Access to Care
|What is access to care?
Access to care is a person's ability to get medical care.
Why is it important to have access to sleep care?
Healthy sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle as proper sleep, or lack thereof, affects daytime functioning and cognition, physical health, emotional wellness, safety and all aspects of your life.
What should I do if I think I have a sleep issue?
If you are not able to get an appropriate amount of sleep, all areas of your life can suffer. If you believe you may have a sleep disorder, it is critical to see a medical professional who can diagnose and treat that disorder so that you can manage your sleep disorder and live a long, healthy life. The first steps to getting the care you need are to be informed about what healthy sleep is and sleep disorders, recognize that you may have an issue and seek care. You can start by speaking to your primary care physician.
Living with an undiagnosed, untreated sleep disorder can be a lonely existence and greatly diminish a person's quality of life. I know because that defined my life until finally being referred to an accredited sleep specialist. Until then, I assumed my inability to stay awake was a personal flaw to be disguised at all cost. Social settings were avoided and business meetings at work always presented a fear of being discovered. I thought discussing these challenges with my primary care physician was out of the question as I believed that might risk my right to drive a car. Being diagnosed with narcolepsy and learning about treatment of my disorder allowed me to finally live the life I had only dreamed about. I just wish I'd known about sleep disorders and had access to the right kind of care much earlier in my life. ~ Patti, a patient living with narcolepsy
Featured Sleep Disorder: Hypersomnia
What is hypersomnia?
A person with hypersomnia sleeps longer and for more hours than what is deemed normal for sleeping during the night or day. It is difficult for them to wake up. The need to take naps is overwhelming and provides little to no relief.
What are the main types of hypersomnia?
An individual with idiopathic hypersomnia may have excessive daytime sleepiness for a long period of time and can sleep 12-14 hours a day.
An individual with narcolepsy may have excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep episodes; many individuals with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is sudden loss of muscle tone.
An individual with Kleine-Levin syndrome may experience recurring, long episodes of sleep, which can last from a week to months, where the individual typically cannot perform their normal, daily life activities.
What are the steps to getting diagnosed?
Each person's journey to becoming diagnosed with a sleep disorder is different; however, generally, an individual would first need to bring their concerns to their physician and potentially be referred to a sleep specialist if needed. Bringing specific information, including detailed information on symptoms as well as concerns, is helpful.
The physician may need additional information regarding your sleep patterns and may require additional documentation, such as completion of a sleep questionnaire or scale, as well as sleep diaries or logs for a period of time.
If your physician feels that you may have hypersomnia, they may order a series of tests to both rule out other causes for your symptoms, as well as confirm whether or not you have a sleep disorder. This may include polysomnography (PSG) followed by a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) to measure your tendency to fall asleep (or stay awake) in a dark, quiet, comfortable place. This includes sleeping overnight in a sleep center (PSG) and then completing a series of naps the following morning (MSLT).
Depending upon the results of the PSG/MSLT as well as any other tests you may have needed, your physician may be able to make a diagnosis or may require additional testing. This would be determined on an individual basis.
How is hypersomnia typically treated?
The main treatment options for hypersomnia typically include changes to sleep behaviors and/or medication. Doctors have also suggested refraining from alcohol and non-prescribed drugs.
Changes to Sleep Behaviors: Changes to sleep behavior, or sleep hygiene, can improve hypersomnia symptoms. Sleep hygiene includes bedtime habits, such as what an individual does to get ready for bed and how the bedroom is set-up. This may include: avoiding caffeine later in the day, keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, changing the actual bedtime, practicing restful activities prior to sleep, refraining from exercise before bed and removing electronics from the bedroom.
Medication: There are several medications indicated for Hypersomnia including certain amphetamines and methylphenidate. These drugs are stimulants to help an individual feel more awake during your wake cycle, however, it should be noted that some hypersomnia medications are controlled substances and can lead to a dependence and other side effects.
If you feel that you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary physician or a sleep specialist regarding your concerns.
*The information above does not constitute medical advice; you should talk with your physician regarding your medical care, including appropriate treatment options.
Member Only Resource: Hypersomnia Informational Sheet
This informational sheet provides additional information regarding hypersomnia and can be used as a resource for patients or for medical professionals to provide as supplemental information for their patients. AAHS members will have indefinite access to these informational sheets through the file archive on your member account.