It’s common in this country to look to drugs to treat our problems. This is as much a failing among patients as doctors, although it’s often put on doctors, who, as the educated professional in the area, should know better. Ideally, all parties should agree that when drugs aren’t working, a different treatment should be attempted.
One area where drugs often fail is in the treatment of insomnia. Many people who take drugs for insomnia find that they are ineffective. They may help a person fall asleep, but they don’t help them stay asleep.
That’s because many people who talk to their doctors about insomnia actually have sleep apnea. This is especially true of people trying insomnia drugs. In a recent article, about 90% of those who didn’t see results from their insomnia drugs actually had sleep apnea.
Look for the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you are taking drugs for insomnia but aren’t getting good results, then you should be tested for sleep apnea. As noted above, there’s at least a 90% chance that you have sleep apnea. However, you should also be aware of other potential symptoms of sleep apnea to watch out for, such as:
If you have a sleep partner, ask them if they have noticed you choking before you wake up. But sleep events are hard to recognize. Other research has shown that when asked why people woke up, they list many different potential causes, such as:
But when these people are given a sleep test, it turns out that breathing events are the main reason why they are waking up at night. They just aren’t aware of the breathing problems that are causing them to wake up.
How to Get Effective Treatment for Your Sleep Disorder
So how do you utilize this insight to get effective treatment for your sleep disorder? You want to sleep well at night, wake rested, and stay healthy. Other details are secondary. To ensure you achieve that goal, follow these recommendations.
Mention All Symptoms to Your Doctor
It’s notable that people talking to their doctor about sleep problems often forget to mention relevant symptoms, such as snoring. Snoring is seen as unimportant and irrelevant, but it could be critical to getting proper treatment. The same goes for dry mouth and morning headaches.
Don’t Try to Guide Diagnosis and Treatment
Observing the interaction between patients and doctors shows that, in many cases, people try to steer their doctor to the diagnosis they favor. They tell their doctor they have insomnia and that they want something “to help them sleep.” In many cases, they’re not satisfied until they get a prescription for sleep aids.
However, if your problem is really sleep apnea, these sleep aids won’t be helpful. They may actually make your problem worse. Instead, if your doctor recommends a sleep test, go forward with it to ensure you get an accurate diagnosis.
Don’t Stick with a Failing Treatment
If you’re trying a treatment, and it’s not working for you, don’t stay with it. You may want to give it a reasonable amount of time to allow you to adapt, say a few months, but then you should move on to another treatment.
This is also true if you are trying sleep apnea treatments. CPAP is often the first line of treatment, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If it’s not working for you, it’s time to consider an alternative, such as an oral appliance.