When Should You See a Doctor for Sleep Problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one-third of American adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis; 35% of U.S. adults get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night. Some people choose to ignore sleep recommendations, but many have sleep problems that prevent getting good quality sleep.

Having trouble falling asleep from time to time or occasionally waking up throughout the night aren’t necessarily cause for alarm. Maybe you’re worrying about a big interview tomorrow, you’re excited about holiday plans, you’re concerned about a crisis in your family, or a late afternoon nap and an extra large coffee are to blame.

However, chronic sleep problems can contribute to numerous health problems and affect your safety. Sleep deprivation negatively affects your mood, it affects your ability to focus and stay alert, and lowers your quality of life.

Getting enough sleep each night is essential for good health. You can always talk to your primary care doctor about your sleep habits. Click To Tweet

Talk to your primary care physician if you constantly feel tired, you regularly have trouble falling asleep (onset), or you have trouble staying asleep (maintenance).

What can you do if you have trouble sleeping?

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the U.S. Acute insomnia — occasionally losing sleep or having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep — typically doesn’t require medical care or treatment.

Sleep problems — such as chronic insomnia — can lead to depression, anxiety, lack of energy, irritability, and difficulty focusing. It can get in the way of social, work, and family life.

It’s important not to dismiss sleep problems. People may try and push through the fatigue or turn to coffee, soda, or energy drinks for extra energy to get through the day. However, chronic sleep problems like insomnia are often a symptom or sign of another problem. Ignoring this sign keeps you from getting the appropriate care that you need.

If you notice that you have trouble sleeping, start keeping a sleep diary. A sleep diary helps identify your normal sleep patterns and sleep habits.

Improving your sleep hygiene is a good place to start if you have trouble sleeping. Even small changes such as turning off electronics before bed, not drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening, and exercising regularly may help you sleep better, and get better sleep quality.

When should you see a doctor for sleep problems?

Discussing your sleep habits with your primary care physician during a wellness exam is just as appropriate as asking questions about diet and exercise, raising concerns about joint pain, or letting your doctor know about new symptoms you’re experiencing. The more that your primary doctor knows about what’s going on in your life, the higher the quality of care she can provide.

Chronic insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for at least three nights a week over a three month period. See a doctor if you experience chronic sleep problems. However, you don’t have to wait until you have this level of difficulty sleeping. Talk to your doctor if you have sleep problems once a week, once a month, or at any point that it raises concerns.

If you have any concerns about the amount or the quality of sleep you get, or if you feel tired and fatigued even though you think you’re getting enough sleep, share those concerns with your doctor. Your primary care physician can help you identify the cause of the problem. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for additional care.