When’s the last time your doctor asked how well you’re sleeping? If that’s hasn’t happened in a while—or ever—you’re not alone. According to The National Sleep Foundation, six in 10 healthcare professionals don’t feel as though they have enough time to discuss insomnia with patients during regular office visits. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from a sleep disorder.
Hectic or overcrowded physicians’ schedules are partially to blame, but doctors say not knowing that a patient is having trouble falling, or staying, asleep also contributes to the breakdown in communication.
The reasons patients don’t talk about their sleep issues vary. Some patients may not feel confident about tackling sleep issues, while others simply don’t know how to start a sleep conversation with their doctor. “However, as medicine becomes more holistic, physicians are increasingly aware of the importance of good sleep on the health of their patients,” said Dr. Teofilo Lee-Chiong, professor, University of Colorado Denver and chief medical liaison, Philips Respironics.
If you have any sleep-related problems such as inability to fall or stay asleep or trouble regulating body temperature at night, Lee-Chiong offered these conversation starters and topic tips to help you maintain open and productive lines of communication:
1. I don’t feel like I’m getting enough good sleep each night.
2. I’m not able to fall asleep or to remain asleep.
3. I wish I were more alert and had more energy in the daytime.
4. I’m falling asleep/feeling sleepy while driving or at work.
5. My spouse/sleep partner says I snore loudly.
6. I’ve been told I stop breathing during my sleep.
7. I have headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain or indigestion during the night.
8. I’ve been experiencing discomfort in my legs at night when I sit in a chair or get into bed.
9. I’ve been behaving unusually during my sleep (sleepwalking, waking abruptly, etc.)
10. Could any medications I’m taking disturb sleep?
Having an open, honest dialogue not only can help your doctor diagnose potential sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia, it also can lead to some helpful suggestions to get some much-needed sleep. Chamomile tea, anyone?