5 Tips for Addressing Sleep Challenges with Your Doctor
The average human spends a third of their life sleeping, but let’s face it: a lot of us are not getting enough good quality rest.
Just like diet and exercise, restful sleep is a critical part of staying healthy and feeling well. But for many, that’s easier said than done.
Sleep disorders are actually quite common - they affect up to 30 per cent of the population, or about one in three people. What’s surprising is the majority of patients don’t know they suffer from a sleep disorder in the first place.
Whether it’s insomnia, sleep apnea, or one of the host of other sleep-related medical conditions, sleep disorders frequently go undiagnosed for years.
Tossing and turning through the night, waking up fatigued or constantly feeling tired and run-down during the day may seem like minor annoyances we just have to live with, but in some cases, these symptoms can point to more serious health conditions.
Consistently poor sleep can impact nearly every aspect of waking life. Yet many people don’t think to discuss their sleep challenges with their family physician or clinician.
If you or someone you love are having trouble sleeping, or are constantly feeling tired, it might be time to talk with your doctor. Here are some tips to get the conversation started:
1. Don’t be afraid or too embarrassed to ask
Ignoring a health concern is never a good plan. If lack of restful sleep is a persistent issue, getting a diagnosis and treatment can be a game changer when it comes to overall vitality and quality of life.
2. Make an appointment dedicated to discussing this topic
Many doctor’s offices ask patients to limit the number of concerns per visit, and for good reason. If ‘sleep’ is just one concern in a list of issues to address during your appointment, chances are it will not be given the attention it deserves. Instead, schedule a visit where the focus is on your sleep concerns.
3. Talk about your symptoms and your daily life
How we feel when we wake up in the morning might not be something we think to discuss with our doctor. However, if you’re spending the night staring at the ceiling, wake feeling unrefreshed, frequently have trouble focusing or always feel like you need a nap, these are symptoms that warrant a professional medical opinion.
4. Share any feedback from a spouse or sleep partner
Sometimes the people we sleep beside know our sleep habits even better than we do. If you have a sleep partner, ask them to tell you:
- Do you snore loudly every night?
- Have they noticed that you sometimes seem to stop breathing at night?
- Are you a restless sleeper who is always moving in your sleep?
- Do you talk in your sleep?
5. Write down notes before your appointment
It’s easy to walk out of an appointment only to realize you forgot to mention something to your doctor. That’s why we recommend writing down your symptoms, questions or anything else you want to mention to your doctor or clinician and bring it with you to your appointment.
Advocate for your own health
As the patient, you are the most important member of your healthcare team. Just like the doctor has responsibilities when it comes to providing quality care, as patients we also have a responsibility to speak up and make our health needs and concerns known.
Ensuring you bring all the relevant information with you to your appointment helps ensure your doctor has the right information, which helps ensure you receive the right care. Bringing a few notes can help steer the conversation in the right direction.
No health concern is ‘too small’ to mention to your doctor. No matter the health concern, monitor your symptoms and don’t be afraid to book a follow-up appointment if the problem persists.
Advocating for yourself as a patient enables your healthcare team to do their best work, and more importantly enables you to have the best possible health outcome.
Your doctor will advise on next steps
At your appointment, your doctor will provide advice regarding next steps, based on your sleep concern. In some cases, they may make recommendations regarding proper sleep hygiene or may take time to address other health or lifestyle factors which may be at play.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a sleep clinic, such as Maple Respiratory Group’s state-of-the-art Overnight Sleep Lab, which specializes in sleep testing to help diagnose and treat sleep disorders.
If you have consistently had trouble sleeping, then you know the impact poor sleep or lack of sleep can have on nearly every sphere of life.
Proper diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and other sleep challenges can be life-changing for some patients and families. Patients are often surprised at how much their quality of life improves and how much better they feel when they are able to simply get more sleep.
Whether it’s sleep issues or any other health concern, having your doctor in your corner can mean the difference between tossing and turning and sleeping soundly at night.