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Doctor talking with a patient

A good night’s sleep is correlated to both a healthy body and healthy lifestyle habits. If you have trouble sleeping, there can be a variety of reasons why you’re not getting the rest your body needs. Knowing which kind of doctor you’re needing to resolve your sleeping troubles is important in setting yourself up for a long, healthy life.

Asking yourself the right questions is important before visiting a doctor. A little self-examination will mean that you’ll be saving both time and money on your way to wellness. Below, we’ve outlined a questions patients should ask themselves before deciding on a particular specialist for their “difficulty sleeping.”

Is it a broad, indefinable sleep problem?

As with most afflictions that will pop up for a patient, a primary care physician (PCP) should your first line of defense in diagnosing and treating your health issues.

For those with young children, this could be your “family doctor” or a pediatrician. As medical generalists, they might be able to easily solve whatever is keeping you from getting a full night’s rest. Knowing your medical history, they’ll be able to see things from a bigger viewpoint. This holistic approach will allow them to make recommendations to your lifestyle, your sleeping patterns, or your medication routine.

Sometimes the solutions aren’t simple, so it’s always good to have your PCP by your side as a consultant if your sleep problem is more complicated than initially expected. They’ll refer you to a specialist to address the deeper problem at hand.

Is your sleep problem related to the conditions of your sleep?

Sometimes your issues sleeping require a deeper dive and analysis. Sleep medicine experts could tease apart all the varying causes to your sleep problem. Sleep Medicine is officially a subspecialty certification. A sleep medicine specialist could be your PCP, pediatrician, E.N.T., or neurologist who’ve acquired their certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties.

In other words, the training covers the entire sleep evaluation process, from the initial examination & treatment to therapy & follow-up care. Along the way, these specialists will diagnose and treat the conditions that are leading to your sleep problems. For instance, your PCP who’s certified in sleep medicine will take a little longer getting to the root cause before sending you to a different specialist. Your pediatrician certified in sleep medicine will easily be able to diagnose bedwetting, behavioral disorders, or circadian rhythm issues your child might be suffering. An E.N.T.’s expertise as a sleep apnea doctor, or snore specialist, allow them to determine whether or not your snoring is really sleep apnea and manage your symptoms accordingly. 

Is your sleep problem related to a brain chemistry imbalance?

Brain chemistry is dictated by the levels of neurotransmitters you have at any one time. These neurotransmitters bind and release certain chemicals in your brain, which affect your mood and emotions. These neurotransmitters can affect how your body decides it needs to rest after a long day.

Neurologists are specialists in brain, spinal cord, and nerves, so they’re well-positioned to diagnose and treat any shortcomings in your brain’s chemical regulation. As a result, neurologists have extensive instruction in disorders involving the nervous system, they’ll be able to even treat the most common causes of insomnia. For example, a neurologist will be able to better diagnose any larger neurological issues like paralysis of the diaphragm, Parkinson’s, or a stroke. Any systemic trauma to the brain or spinal cord will also present interrupted sleep patterns.

Is your sleep problem caused by mental turmoil?

Sometimes a patient’s symptoms are caused by long-standing psychological issues, instead of physical incapacity. Previous emotional or mental trauma prohibits the brain from relaxing at night. Resolving these internal emotional tensions within a patient are important for solving their resultant sleep problem.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are specialists in analyzing human behavior and rehabilitating mental processes. They do so by providing patients with cognitive-behavioral therapy or clinical counseling. This mental health intervention is an important addition to diagnosing and treating sleep issues. Psychologists have to manage a patient’s sleep difficulty without medication, while psychiatrists can combine cognitive and behavioral therapies with prescription medication.

Do you prefer to stay away from doctors altogether?

“Western medicine” is the gold standard for treating health problems in the United States. However, the problem that arises is that sometimes the issues are psychosomatic or not included in the medical school curriculum.

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners provide a different path for treating the physical and psychological causes of sleep problems. The one catch with these type of health practitioners is that their practices are not always empirically-based on peer-reviewed studies. Using your primary care physician is important when utilizing the services of a complementary and alternative medicine practitioner. Your family doctor will act as a safeguard against any potential fraudulent alternative treatment recommendations.

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners can include health practitioners like certified yoga instructors or meditation experts. Their expertise lies in a liminal world between spiritual belief and material reality. Learning the relaxation techniques that these disciplines have to offer could provide some relief to your sleep problem. Likewise, massage therapists and acupuncturists treat sleep issues by focusing on muscle tension, blood flow, and/or balance of qi.

Whatever the root cause is, it’s important to get your sleep issues diagnosed and treated, so your body is operating at its very best. In short, if your body the help it needs, it’ll continue working its hardest to help you do the things you want to do. Just make sure you listen to what it’s got to say to you!

Is your body tired from not sleeping enough? We’ve got plenty of options for you. Take back your sleep (so you can ask yourself more important questions like, “Which type of snack do I want before bed?”). Visit ENT specialist, Dr. Pasha and his team. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more updates!

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