Attention Insomniacs: How to Get Help for Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

When you have medical issues you generally know where to seek help. If you have problems with allergies or your sinuses you generally would see an allergist or an ear, nose and throat doctor. If you are having vision issues, you would go so an ophthalmologist. If you are having stomach issues you would seek out the care of a gastroenterologist.

HAVING SLEEP ISSUES?: When you have sleep problems, it can be unclear what to do and where to go. If you're suffering from any sleep issues, the first place to seek out help for insomnia and other sleeping issues is your primary care physician.

Most primary care doctors will routinely screen for sleep problems during yearly examinations since sleeping issues can be linked to other problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure. But if you are having sleeping problems and your yearly check-up is months away, go ahead and schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor now. The sooner you seek treatment, the easier it will be to find the root cause of your insomnia.

What to expect

When you report your sleeping problems to your doctor you may be asked questions about your sleep hygiene and habits, your lifestyle, and other detailed questions. This will help your doctor determine the cause of your insomnia.

Your doctor may also gauge your sleepiness using something known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. It is a series of eight questions that is used to help discover your level of sleepiness.

Based on what your doctor uncovers during your visit, he or she will determine the next step in the process of solving your sleep problems. For instance, if your insomnia is thought to be unrelated to any physical or mental concerns, such as depression or chronic pain, you may be put on short term sleeping medication to see if it helps your body clock regulate itself.

If your problems are the result of a physical/mental condition or current medications, more tests may be performed or your medication may be changed.

If your doctor feels that your sleeping problems require a more in-depth investigation you may be referred to a sleep specialist. Sleep medicine is a fairly new specialty. The study of sleep is minimal during med school. Most general practitioners have only received the basic foundations of sleep coursework. A sleep specialist is someone who is specifically trained in sleep medicine. To gain certification, a physician must go through training in all areas of sleep medicine as well as pass a medical sleep exam. Most sleep specialists will work at accredited sleep labs. However, some do have their own private practices.

EXPERT NOTE: Insomnia is treatable and manageable. Seeing your primary care doctor should be the first step to getting help. As each person is unique, what is uncovered by your physician will determine the route you need to take to get your insomnia under control. This is why it's important that you don't put off seeking treatment for your insomnia, as it can lead to other issues in all areas of life.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.