Reality Check: Why Your Doctor Can't Cure Your Insomnia Overnight

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Unlike what happens when you go to the doctor for a health issue such as a rash or a sore throat, going to the doctor for insomnia can be different.

For starters, insomnia is not something that can be visually seen by a doctor simply by doing an exam. Insomnia will be a puzzle that your doctor will have to decode, so the root of it can be found and treated. Most of what your doctor will have to rely on to help him decode the puzzle is what you convey about how you are feeling, as well as information about your sleeping habits and lifestyle.

Of course, a family medical history will be taken at your visit, as well as blood work. Both of these will help your physician to see if there is anything that stands out which may have prompted your insomnia. However, since your complaint is likely to be something such as “I wake up at 4am and can’t go back to sleep” or “I lay in bed for hours without sleeping,” more in-depth questions will be asked of you. These questions can be numerous, but they are necessary to help your doctor discover what is causing your sleep problems.

Being realistic about what to expect when visiting a doctor for insomnia is a must. Unlike an infection or injury, insomnia can’t be treated with a shot, bandage or antibiotics. However, with time and patience, the cause of your insomnia can be found and treatment can be started.

You will be asked questions that may seem random to you such as whether or not you snore, if your legs bother you at night, what hours you work, if you have had a major life change, what the temperature is in your room, if you drink or smoke, have pets, if you do office work in your bedroom, if you shower before bed, and so on.

Remember to be as in-depth, open, and as detailed in your responses as possible. Do not take offense at any of the questions you are asked. Even if the questions seem to you to be totally unrelated to your insomnia, the answers can go far in steering your doctor in the right direction to helping you beat it.

Your primary care doctor may be able to identify right away what is causing your sleep disturbances and treatment can begin. Sometimes it is not that easy to pinpoint, especially if you have been dealing with it for a very long time. That is why the sooner you seek treatment for sleeping issues, the better.

If your doctor cannot find the immediate exact cause of your sleeping problems, it can be disheartening. Going through with making an appointment with your doctor, opening up about your insomnia and life, and not walking out of the office with an immediate cure can be frustrating.

Just know that the appointment was NOT a waste of time. It was the first step to getting help. If, over a short time, your doctor cannot uncover what is prompting your insomnia, you may be referred to a sleep specialist.

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.