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Which Doctor Should I See for Sleep Problems?

insomnia specialist

Seeing your primary care doctor at least once a year is recommended in order to maintain optimum health. However, if you have special health concerns such as sleep disorders, you need an insomnia specialist or a sleep doctor. It is important that you seek the opinion of an expert when it comes to your specialized health concerns to ensure that you get the most relevant insight to your condition and the recommended treatment.

Why Your Primary Care Doctor is Not Enough

Your primary care physician is someone you can turn to for general health issues. But when it comes to specific medical conditions and disease management, you need a doctor who specializes in that field. Your primary care doctor might refer you to a diabetes expert if you have issues with your blood sugar levels. On the other hand, you might be referred to an insomnia specialist if you have trouble sleeping at night.

There are some physicians that can help with sleep issues. But if the symptoms associated with the sleep disorder are severe or have been around for some time, you need the help of an expert. 

What is a Sleep Doctor?

A sleep doctor is someone who has additional training and study in sleep medicine. They also have training in internal medicine, pulmonology, and neurology. For a sleep doctor to be certified, they must have passed a rigorous exam. 

Once a sleep doctor is certified, they are able to analyze the results and data from sleep studies to diagnose and treat patients suffering from insomnia and a wide range of sleep disorders. They could also be primary care physicians who have acquired additional training in order to gain expertise in this field. 

What is an Insomnia Specialist? 

An insomnia specialist is the type of doctor with advanced knowledge and training in diagnosing and treating patients suffering from insomnia (and other related sleep issues). They are also referred to as sleep specialists. These doctors are invested in providing care for individuals whose lack of sleep (and sleep quality) might affect their health and well-being. 

To diagnose insomnia, the insomnia specialist will conduct a physical exam first. They will also evaluate your medical history and sleep history. Make sure that you are truthful in providing information to your doctor, especially when it comes to your sleeping habits so they can make the right diagnosis. Some doctors will also require patients to record a sleep diary for a week or two. The purpose is to keep track of the patient’s sleep patterns and identify potential issues that must be addressed with the aim of improving one’s sleep quality. 

There are other fields of specialization when you are talking about sleep doctors. These aim to address the specific issues that are linked to lack of sleep and sleep quality. 

For example, there are sleep psychologists who are trained to analyze and assess sleep problems that are caused by mental and behavioral health issues. There are also otolaryngologists, who are ENT doctors trained to diagnose and treat structural problems linked to sleep disorders (such as obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, etc). 

An insomnia specialist is, therefore, just one type of doctor with specialized training in sleep disorders. 

sleep doctor and insomnia specialist

When to See an Insomnia Specialist?

Sleep disorders like insomnia are a pretty common condition affecting more people than most would think. While it might be common, it can still take a toll on one’s quality of health and overall well-being. It is important that its symptoms are addressed and the cause of the problem treated in order to regain the quality of your sleep, as well as your health. 

There are serious implications with long-term lack of sleep or low sleep quality. Therefore, you should not simply dismiss these symptoms, especially if they have been around for some time. 

You need to see an insomnia specialist if the following applies to you:

  • If you’ve suffered from insomnia for more than four weeks or it begins to affect your daytime activity and performance. 
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air. 
  • If you are suffering from heartburn that wakes you up at night.
  • If you have chronic snoring problems or other symptoms of sleep apnea
  • If you suffer from restless leg syndrome
  • If it starts to affect your mood such as loss of energy, lack of appetite, or depression. 

Moreover, you may require emergency medical attention if the following condition applies to you.

  • If you have difficulty breathing at night
  • If your mood worsens to a point that you result in dangerous or suicidal thoughts.

What to Expect During Your Visit

When you book an appointment with a sleep specialist, there are a few things that the doctor will perform in order to assess your condition. A full physical examination is done and you will also be asked to provide essential information about your sleep pattern, lifestyle, and medical history. Make sure you provide all the necessary information that your doctor requires for a more accurate assessment.

Depending on the results of the initial examination, you might undergo a sleep study. This is when you will be observed overnight as you sleep in a specialized room with essential monitoring equipment attached to you. The purpose is to evaluate your vital signs and other physiological functions during sleep. 

The insomnia specialist and sleep technician will be in the lookout for vital functions such as breathing rate, snoring, blood oxygen level, pulse, eye movement, and bodily movement. 

when to see an insomnia specialist

The Takeaway

If you experience any of the symptoms of insomnia, especially chronically, you need to seek the help of a sleep specialist as soon as possible. The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the sooner you can undergo treatment too. This is a vital step in your effort towards addressing the serious health risks associated with lack of sleep. 

If left untreated, many of these sleep disorders can be life-threatening. A sleep doctor is someone with the expertise and training to be able to assess your health condition and make the necessary recommendations for your health. 


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