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Many of us put off going to see the doctor. Whether due to high cost, long wait times, or the inconvenience of travel, we delay or entirely avoid our appointments. We do this despite the significant negative impact our untreated medical conditions have on our daily lives.

This is highly relevant to patients with a sleep problem. A report published by the Sleep Health Foundation last year showed that “about 60% of people report at least one sleep symptom occurring three or more times per week”. https://bit.ly/3dD1L1y

The same report showed that we are notoriously bad at raising our sleep problems with our doctor. “When discussed, it is often only raised as a secondary issue during a consultation for other reasons”. This is despite the severe consequences an untreated sleep condition can have for our overall health.

In response to the COVID crisis, Medicare has begun to subsidise telephone and video consultations with specialist doctors, including sleep physicians. It has never been a better time speak to a specialist about your sleep health concerns.

You may be asking if the problem you experience warrants an appointment with a specialist doctor. The following are 15 reasons you may want to speak to a specialist sleep physician.

  1. Insomnia Many of us have experienced difficulties falling asleep at night. Any more than 30 minutes spent trying to sleep is considered abnormal. If it is happening at least three nights a week then you should consider seeking specialist help.

  2. Daytime fatigue Most adults need around between 7-9 hours of sleep at night to feel refreshed and awake the next day. If you are sleeping enough and you’re still tired, then there may be other issues at play. It is best to discuss this with a specialist sleep doctor.

  3. Snoring You may have been told by a partner or family member that you snore at night. This is one of the strongest signs that you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is good idea to speak to a specialist who may then arrange for you to have a sleep study.

  4. Post-menopausal women The hormone changes that accompany menopause can result in insomnia, feelings of being too hot or cold, and other forms of discomfort that can interfere with sleep. You also have a higher chance to developing other conditions like Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

  5. Restless legs Restless leg syndrome is a condition characterised by discomfort in the legs, particularly when trying to sleep, that is alleviated by movement. This can delay the onset of sleep or cause sleep to be less restful.

  6. Sleepwalking and related conditions Sleep walking is a type of parasomnia – a group of conditions when your nervous system behaves abnormally when transitioning from wakefulness to sleep. You may walk, talk, laugh, or more seriously, punch and kick during your sleep. This can cause fatigue or even be dangerous to yourself or those around you.

  7. Circadian rhythm disorders It is not enough to get the right number of hours of sleep each night. It is also important to have a regular sleep schedule, where you get up around the same time each morning and you don’t sleep during the day. If you are a night owl or a shift worker, you may find yourself fatigued no matter how many hours sleep you get.

  8. Waking with a headache One of the worst ways to start the morning is with a headache. Not only is it unpleasant, but it can be a sign of other sleep problems like Obstructive Sleep Apnea or teeth grinding.

  9. Sleepy while driving Being drowsy or falling asleep behind the wheel is incredibly dangerous. We have all seen the ads warning it is one of the three big killers on Australian roads. If you are sleepy while driving, particularly if you are a commercial driver, you should strop driving until you can be assessed by a medical professional.

  10. Teeth grinding Grinding your teeth whilst sleeping can not only cause dental problems, but can also be a sign of other conditions like Obstructive Sleep Apnea. You may require treatment of an underlying condition which can be managed by a sleep physician.

  11. Going to the bathroom frequency Getting up more than once a night to use the bathroom can have many causes, including sleep apnoea, increasing age, prostate issues, and the use of certain medications. The disruption it causes can leave you feeling exhausted during the day and is worth discussing with a medical professional.

  12. High blood pressure Elevated blood pressure can have many causes. Often times we won’t know that route cause of someone’s high blood pressure. One common reasons is sleep apnoea. This is particularly true if other treatments (like medication) have been ineffective at controlling blood pressure. It may be worth speaking to a specialist and arranging a sleep study.

  13. Problems with mood or cognition Having trouble concentrating or brain fog are often a consequence of poor sleep. They are associated with poor performance at work, depression and anxiety. Dealing with an underlying sleep issue can help you be more focused, energetic and productive.

  14. Recurring nightmares Almost everyone has experienced a nightmare every now and then and are normal. Frequent nightmares, however, are a cause for concern. They can be a sign of stress, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

  15. Sleep stress People with sleep problems can become so concerned about the impacts on their overall health that they become stressed about the very idea of going to bed at night. This can further negatively impact sleep.