September 1, 2014
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Sleep: Getting a Good Night's Worth

Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders

If you've tried everything and still don't seem to be getting enough sleep, speak with your doctor. Your sleep problems may be due to a medical condition or one of the medications you are taking. Most sleep problems can be diagnosed and treated safely and effectively.

Some of the most common sleep disorders are:

  • sleep apnea (a disorder in which people stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, sometimes hundreds of times every night)
  • insomnia (difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings during the night, or waking early)
  • restless legs syndrome (uncomfortable leg sensations and the urge to move the legs occurring whenever the body is at rest, interrupting sleep)
  • narcolepsy (a chronic brain disorder causing sudden, uncontrollable episodes of sleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving, eating, or talking)
  • periodic limb movements (recurrent movements of the legs, feet, or toes during sleep, causing sleep interruptions throughout the night)

You may want to keep a "sleep diary" for a couple of weeks before your visit to the doctor. This will help you describe your problem thoroughly to the doctor. It may also help your doctor identify patterns in your sleep. Your "sleep diary" could include:

  • the number of hours you are sleeping each night
  • when you went to bed and got up in the morning (or when you got up to start your next day if you do shift work)
  • days when you had trouble falling asleep, woke up frequently during the night, or woke up earlier than you would have liked to
  • nights when you were snoring or moving in your sleep
  • nights when you woke up gasping for breath or snoring
  • whether you felt tired or well-rested each day
  • the number of cigarettes or drinks that you had each day, and approximately when you had them
  • your stress level during the day
  • any new life events or schedule changes

You should also make note of your current medical conditions and medications. Before you visit your doctor, it is helpful to make a list of the questions you would like to ask and the information you would like to find out from the doctor. Many people realize they have forgotten to ask an important question only after they've left the doctor's office. You may want to bring your bed partner to your doctor's appointment (or at least talk to them before the appointment) – this person has seen (and heard!) you sleeping and may be able to help your doctor diagnose and treat any sleep disorders you may have.

Most sleep disorders can be safely and effectively treated. Finding and treating a sleep disorder could make a huge difference in your life!

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The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

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