untreated, it can stop you from getting the sleep you need. That can raise your risk of accidental injury and many chronic health conditions.
Your doctor can help diagnose and treat insomnia. Depending on your health history and symptoms, they may refer you to a specialist. For example, they may refer you to a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or alternative medicine practitioner.
The first doctor you should see about your sleep problems is your primary care physician, or family doctor. They may offer simple treatment strategies to help you sleep better. For example, they may recommend changes to your sleep habits and overall lifestyle. They may also recommend changing your medication regime, especially if you’re currently taking drugs that can disrupt sleep.
If your primary doctor’s treatment recommendations are unsuccessful, they may refer you to a specialist. They may also refer you to a specialist if they suspect your sleep problems are caused by an underlying health condition.
If you suspect your child has insomnia, make an appointment with a pediatrician. A pediatrician is a doctor who has additional training in treating children. They can help diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment for your child. They may also refer your child to a specialist for further care.
Your child may need to see a developmental behavioral pediatrician. This type of pediatrician has additional training in behavioral, developmental, and learning issues. Some children with sleep disorders have underlying issues that should be addressed.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) offers subspecialty certification in a variety of areas, including sleep medicine. Many different types of doctors can become certified as sleep medicine specialists, including primary care physicians, pediatricians, and neurologists.
Sleep medicine specialists are experts at diagnosing and managing sleep-related conditions. If your primary care physician isn’t a certified sleep specialist, they may refer you to one.
You may also be referred to a neurologist. A neurologist is a doctor with in-depth training in nervous systems disorders. An imbalance in your brain chemistry can cause a many negative symptoms, including insomnia. Neurologists also treat restless leg syndrome, a common cause of insomnia.
Psychology and psychiatry
Psychologists and psychiatrists can help treat some cases of insomnia. A psychologist is a social scientist who has studied behavior and mental processes. A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. A psychiatrist can prescribe drugs, while a psychologist can’t.
A psychologist or psychiatrist can offer counseling or behavioral therapy to help treat your insomnia. They can also treat other mental health conditions that might be causing your sleep problems.
Many practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine offer treatments for insomnia. For example, certified yoga and meditation instructors can help you learn relaxation techniques that could help you sleep better.
Massage therapists can also help you relax and relieve tense muscles that may be disturbing your sleep.
A review article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests that acupuncture is also an effective treatment for insomnia.
Talk to your doctor before you try any complementary or alternative medicine. While some treatments are supported by scientific research, others are not.
Find a Doctor
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, make an appointment with your primary doctor. They may recommend lifestyle changes, medication changes, or other strategies to help you sleep better. They may also refer you to a specialist to help diagnose and manage your sleep problems.
To get the most out of your appointments, create a list of questions to ask your doctor or specialist. For example:
- What should I do to help with sleep problems?
- Will I have to take medications?
- If I don’t want to take medications, are there alternatives?
- How long will treatment take?
You should also be prepared to answer questions like:
- Are you under any new stress at work or at home?
- Has anything happened recently to upset you?
- Do you feel depressed or anxious?
- Are you currently taking any medications?
- What time do you usually go to bed?
- How long do you usually sleep?
- What time do you wake up?
- Do you feel restless at night?
- Do your muscles twitch when you lie down?
Insomnia can stop you from getting the sleep you need. Your doctor or sleep medicine specialist can recommend treatments to help you manage the condition.