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Insomnia: Your Health Care Team

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on July 19, 2021

If you have insomnia, you may want to consider having a team of health care professionals that can help you find sleep solutions.

Primary care doctor. This is the first person you should see about your insomnia. At your routine checkup, your doctor might ask you about the quality of your sleep. If they don’t, bring it up yourself. Once your doctor knows you’re having trouble sleeping, they can give you suggestions for catching more ZZZs. They can also refer you to a specialist who can help.

Physician assistant (PA), nurse practitioner (NP), and registered nurse (RN). Sometimes, it’s hard to get an appointment quickly with your primary care doctor. But a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner, or a registered nurse can give you advice about your insomnia and help treat it. If your primary care doctor isn’t available, make an appointment with a PA, NP, or RN. They have lots of medical training, and it’s better to get seen quickly by one of them than to wait for an appointment with your doctor.

Psychologist. Insomnia can be caused by things in your life like major stress. A psychologist can help you deal with thoughts and feelings that might be making it hard for you to sleep. They can also teach you relaxation strategies to use before bed. Behavioral therapy can help, but it requires at least a few weeks. Look for a mental health professional with training in behavioral sleep medicine.

Psychiatrist. Sometimes, insomnia is related to a psychiatric condition, like depression or anxiety. If you have a mental health issue, you might need treatment for that condition and your insomnia. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication for a condition that might be affecting your sleep. Some psychiatrists have a special certification in sleep medicine.

Neurologist. A neurologic disorder, like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, can contribute to insomnia. Trouble sleeping could be the first symptom of a neurologic disorder. If your primary care doctor thinks you need a neurologist, ask if they can connect you with one who specializes in sleep medicine.

Sleep medicine specialist. A sleep medicine specialist is the best person to diagnose and treat your insomnia. Sleep medicine specialists include psychiatrists, neurologists, and other doctors with extra training to treat sleep problems. They’ll work in a team with physician assistants and nurses to plan your care. This might involve a sleep study.

Sleep technician. Your primary care doctor might refer you to a sleep clinic for a sleep study. A sleep technician (or sleep technologist) will help your sleep medicine specialist during this study. They have special training and certification, and they’ll look at the results from your sleep study before your doctor does. A sleep technician will also make sure you’re safe and comfortable during the process and that you understand what’s going on.

Complementary medicine practitioners. Sometimes, a person who isn’t a conventional doctor can help you get a good night’s sleep. But you’ll want to see a traditional medical doctor in addition to a complementary practitioner. For example, if your insomnia is related to chronic pain or stress, a massage therapist can give you relief, which can help improve your sleep. Meditation lessons or working with a yoga or tai chi instructor can be helpful, too.

No matter which of these professionals you choose to consult about your insomnia, it will help if you keep a sleep diary to show them. Here’s some information you can provide that will help them check for patterns in your sleep:

  • What time you go to bed
  • How long it takes to fall asleep
  • How many times you wake up during the night
  • What time you wake up in the morning
  • What you eat and drink during the day, especially anything with caffeine or alcohol
  • Exercise you do
  • Medications you take
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

PubMed: “Secondary Insomnia in the Primary Care Setting: Review of Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management.”

American Family Physician: “Insomnia: Assessment and Management in Primary Care.”

Neurological Research and Practice: “Insomnia in Neurological Diseases.”

Scripps: “My Doctor Is Not In, Should I see an NP or a PA?”

PA Foundation: “Sleep: A Guide for Physician Assistants and Patients.”

American Psychiatric Association: “What is Psychiatry?”

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services: “How Psychologists Help With Insomnia.”

NCBI: “Sleep-Related Disorders in Neurology and Psychiatry.”

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “The Sleep Team.”

American Association of Sleep Technologists: “What is a Sleep Technologist?”

American Sleep Association: “Sleep Doctor: Sleep Disorder Specialist.”

American Massage Therapy Association: “Massage Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Sleep Disturbances in Older Adults.”

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