Having Sleep Issues?

Are you having trouble sleeping? Find out what to do about it now. 

You already know that sleep is essential for maintaining your health. Sleep supports your immune system, helps you maintain healthy body weight, and keeps your brain mentally sharp. On the contrary, the lack of sleep can increase your risk of inflammation, chronic disease, decreased mental performance, and cognitive impairment. Additionally, chronic lack of sleep causes general discomfort, malaise, and poor quality of life. This experience is unpleasant for individuals to experience. 

Most public health research suggests that you should be getting a minimum of 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. While it is easy to acknowledge the importance of sleep, many individuals find it difficult to get quality sleep and practice sleep hygiene. There are several factors to why individuals cannot get health-supporting sleep. However, some individuals cannot get the appropriate amount of sleep because they suffer from a diagnosable sleep disorder or related health condition. There are several existing sleep disorders. The Mayo Clinic characterizes sleep disorders by different observed behaviors. Individuals with sleep disorder can exhibit irregular circadian rhythms, breathing problems, and extreme exhaustion. Each sleep disorder might require a specific evaluation from a specialized physician. 

Common Sleep Disorders 

  • Insomnia - An individual cannot fall asleep or stay asleep.

  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) -Also known as Willis Ekbom disease, someone with RLS has difficulty sleeping because their body has uncontrollable urges to move during rest. 

  • Sleep Apnea - A sleep disorder where an individual has difficulty sleeping because their body periodically stops breathing. Consequently, people with sleep apnea choke, gasp and snore during sleep. 

Snoring: Common but not normal 

Snoring can interrupt your sleep and the sleep of your partner. However, it can be a symptom of Sleep Apnea or pulmonary disease. If your snoring inhibits your quality of life, you should consult your primary care physician about your symptoms. 

When to Consult a Physician  

If you have routine difficulty falling asleep, it is time to visit your primary care physician for an evaluation. They will be able to determine whether you need additional assistance for sleep ailments. Treatment for sleep disorders varies by severity. A primary care physician has the training to give sleep advice for those suffering from mild to moderate insomnia. Most mild to moderate insomnia can be treated with over-the-counter supplements, medications, and lifestyle changes. However, if your primary care physician senses that you have a serious sleep disorder, they can recommend you get an evaluation from a Pulmonologist. Depending on the type of sleep disorder, you may require a second evaluation from a Neurologist, Otolaryngologist, or Cardiologist. 

Seeking Medical Attention from a Pulmonologist 

A Pulmonologist is a trained physician who specializes in treating respiratory diseases. Pulmonologists are often primary consultants for evaluating sleep disorders like Sleep Apnea because the sleep disorder results from obstructed breathing. Furthermore, people with diagnosed sleep disorders have higher risks of developing other respiratory conditions. For instance, many individuals with Sleep Apnea also suffer from Asthma and or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  

If you visit a Pulmonologist for sleep or respiratory concerns, they will want to understand your sleep hygiene, daily habits, medication history, and your level of fatigue. Additionally, a Pulmonologist will need to understand your medical history and details about your health abnormalities. This evaluation will help the Pulmonologist accurately assess the severity of your health concerns. 

For a comprehensive evaluation of your sleep and respiratory system, a Pulmonologist will have to monitor your sleep to interpret your health vitals. Sleep evaluations can be done at a sleep center or with specialized at-home devices.  

Sleep Center Evaluation- At a sleep center, you will have to take a Nocturnal Polysomnography test. You will sleep at a facility where medical staff can monitor your breathing, lung and brain activity, blood oxygen levels, body movements, and heart rate.  

Home-Test Evaluation- Portable devices can be prescribed by a doctor for you to use at home to monitor your breathing, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate. At-home tests do not detect all cases of Sleep Apnea or pulmonary disorders. However, people usually prefer taking a test in the comfort of their bed. 

Medical Treatment 

After diagnosis, the severity of your health disorders will determine the methods of treatment. Here are the most common treatment methods for pulmonary related sleep disturbances: 

Lifestyle Changes 

If applicable, a physician will instruct you to make lifestyle changes. Physicians encourage patients to quit smoking and lose weight as a treatment for various conditions. However, this is a frequent recommendation for individuals looking to improve their sleep apnea and pulmonary disorders.  

Oral Appliances 

People with snoring problems have gotten symptom relief by using oral appliances that change the position of their jaw, allowing for easier breathing. However, these devices need additional assistance from a dentist to ensure they fit your mouth appropriately. 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Automatic Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (Auto-CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP)

These are machines designed to provide your body with appropriate air pressure to allow your body to breathe throughout the night for less respiratory obstruction. Wearing this kind of device can improve symptoms of Sleep Apnea. However, many people have continued sleep problems wearing these devices because the equipment is uncomfortable to wear during sleep.  

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV) 

ASV devices are similar to CPAP, Auto-CPAP, and BPAP devices because the device also influences the pressure of your breathing. An ASV is more high-tech than the previous devices because it monitors your individual biomarkers so it can deliver a more specified air pressure unique to your needs. This device should not be used by people with advanced heart failure or specific types of sleep apnea. 


If the previous methods fail to provide you with relief and better sleep, a physician might recommend you undergo surgery. Some patients have had relief of their symptoms after having certain procedures. The type of surgery depends on your acute health concerns, but a physician might prescribe one of the following:

  • Tissue Removal.

  • Tissue Shrinkage.

  • Implants.

  • Jaw Reposition.

  • Nerve Stimulation.

  • Tracheostomy.

While there are several solutions for treating people with sleep and pulmonary disorders, your medical providers will prescribe the treatments specific to your individual healthcare needs.