Are you having trouble falling asleep? Do you regularly wake up gasping and choking? Are you sleepy during the day and feel like you haven’t gotten enough sleep? It’s time for you to consult a sleep doctor if you answered yes to any of the above questions.
Sleep deprivation can have some pretty negative impacts on your life and your relationships. Sleep specialists are there to help determine what your sleep disorder is and provide you with helpful instructions and treatment to get you back to sleeping well throughout the night.
Do you wonder what are the sleep doctors or sleep specialists and what they can do for you? Let’s take a look at what sleep experts are, what they do, and if you should consult one or not.
What Is a Sleep Doctor?
A sleep specialist or doctor is someone who specializes in sleep disturbances and can diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment to those afflicted with sleep issues. The specialization is fairly recent in modern medicine and is rapidly evolving, becoming recognized in more countries over the years.
Up to 1999, any doctor could call themselves a sleep doctor, take on patients with sleep disturbances, and prescribe treatments. Now board-certified sleep doctors have the appropriate credentials to work with patients who suffer from sleep disorders. The 12-month postgraduate program is a multi-disciplinary training that involves learning about the numerous sleep disorders that exist, how to make a diagnosis, and prescribe the proper treatment.
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems divides sleep disorders into 3 categories.
- Primary sleep disorders.
- Those secondary to mental disorders.
- Those related to a general medical condition or substance abuse.
Nathaniel Kleitman (April 26, 1895 - August 13, 1999) was known as the pioneer of modern sleep research. In 1939 he penned the book Sleep and Wakefulness that became a valuable reference for anyone interested in sleep disorders and treatment options. In 1953, he and his team discovered rapid eye movement (REM) through a series of tests on sleeping test subjects. His initial research was funded by a pharmaceutical company that wished to market a medication for insomnia. His research and numerous findings on sleep have led to the discipline that we know today.
The first sleep labs were introduced in the USA in the 1970s and were initially created to treat obstructive sleep apnea. It quickly became clear that sleep disorders were prevalent in society and were sometimes the cause of many problems such as traffic accidents.
Your sleep doctor will carry out a series of tests to assess the problem at hand and evaluate you. A sleep study may be required to fully diagnose the disorder in order to prescribe the proper treatment.
Sleep Study by A Sleep Doctor
A sleep study or polysomnography is conducted in a specialized sleep clinic or lab overnight where you are monitored closely while you sleep to report all disturbances that arise during the night.
Sleep studies are usually conducted in very comfortable environments that look more like a regular bedroom than a hospital. The goal is to get you to sleep as comfy as possible to produce the best possible reliable results.
Monitors and sensors are placed on specific parts of your body and measure things like brain waves, breathing patterns, heart rate, snoring frequency, REM cycles, and more.
Home sleep studies can also provide information for the sleep doctor to analyze. The sleep lab will give you a machine that you bring home with instructions on how to use it. It usually consists of applying monitors to your body and turning on the machine before you go to sleep. The machine will record all data while you sleep. You simply return the machine and the doctor will proceed to analyze the information in order to diagnose your condition.
Both of these techniques work well and you can check with your insurance provider about the coverage for each. Normally, home sleep studies tend to be less expensive than in-lab sleep studies.
Do You Need a Sleep Specialist?
There are many reasons why people don’t get enough restful sleep. It’s a growing health concern that sometimes needs to be taken seriously and consulting with a specialist is often recommended in order to figure out what the problem is.
These are some of the most common sleep disorders:
You should speak with your primary family doctor and he or she will determine if you need to see a sleep expert if you have any of the above-mentioned sleep disorders or any of the following symptoms:
- Frequent headaches
- Wake up groggy
- Feel sleepy during the day
- Feel irritable
- Nap often during the day
- Experience memory problems
- Have trouble concentrating
Sleep is vital to optimal health and if your sleep is regularly disrupted and if you don’t get enough restful sleep it can lead to other health issues.
Your doctor may also specifically recommend a sleep apnea doctor who specializes in this disorder if he or she thinks that you have sleep apnea. Oftentimes, the partner of the sleep apnea sufferer is the one to notice the breathing irregularities in the night. A sleep apnea doctor will request a sleep study to determine your type of sleep apnea.
You can start to keep a sleep diary so that your doctor can have a history of your sleeping habits. Write down the times you go to sleep, the times you wake in the morning, and all the times you wake up during the night. You can also note the consumption of caffeinated products and alcoholic drinks during the day and the time you had them.
Find a Sleep Doctor Near Me
Your primary caregiver may recommend a sleep doctor or you may also want to do your own research to find the best suitable one for your needs. Some sleep specialists work in private clinics while others work in hospitals.
For the best possible results and treatment, make sure you seek out an accredited doctor trained in sleep disturbances.
Websites like The American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine can be a good start for you to find a local expert in your area or to check the credentials of a specific doctor.
In Canada, The Canadian Sleep Society can help you find the nearest sleep doctor in your area. Enter your postal code and the list of sleep specialists near you will be provided.
We all know the importance of sleep and the impact of the lack of it can have on our lives. It’s essential to seek out help whenever your life is being affected because you don’t get enough restful sleep at night. Even your partner’s life can be affected by your nocturnal disturbances.
It’s probably time to consult a sleep expert if you have tried several home remedies without success for your sleep problem. Sleep doctors are experts who will help you find the best possible treatment for you. Several options exist and he or she will discuss which one you would benefit most from.
With the help of your sleep doctor, getting a good shut-eye and waking up rested and ready for the day could be right around the corner for you.