Sleep Deprivation, Sleep Disorders: Is It Time to See a Specialist?

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Last week, I wrote about my sleep troubles, and how I hope to overcome them by the end of the summer. In that post, I shared a number of tips I'm planning on trying. I hope they'll help me (and anyone else suffering with sleep deprivation) to get more sleep.

Some of those tips are going to be easy for me. Others are going to be more difficult, but I plan on conquering this. As someone who lives with chronic medical problems, I know how important sleep is for my overall wellness. And I want to be as well as I can be.

Right now, my sleep issues are just about trying to get a little more of it. It's not to the point that I'm unable to function. But if it did get to that point, I wouldn't be shy about reaching out for help from my doctor or a sleep specialist.

Waking up tired

Most of us can catch up on our sleep when we've had a couple nights of not enough pillow time. But it becomes much more serious when it's ongoing -- night, after night, after night. The big problems develop when we don't get that chance to catch up on all the lost hours of sleep.

The question then becomes: How do we know if our sleep deprivation has gotten to the point that we should seek out professional help?

Here are a few warning signs of a sleep disorder that may require a doctor or sleep specialist:

  • Has the last time you had a good night's sleep been so long ago that you honestly can not even remember when that was?
  • Can you count the hours you sleep on one hand?
  • Do you find yourself waking up frequently through the night, and unable to fall back to sleep?
  • How are you feeling during your waking hours? Are you walking in a fog and just going through the motions?
  • Is your lack of sleep affecting your personal life?
  • Are you unable to enjoy activities that you once loved?
  • Has your lack of sleep affected your concentration, and ability to do your job or take care of your family?
  • Do you fall asleep at inappropriate times? On the job? In a meeting? Behind the wheel of your car?

If any of the above signs apply to you, you many need to see someone about your sleep issues. Your problems could be anything from stress to sleep apnea. The truth is, a sleep disorder can have many different causes and negatively affect every aspect of your life. That's why it is so important to reach out for help if you feel you need it.

You may want to see a sleep specialist. Are you wondering what a sleep specialist can do?

"A physician who is a sleep specialist is certified in the subspecialty of sleep medicine and specializes in the clinical assessment, physiologic testing, diagnosis, management and prevention of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders. Sleep specialists treat patients of any age and use multidisciplinary approaches. Disorders managed by sleep specialists include, but are not limited to, sleep related breathing disorders, insomnia, hypersomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, parasomnias and sleep related movement disorders." -- The American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Where can you find a sleep specialist?

Here is a sleep center directory from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a leader in setting standards and promoting excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research. The institute also has a list of certified behavioral sleep medicine specialists.

Other helpful links:

Have you ever gone to see a sleep specialist? Are you considering seeing one? Let me know in the comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
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