Sleep medicine is the medical field that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to sleep and rest. This can include difficulty sleeping well at night or problems with daytime sleepiness. Sleep medicine specialists treat patients of all ages who need better rest.
When people think of sleep disorders, they often think of insomnia. That's one kind of sleep disorder, but there are several others. In addition to insomnia, a sleep medicine specialist may treat conditions such as:
Treatments may include medication, light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CPAP therapy. CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments. These tiny machines have a tube and mask and blow a stream of air over the face at night, helping patients with snoring or sleep apnea to breathe easily and sleep more soundly.
One important tool often used in sleep medicine is the sleep study or polysomnogram, where patients sleep either in a lab or at home with a monitoring device. The sleep study allows doctors to measure the quality of sleep over an entire night, check for various sleep problems, and identify breathing disorders such as sleep apnea. If performed in a lab, patients will arrive and spend the night sleeping in a bed similar to one in a hotel room. Patients may have electrodes attached to their head and chest to monitor their breathing, oxygen levels, brain waves, and heart rate. Technicians collect the information, which physicians can use to identify and diagnose disorders that have been interrupting sleep.
Not getting enough rest at night makes people feel terrible, can make it difficult to do the things they need to do, and can even put people at higher risk for physical and mental health problems. Feeling tired all the time can be a huge quality of life issue. If a sleep disorder is preventing someone from getting enough rest, a sleep medicine specialist can help them manage the problem so that they have the energy to enjoy their life.