It’s been ingrained in our heads since childhood: we need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to maintain our health, energy and mental acuity. If you’re not getting that much rest, or if you’re always tired and it’s having a negative impact on your life, it may be time for you to consult with a sleep specialist.
The most common reason to see a sleep specialist is because you’re not getting the amount of sleep – and the quality of sleep –you need to feel rested and energetic during the day. But it’s not always as simple as that. To fix a sleeping problem, you and your doctor need to know exactly what is causing it – and that could be more complicated than just drinking warm milk before bed or taking a sleeping pill.
There are no less than 88 types of sleep disorders – including the top five, which are insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movements. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 75% percent of Americans report they have at least one symptom of a sleep problem a few nights per week or more. Whatever is preventing you from getting a good’s night rest, a sleep specialist can probably treat it.
That’s because a sleep specialist not only is specialty trained in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, but often has a degree in the medical or psychology fields. To start, the specialist will ask you a series of questions to determine whether your symptoms are serious enough to qualify for a polysomnogram — a diagnostic test during which you sleep with electrodes attached to your body so that a technician can record your brainwaves, heart rate, eye movements, muscle testing, leg twitching, breathing patterns, and chest wall movement.
Based on the results of your polysomnogram, there are several ways that can treat your sleep disorder, including:
- Behavioral therapies, which would include talk therapy or recommended lifestyle changes. For example, if you aren’t sleeping well because you leave the television all night, or your bed partner text messages into the wee hours, it could just be a matter of eliminating those routines.
- Medication – Several drugs, prescribed under the supervision of your physician, can treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
- Medical Devices – such as a CPAP– can be an effective treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – a serious, life-threatening condition that affected millions of Americans – allowing you to breathe properly throughout the night.
- Dental Devices – such as a mouthguard – can help with teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenched jaw.
- Surgery – This is an option for severe cases of sleep disorder due to medical reasons.
Ongoing sleep deficiency is not something you can afford to ignore. Besides making you feel fatigued when you should be energetic, it can raise your risk for chronic health problems. If you’ve brought up your sleep problems to your primary doctor, you may have been referred to a sleep specialist based on your overall symptoms, or you can reach out to a sleep specialty practice yourself for an evaluation.
In addition to offering comprehensive diagnostic services, SC Internal Medicine Associates is associated with Sleep Lab of Columbia. Under the direction of Dr. Joseph N. Gabriel, the Lab’s specially trained staff is dedicated to evaluating and treating patients with sleep disorders and sleep-related problems to improve the quality of their sleep and overall health.
To find out if you could benefit from an overnight sleep study, call SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation at (803) 749-1111, or request an appointment online.