Not being able to sleep is no joke. Insomnia can be the cause of serious problems like depression, high blood pressure and low motivation. If you feel as though you've tried everything to improve your sleep, then it's time to seek professional help. There could be an underlying cause to your insomnia that you don't even realise, like sleep apnoea or narcolepsy. Follow the steps below to ensure that your sleep problem isn't left untreated.
Ask to be referred to a sleep specialist
Sleep problems are common and can sometimes be solved by making simple lifestyle changes. For this reason, your GP may be reluctant to refer you to a sleep specialist straight away. To ensure that your doctor understands how serious the problem is, go in prepared. Make a list of all the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of poor sleep and how long the problem has been going on for.
You should also list all the solutions you've tried already, like getting into a good bedtime routine, giving up caffeine or getting more exercise. Your doctor will be more likely to refer you to a specialist once they're satisfied that all the common causes of sleep issues have been exhausted. If you're still struggling to get a referral, you could consider visiting a private sleep clinic.
Keep a sleep diary
Keeping a sleep diary is essential when diagnosing any sleep problem. You should write down what time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke, how the quality of your sleep was and how you felt the next day. You should also make a note of what happened during the day — factors like stress, diet, exercise and environment often play a role in sleep issues. Keeping a diary for at least seven days will allow you and your doctor to identify patterns. If you can keep a diary for longer, then that's even better.
Have a sleep study carried out
For sleep problems that are hard to get the bottom of, sleep studies can often shed some light. You'll spend a night sleeping in a special facility where you'll be observed by medical professionals. An EEG monitor will be used to track sleep stages while sensors will assess your movement, breathing and heart rate. At the end of the study, all of the information will be assessed to give you a diagnosis. This method is really useful for identifying problems like restless legs, sleep apnoea, sleep walking and narcolepsy. Knowing exactly what's wrong will allow doctors to give you personalised advice and treatment, so you can finally get a good night's rest.