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When Should I See a Doctor for Insomnia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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Patients should see a doctor for insomnia evaluation and treatment when sleeplessness and difficulty sleeping become disruptive. A missed night of sleep occasionally is not a cause for concern, but repeated episodes of insomnia or extended periods without sleep can become dangerous to a patient's health. Likewise, people who experience daytime sleepiness, declines in cognitive function, and other insomnia symptoms should go to a doctor. A sleep specialist can examine the patient and develop a treatment plan.

Insomnia can occur at any age, and is associated with stress, some medical conditions, and a variety of other potential causes. People can experience varying degrees of insomnia, from trouble getting to sleep occasionally to complete lack of sleep, sleep interrupted by severe nightmares, or periodic episodes where sleep is interrupted for at least three days in one week.

If a patient feels like insomnia is interrupting daily life and general well being, it is advisable to see a doctor, even if the suspected insomnia does not appear that severe. Everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep, and some people can experience significant disruptions in their lives even though they are not missing that much sleep. Seeing a doctor for insomnia can help the patient identify contributing factors and treat them.

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Even if it is not personally disruptive, insomnia can become a problem when it is chronic in nature. People who aren't sleeping or are not sleeping well multiple nights a week for several weeks in a row should see a doctor for insomnia. If patients are experiencing nightmares, intrusive thoughts, depression, and other mental health symptoms, medical treatment is strongly recommended. Insomnia can also be a sign of an underlying physical health problem and can in turn contribute to poor immune health and other health issues, making it important to receive treatment.

While preparing to see a doctor for insomnia, it can be helpful to generate as much information as possible about episodes of interrupted sleep, and to document any life changes or events that have recently occurred. This information can be valuable for the physician's evaluation. The doctor may order blood tests, sleep studies, and other medical tests while working up a patient with insomnia to learn more about potential causes and to see if the insomnia is causing medical issues for the patient. At the end of the evaluation, treatment options can be made available to the patient.

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Mor
Post 3

@clintflint - I would suggest that anyone with signs of insomnia go through a few self-tests before they see a doctor though. It's possible there is something in their diet or daily routine that is keeping them up.

Caffeine, for example, will definitely make you feel more alert and quite a few unexpected products have it these days. The same goes for sugar.

Not getting any exercise can mess with your body's ability to relax and sleep at the end of the day. Getting too much exercise, ironically, has the same effect.

And light is a big deal when it comes to sleep. If you're being exposed to blue light (which is what comes out of computer and tablet screens) your

brain thinks it's still daytime and won't start producing sleep hormones until it goes away. In my opinion, the insomnia home remedy most people need is to put away their device an hour (at least) before bed-time. Do that and you'll sleep like a baby.
clintflint
Post 2

@pleonasm - It's also often true that sleep is being disrupted for a reason and if that reason isn't obvious (new medication or pregnancy insomnia, for example) then it's definitely a good idea to have a check-up.

It might not be anything physical. It could be a symptom of depression or some other kind of mental illness. But that's still something that can and should be treated.

pleonasm
Post 1

The worst thing about insomnia is the boredom. I used to be somewhat envious of my friends who didn't sleep very much because I had this idea that they filled the extra time with activity and became more productive than ever.

In fact now that I've got insomnia occasionally myself, it lowers your production. When you aren't sleeping, you're constantly trying to sleep and when you are supposed to be working during day-hours you feel so tired you can't get anything done then either.

True severe insomnia is really awful and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It's definitely cause to see a doctor.

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