Humans are advised to sleep for at least 7-9 hours each night, but let’s face it, it’s impractical for many. From struggling to falling asleep to maintaining a full-night slumber, there are various sleep disorders that haunt people every night. However, not everyone realizes the existence of sleep-related issues and hence, never move on to the diagnosis and treatment stage. Medical intervention facilitated by a sleep doctor renders notable benefits for people who face the sleep dilemma every night.
When Should You Visit a Sleep Doctor?
It is common to experience difficulty in either falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. However, the condition should not persist and needs medical attention if you struggle with your sleep pattern regularly. Following are various symptoms that hint at the possibility of one or other sleep-related issues and shouldn’t be neglected:
- Struggling to go sleep
- Struggling to stay asleep
- Tired throughout the day even after a proper sleep at night
- Minimized physical and cognitive activity during the day
- Drowsing away while driving
- Urge to take frequent naps throughout the day
Which Primary Care Physician Can Help You with Sleep-Related Issues?
A primary care physician is the first link between a patient and a healthcare setup. They provide elementary care that concentrates more on wellness and prevention and overall health. However, for patients suffering from various sleep irregularities, a primary physician may only be of certain help. They can run necessary screening tests, prescribe prevention strategies and lifestyle adaptations to improve the sleep pattern. However, they’d most likely refer a sleep specialist or other specialists for an all-inclusive treatment.
Which Secondary Care Physician Should You Go To?
While a primary care provider helps you with minor sleep-related issues, it’s a somnologist that plays a vital role. A sleep specialist is a physician who looks after your sleep health by performing various tests and prescribing sleep studies. The specialist, after completing their primary training in internal medicine, pulmonology, or neurology takes up additional training in sleep medicine. The board-certified doctor conducts sleep studies at their medical practice facility.
A somnologist deals with a variety of sleep disorders that vary over a spectrum of causes and severity. Even though each disorder of sleep health is distinct in its origin, a sleep doctor’s comprehensive care encompasses it all.
However, in some cases, the somnologist may refer the patient to another specialist such as a pulmonologist or neurologist. The decision is to ensure a much-pronounced treatment for the patients.
It is very common for pulmonologists to tend to patients suffering from sleep disorders at a healthcare setup. The specialist physician tends to those lung and respiratory diseases that manifest sleep difficulties such as obstructive sleep apnea. The hindrance in sleep pattern arises due to airway blockages powered by conditions like asthma, COPD, and other breathing disorders. In such cases, a pulmonologist works together with a sleep physician to help patients breathe better and sleep better.
Apart from breathing irregularities that lead to difficulty in sleep, certain neurological conditions contribute the same. Various sleep problems such as central sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia arise to underlying neurological conditions. A primary care practitioner may refer you to a neurologist when the said disorders significantly interfere with your sleep habits and your lifestyle.
A primary care physician may also refer you to an ENT specialist or an otolaryngologist to deal with sleep-related issues. Such physicians deal with ear, nose, and throat-related problems that hinder sleep. Two primary sleep irregularities such as sleep apnea and snoring require management by an ENT specialist. An ENT usually prescribes sleep studies or CPAP to help patients sleep better at night. However, they may recommend surgery when CPAP fails to remove any blockage in the throat that induces snoring and OSA.
Well, it may come as a surprise, but you might also be referred to a dentist for your sleep-related issues. Dentists provide efficient care for disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and bruxism i.e. teeth grinding during sleep. Their role is prominent and of great importance in CPAP which is considered as the gold standard therapy for OSA. Since it’s not an easy procedure, dentists ensure that the patient garners optimum results from it.
Another unanticipated category of specialist physicians that tend to sleep healthily is psychiatrists. Even more so, psychiatrists contribute to the largest percentage of patients with issues such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. The specialist doctors not only identify the root cause of these disorders but rectify them to promote better performance during the day.
The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be emphasized as it fuels our productivity the next day. On the other hand, it is also essential to maintain the body’s physiological health. Since it contributes to the healing and repair of blood vessels, lack of sleep leads to an array of morbidities. Improper sleep patterns have been known to augment the risk of cardiovascular and renal disease, diabetes, and even the onset of stroke.