It seems as if there is some new story or recent research being reported about sleep every week. From how much we need to who isn’t getting enough, there is a lot more information about sleep available now than ever before. In part, this is because research continues to find new reasons that we need to get a good night sleep every night. But it’s also because so many of us struggle with sleep on a regular basis and just might have a sleep disorder.
Sleep, or often the lack of it, is often at the forefront of our minds. We complain about it to coworkers, say we need to get more of it, and still skip it whenever something that seems more urgent comes along. But what many of us don’t do, is take a good long look at how we are sleeping and then discuss any concerns we have with our doctor. We think that everyone struggles with sleep, that it’s just insomnia, or that it’s stress that is keeping us up. While that may be the case, there may be something more going on and if there is, it isn’t going to get better on its own. If you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, or find that you wake up feeling like you barely slept at all, you might have a sleep disorder which needs to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.
Go See Your Doctor
The only sure way to know if there is something besides a sleepless night going on is to see your doctor. In order to help them decide if further tests are needed to diagnose a sleep disorder or if there are other next steps to be taken, it is helpful to be able to provide them with a clear picture of your sleep. The best way to do this is to keep a sleep journal for a couple weeks prior to your appointment. Record what time you went to bed, when you got up, if you woke up during the night, and how you felt when you woke up. It can also be helpful to keep track of things you are doing during the day that can impact your sleep like the number of caffeinated beverages you drank, when you drank them, and the amount of exercise you got that day. Once your doctor has the full picture, he may be able to diagnose you from the information provided or he may feel that sleep testing is warranted to be able to diagnose and treat a sleep disorder.
Sleep tests are generally conducted at a sleep center and administered by staff members that specialize in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. You will meet with a sleep doctor to review much of the same information you gave your doctor. Your sleep test may include several different types of testing. The most common is a sleep study or polysomnogram which can include the following:
- an electroencephalography (EEG) which measures your brain activity
- a nasal airflow sensor which measures and monitors your airflow
- an electromyogram (EMG) which measures your muscle activity
- an electro-oculogram (EOG) which measures and records any eye movements while you are sleeping
- a snore microphone which records any snoring
The test results of the sleep study will provide the sleep doctor all the information needed to either diagnose a sleep disorder or ease your mind that you are just having a few sleepless nights. Once you have a diagnosis, you can work with your regular doctor and the sleep doctor to formulate a treatment plan that will get you back to bed and getting the sleep you need.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Naturally (valleysleepcenter.com)
- What Happens During a Sleep Study? (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Sleep Doctor vs. My Regular Doctor: What’s the Difference? (valleysleepcenter.com)