A sleep doctor, or sleep specialist, is a medical physician who specialises in sleep medicine.They are medical doctors who generally operate out of a sleep clinic designed to help people diagnose, understand and development treatments for medical sleep disorders. Often a sleep doctor will also have specialities in other and related areas of medicine so you will usually find that sleep physicians are also a respiratory physician or lung specialist who has studied the cardiovascular system formany years as well as the neurological affects and disorders associated with poor quality sleep.
Problems with sleep are often overlooked initially by patients who suffer mild affects throughout their normal day, or completely unknown symptoms while they are sleeping. It’s hard to know exactly how we sleep and symptoms like fatigue, headaches, low moods and weight gain can be attributed to a range of other environmental affects or illnesses before we start to wonder whether healthy sleep, or a lack of it, might be the cause of some of these symptoms. Our bodies are tightly controlled machines full of moving parts that must all be working well together to keep us fit and healthy. An issue with poor quality sleep can affect things like our energy levels during the day which, in turn, can lead to other problems with organs like the heart and the rest of our respiratory system. A heart specialist, or cardiologist, may refer you to a sleep doctor for a diagnostic sleep study to help a scertain whether issues with the efficiency of your heart are linked to a sleep disorder and vice versa.
If you have been referred to a sleep specialist then you will most likely need to undergo a diagnostic sleep study. A sleep study is a medical test undertaken under controlled circumstances in a specially designed facility usually part of a hospital or health clinic. It will consist of a room in which you will sleep, as you normally would, and be closely monitored for any signs of sleep disorders like sleep apnoea, narcolepsy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and insomnia. Your sleep doctor will complete your test while you are asleep and inform you of a diagnosis once your results have been examined. They will take you through everything they have tested you for and how your body responded.
Common Sleep Disorders
Sleep apnoea is a common sleep condition and usually features heavy and frequent snoring. Someone who snores does not necessarily have the condition, however, we don’t often know how badly or how often we snore until someone else is able to tell us. This condition causes your throat to partially or completely close while you’re asleep, constricting your airway and affecting normal and healthy respiration.
If you have sleep apnoea, then that means that while you are asleep you actually periodically stop breathing normally. These drops in blood oxygen signal your brain to wake up and part of the waking process restores muscle control to the rest of your body. As your body begins to waken in response to your abnormal breathing, your respiration returns to normal and the sufferer is usually often not even aware that they have partially woken before they fall back asleep again. This pattern is usuall repeated throughout your sleep cycle, reducing the hours of restful and productive sleep that you achieve. When we don’t have enough sleep then this places added strain on muscles like our heart.
Symptoms of sleep apnoea include:
- Sleepiness and fatigue throughout the day
- Struggling to concentrate or remain alert
- Low mood and irritability
- Impotence and low sex drive
- The need to urinate frequently throughout the night
- Someone telling you that they have heard you stop breathing or sound like your airway wasconstricted while you slept
Fortunately, a sleep doctor specialises in forming ways for treating and managing conditions like sleep apnoea and there are a variety of treatments that you can easily adjust into your lifestyle, as well as medical devices like CPAP machine which can assist you to breathe more normally while you sleep and stop your airway from constricting.
Lifestyle changes you can start making to reduce your sleep apnoea symptoms straight away include:
- Losing weight
- Lowering your alcohol intake
- Improving your cardiovascular health with gentle exercises that focus on increasing the heart rate gently until your body begins to build more and more general fitness
Although not strictly the cause of sleep apnoea, excess weight, drinking alcohol and poor cardiovascular health can all contribute to worsening symptoms.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a form of medical therapy designed to specifically target the closure of the airway that occurs in sufferers of sleep apnoea. A CPAP machine consists of an air pressure device and a mask which fits over your airway (there are different types depending on what it most comfortable and most effective) while you sleep. These devices are the most effective treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and will stop the airway from closing while you sleep by delivering consistent and targeted pressure through your mask and down into your airway. The key to the success of your CPAP machine will rely on the fit of the mask and finding the correct air pressure to deliver through your machine.
As part of your sleep study, your sleep doctor will give you the full details and results of your test and recommendation for treatment if you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea. It is this results card and your referral that you can take to a local CPAP Clinic and what you will use to book a consultation with one of our sleep consultants. All of our consultants are familiar with and experienced in CPAP therapy, the kinds of devices available and how to develop treatment plans and monitoring sessions to ensure that your CPAP machine, mask and experience is doing what it should–delivering you restful and productive sleep. We can explain every detail of your condition and exactly what is happening while you are sleeping, and how your chosen machine will work to correct it.
We don’t usually wear anything on our faces when we hop into bed of a night so getting used to CPAP therapy, both the apparatus and the sounds that your machine will make throughout the night, can be a difficult transition to make. We’re here to help you find the CPAP therapy that works best for you and work hard to help you adjust to your new machine as quickly as possible.
We operate the largest network of CPAP clinics across Australia and New Zealand and now are proud to offer our services online. Previously, you would be required to physically attend your local CPAP Clinic location in the capital city closest to you. Due to the rise and success of telehealth, we are now able to deliver the same thorough and expert service remotely and online.
All of our consultants deliver independent advice and recommendations based on our understanding of CPAP therapy, our experience with our clients and knowing what works best for whom. We use only world-leading brands and manufacturers including ResMed, Phillips Respironics and Fisher & Paykel and make recommendations for CPAP machines and accessories based on what works for you. We proudly offer a range sleep aids from the most trusted brands in the industry that are affordable and of the highest quality.