Talk to Your Doctor

Dr William Dement, one of the pioneers of sleep medicine, said this very important statement: 

Never before in human history has a disparity between the amount of scientific knowledge and the benefit of that knowledge to society been so tragically vast.”

Keep this statement in mind because next time you have a sleep issue (insomnia, sleepy, snoring, restless legs), you might want to give the world of sleep medicine a chance to help you.

Having said that, some doctors are more familiar than others with sleep disorders and how to treat them. There is lack of sleep medicine education in almost all medical schools and residency training programs. A selected few offer any serious teaching. You might want to ask to be evaluated and treated by physician who had training in sleep medicine, i.e. a sleep medicine specialist, if your sleep problem is not getting better.

If you suspect you have sleep issues such as insomnia or sleepiness, it is perfectly fine that you try to improve your sleep habits. However, if you still suffer from sleep problems, you probably need to talk to your doctor. Sleep apnea, for example, requires a sleep study to be diagnosed and specialized apparatus called CPAP to be treated.

I feel passionate about helping people sleep well. I also feel obliged to educate the public and doctors about sleep medicine. So many of my patients realized they have a real problem through internet search. Then, they sought help; it paid off.

Luckily, more and more doctors are becoming aware and interested in their patients’ sleep health. They are screening for sleep apnea, for example. cardiologists know the benefit of treating sleep apnea in cardiac disease. Psychiatrists have always known the relationship between depression/anxiety and insomnia. Neurologists screen their Parkinson’s disease patients for a unique sleep disorder called REM behavioral disorder (RBD) where the individual acts out their dream by kicking and screaming. Neurologists are also learning the effect of sleep deprivation and/or sleep apnea in patients with headaches and dementia.

Tips on getting help

  • You can go a long way to help yourself sleep better by following good sleep habits. You can check my website for good sleep tips. Also, visit the American Sleep Association (ASA) http://www.sleepassociation.org.
  • If you suspect a sleep problem, ask your doctor to help you. You can also ask to see a sleep specialist. Make sleep a priority.
  • Screen yourself for sleep apnea especially if you have high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease or diabetes. Treating sleep apnea has a tremendous benefit. Don’t miss that opportunity.
  • If you have insomnia and you are a suspect for sleep apnea (you snore and stop breathing at night), taking a sleeping pill as first line of treatment is not acceptable. You need a sleep study to test for sleep apnea and treat the sleep apnea.
  • If you have restless legs or you sleep walk, seek help. If you are a shift worker or a night owl and are struggling, get help.
  • Get help. The science and experience of sleep medicine is becoming advanced. Don’t miss out the opportunity to feel better and live longer.