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Are you suffering from a sleep disorder or just a sleep deficit?  What's the difference? A sleep deficit results when someone's activities of daily living - including watching late night tv - frequently interfere with getting  a sufficient night's sleep.  Insomnia, on the other hand, includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty with waking up too early.  Women with insomnia may also suffer from a constellation of symptoms:  worries or anxiety at night, mood changes, irritability, disturbing thoughts or behaviors that interfere with sleep.  Insomnia can be a cause or a symptom of a host of other medical problems from depression to menopause.

Do these conditions require medical therapy?  Not always, but if they are causing undesirable consequences, they deserve a medical evaluation.  Yet only one in 20 women with trouble sleeping seek medical attention and fewer than half of family physicians routinely ask about trouble sleeping in an annual checkup.

Many patients treat themselves for sleep problems with scheduled napping, a great solution for those who can't get sufficient sleep at night.  Falling asleep at your desk, however, doesn't count.  Daytime napping itself, however, can interfere with nighttime sleep. Many folks resort to over-the-counter products that leave them with a hang-over effect the next morning.  These can also be habit-forming and have other side effects.  If your sleep problems are significant enough to self-medicate, they are significant enough to see your doctor.  Your doctor will ask about things such as sleep habits, snoring, restless sleep, exercise, caffeine intake, pain, bladder control, alcohol intake, medications, and mood, so keeping a sleep diary for the week before your visit is a good idea.

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Created: 2/8/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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