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How to Talk to your Doctor

What should I say to my doctor when I sleep poorly or can’t sleep at all?

Do your best to be concise and clear. State, in succinct terms, how you perceive the problem. For example:

  • “It takes me a very long time to fall asleep.”
  • “I wake up frequently during the night.”
  • “I have trouble waking up in the morning after a sleepless night.”

You may want to ask if your problem could be related to other health issues or to medication you may be taking.

Don’t ask for sleeping pills. Instead, ask if you should consult a sleep specialist or go to a sleep clinic. If your doctor has cost information about these options, ask him/her to share that with you.

Finally, ask for your doctor’s recommendations about how to proceed.

Your doctor will probably ask about your usual sleep-wake schedule, including details about when you go to bed, how long it takes to fall asleep, when you wake up in the morning and naps during the day. In addition, you may be asked about these factors:

  • sleep environment characteristics
  • your preoccupation with your sleep complaints
  • snoring
  • movement during sleep
  • caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • type of job and work schedule
  • overall health
  • nutrition
  • exercise
  • daytime sleepiness
  • your mood

Based on this information, your doctor will recommend a treatment or a further workup, which may include seeing a specialist.

How Can You Improve Your Sleep?

Track your sleep for a few days to identify sleep-wake patterns and to measure sleep duration, efficiency and structure. If those measurements suggest a condition that warrants further investigation, you’ll be prompted to consult a physician for an in-depth sleep evaluation.