Can’t Sleep? When to See a Doctor


Some cases of insomnia clear up with the passing of time; however, it may be the case that you need a doctor to determine what is going on with your sleep patterns.  From not being able to fall asleep to other sleep disturbance problems, if you’re feeling worn out by lack of sleep then it might be time to look into the underlying factors. Follow along for tips on when to see a doctor, and steps to take if you book yourself in for a consultation.

Image by Paul Sapiano

Is It Time to See a Doctor?

Many sleep problems are caused primarily by outside factors.  Stress, noise, or your work schedule are all potential contributors to your lack of sleep.  However, it’s also possible that difficulty sleeping could be a symptom of a known sleep disorder or other health condition.

Generally speaking, most people with sleep problems should first of all try some self-treatment, applying the conventional insomnia advice such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before sleep, and making sure the bedroom is warm and dark. There are many ways to help improve your sleep routine.  Ultimately, you may need further help if you continue to experience sleeping difficulties despite trying the usual insomnia advice.

If your sleep problems last more than a few weeks, it may be wise to see a doctor for professional, individually tailored medical advice.  However, if you snore loudly and are short of breath, or your sleep problems interfere with your ability to function normally during the day, then it may be best to see a doctor immediately.

Snoring loudly and shortness of breath may be related to a medical condition known as sleep apnea.  This is where someone stops breathing temporarily during sleep – it is potentially fatal, but usually manageable if you follow sound medical advice. Whatever your symptoms, if problems sleeping are interfering with your life, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.

What Doctor to See?

For most people, it will be simplest to begin by consulting your usual doctor about your insomnia.  However, there are sleep specialists that can help to assess the underlying causes of your sleep issues.  If you are unable to see a sleep specialist, you could instead look into seeing a pulmonologist (for breathing related conditions), neurologist (for brain and nervous system conditions), or otolaryngologist (for head and neck conditions including ear, nose and throat problems).

Some specialist sleep research or treatment centers will ask patients to come and stay overnight for sleep observation, during which they will check your breathing and other physical processes while you sleep.  This is one way to diagnose or rule out sleep apnea and some other known causes of sleep problems.

Will My Health Insurance Cover It?

In terms of your medical insurance coverage for sleep related illness, look at your policy to check what’s covered, or give your insurer a call.  You may have to be referred for insomnia treatment by your primary doctor to be covered.  Others insurers may allow you to directly go to a sleep specialist of some kind.  Whatever the case may be, ensure that you understand your health insurance coverage so you know what costs you may have to meet yourself.

Sleeping problems may be mild or more serious in nature.  Never ignore a sleep problem that is affecting your ability to cope with daily life. Seeing a doctor or sleep specialist may help you to get the quality sleep that your body needs to thrive.  Don’t forget to check your health insurance coverage so that you know what expenses to expect if you seek treatment.

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