Knowing When to Seek Professional Help

Many of us who feel groggy everyday and need 82 ounces of caffeine to keep functioning might just consider it part and parcel of modern daily life. It’s not, however. A good night’s sleep should leave you rested and full of energy for the day’s activities. If you suffer tiredness, lack of energy and inability to focus fully in the daytime, then there’s a problem — or even a sleep disorder — that you need to deal with.

Sometimes our sleep problems are self-inflicted. We try to burn our candles at both ends by staying up too late and not getting seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Or we bring our work — and stress — home with us when we should be relaxing and preparing for bed. Or we inundate ourselves with electronic devices like televisions, tablets, cell phones and desktop computers, thus sending stay-awake signals to our brain.

The starting point for “curing” any sleep issue is to adopt good sleep hygiene, which involves avoiding all of the bad habits listed above, along with common-sense approaches to what and when we eat and drink and how we prepare for sleep. Sleep hygiene has been covered here many times previously, so please do a search for further details.

It’s when you’re sure you’re following good sleep hygiene but you’re still fatigued in the daytime that you should seek professional help. Start by keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. Log everything you do, eat and drink — and when — and keep a complete record of your daily activities, including the crucial hours before bedtime. This will help your doctor discern if there’s something you’re doing that could cause you sleep problems.

If your diary indicates you’re not doing anything to interrupt your sleep, then you may need to undergo a sleep evaluation. Often this can be accomplished by taking home a portable sleep monitor. At other times, you may be asked to spend the night at a sleep clinic. And sometimes a simple physical examination might reveal the issue or medical problem, which in turn may be amenable to a simple in-office procedure for a permanent fix.

At any rate, don’t shortchange your life’s fulfillment by ignoring sleep issues. If you’re consistently tired in the daytime, then by all means seek professional help, beginning with your family physician.

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