Sleep problems can range from inconvenient to dangerous and potentially life-threatening. A polysomnogram (sounds better when you call it a sleep study, right?) is a non-invasive, pain-free procedure that usually requires spending a few hours, or an overnight, in a facility where your sleep can be monitored. Basically, you get hooked up to monitors and fall asleep in a private room with specially trained technicians monitoring your brain waves.
Here are some indicators that a sleep study might be a good idea:
- Do you regularly have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
- Do people tell you that you snore? Has anyone ever told you that you have pauses in breathing or that you gasp for breath when you sleep? This could be sleep apnea, a potentially life threatening, but treatable condition.
- Are your legs “active” at night? Do you experience tingling, creeping, itching, pulling, aching or other strange feelings in your legs while sitting or lying down that cause a strong urge to move, walk or kick your legs for relief? Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, is real.
- Are you so tired when you wake up in the morning that you cannot function normally during the day?
- Does sleepiness and fatigue persist for more than two to three weeks?
- Do you fall asleep at odd times for no reason and with no warning? This could be narcolepsy, a condition which often plagues people for years without proper diagnosis.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a complete sleep evaluation should be considered and discussed with your physician. Before your visit, it may be helpful to track your sleep patterns and medications. You can download a sleep diary from the National Sleep Foundation. Your primary care physician may recommend that you see a sleep specialist, a medical doctor specializing in sleep disorders. The American Association of Sleep Medicine is a good resource and offers a list of accredited sleep centers.
Many sleep ailments are treatable. Don’t delay in taking care of this part of your life which is so critical to health and well-being.