By medical treatment for insomnia, I mean the entire process of…
Finding a medical doctor (or getting a referral) that specializes in sleep medicine and sleep disorders…
Making an appointment…
Going through a comprehensive set of medical tests…
Having a thorough sleep evaluation test…
Getting an accurate diagnosis of your particular brand of insomnia, and finally…
Getting proper and effective treatment.
What I don’t mean by medical treatment for insomnia is going to your primary care doctor and picking up a prescription for sleeping pills. This is not true sleep medicine.
While it’s understandable to want a quick fix and sometimes helpful – sleeping pills just don’t offer the lasting, long-term cure for insomnia that you really want.
Medical treatment for insomnia may be your best choice when…
- You have severe insomnia – sleeping zero hours per night for several nights per week for months… and for no apparent reason.
- You have secondary insomnia – that is, your sleeplessness can be traced directly to a health condition or medication side effect, and once this problem is solved, your insomnia goes away.
- You have any other sleep disorder besides primary insomnia – such as sleep apnea, night terrors, sleepwalking or sleep talking.
- You have tried all the self help insomnia tips and techniques available and nothing has worked.
- You do best under the care of a doctor – and without this supervision, you won’t change your sleeping habits on your own.
Where to Start and How to Approach Your Medical Treatment for Insomnia
Remember you’re ultimately the one in charge of your health. You are most likely to have the best results when you take a positive, proactive approach to your health.
You’ll want to start with your primary care physician – and of course depending on your insurance, you might have to start there anyway.
First, you want to get screened for all conditions that you suspect might be a cause for insomnia. A comprehensive blood test might reveal hormonal imbalances and deficiencies. Hyperthyroidism is one potential cause of insomnia that stays hidden until testing reveals it. A thorough physical examination is a good idea.
Also, if you suspect a new medication might be the culprit, it’s time to take that up with your prescribing doctor. There may be an alternative, but you won’t know unless you have this discussion.
Other health issues causing secondary insomnia include fibromyalgia, allergies, asthma, arthritis, muscular pain, diabetes, and heart conditions.
NOTE: While these are primarily physical, certain mental conditions are also potential causes of insomnia. These include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Whether your primary doctor or a psychiatrist is providing your medical treatment for these problems, you should let them know your insomnia needs attention. It should not be considered just a “side effect” of your primary condition. It’s far too important for that.
If all your screening comes out negative for secondary insomnia, or if you get the proper treatment for outside health conditions and your insomnia persists…
Or if you have severe insomnia or additional sleep disorders, it’s time to seek out specific and effective medical treatment for insomnia
What Medical Treatment for Insomnia Involves
The first thing you must do for proper medical treatment is find a good sleep center. And what is a sleep center?
It’s a place where you can spend the night in a strange bed, with numerous peculiar instruments attached to your skull and other relevant body parts. These all record your brain waves, heart rate, respiration, oxygen use, muscular movement and a slew of other fascinating data while you, um, “sleep.” Or try to, anyway.
In other words, a sleep center is a really fun and happenin’ place!
But it’s the only place where you can get a thorough examination and study of your insomnia and other sleep disorders, along with a proper and accurate diagnosis.
How to Find a Good Sleep Center
You can start with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website and find the sleep centers located nearest you.
Your local phone directories, your health insurance directory, and a local medical referral service might also be good sources of information.
Check your local hospitals, as many sleep centers are located on hospital campuses so they have access to beds and equipment.
Another likely place for a sleep center is a university medical school campus.
There are also some sleep centers that are operated as private medical practices.
Make the Calls…
Once you find a few sleep centers near you, it’s time for some research. Call the office, ask what a full examination would consist of, ask what treatment might be like, and so on. This is exploration time, so gather as much info as you can before you make a decision.
If you are too tired to do this research, get someone else, a friend or relative, to do it for you. Many people love this kind of digging around, and would be happy to help you out in finding a good sleep doctor or sleep center.
You will probably have to get your primary care doctor to give you a referral before a sleep center will accept you.
And of course you also want to find out if your health insurance will cover diagnosis and treatment and if the sleep center will take your insurance. Most insurance seems to cover it, but you won’t want any unpleasant surprises.
Who are the Sleep Doctors Anyway?
Doctors who specialize in sleep medicine may be neurologists, psychiatrists, internists, pulmonologists, cardiologists or whatever.
For some reason, they became fascinated with the whole sleep process during med school or residency or internship… and decided to make it their full time specialty.
They are not the only doctors in the world qualified to deal with sleep disorders, but they are your best bet.
If your insomnia is complicated by sleep apnea, snoring, night terrors, restless leg syndrome or any other sleep disorder, they will recommend appropriate medical treatment for insomnia.
And if your insomnia and sleep problem turns out to be a simple case of primary insomnia, without complications of other sleep disorders, they will be able to prescribe a good sleep hygiene program to cure it. And they will follow up with you to make sure you do your part.
So if your insomnia has reached desperation point, and you are too tired, fearful, confused, dysfunctional or stressed out to start your own self-help program…
Or if your insomnia is complicated by other sleep disorders… or health conditions…
Then it’s time to seek out competent, helpful, knowledgeable experts who can offer the medical treatment for insomnia that you need.