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When should I see a doctor for my sleep problems?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder and it is interfering with your life, you should talk to your doctor. Your general physician may be able to diagnose your sleep disorder, or they may refer you to a sleep clinic. At a sleep clinic, you may take part in a sleep study, during which you will spend several hours there while machines take measurements as you sleep. Sleep specialists can interpret the sleep study results to diagnose your sleep disorder and help you find the right treatment.

The National Sleep Foundation says you need to see a doctor for your sleep problems if you answer "yes" to any of these questions:

  • Do you frequently have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
  • Do you have a problem with snoring, or has anyone ever told you that you have pauses in breathing or that you gasp for breath when you sleep?
  • Are your legs "active" at night? Do you experience tingling, creeping, itching, pulling, aching or other strange feelings in your legs while sitting or lying down that gives you the urge to move, walk or kick your legs for relief?
  • Are you so tired when you wake up in the morning that you struggle to function normally during the day?
  • Do sleepiness and fatigue last for more than two to three weeks?

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Acute sleep problems can be annoying but they typically don't require medical attention. You may be able to get some relief with self-care methods, such as practicing good sleep hygiene or using an over-the-counter sleep aid (recommended for short-term use only).

If, however, you're struggling with a chronic sleep problem that leaves you feeling overly tired during the day, disrupts your daily life, or lasts longer than three weeks, you should visit your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.