Experts say sleep disorders should not be self-medicated
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 3:36PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:08PM EST
Although 40 per cent of Canadians don’t get enough sleep, far fewer ever discuss the issue with their doctor or any other medical professional.
A study from Laval University says only 13 per cent of Canadians with sleep disorders ever bring the issue up to a doctor.
Instead, many attempt to treat the disorder themselves, often using natural products, over-the-counter medication or alcohol.
It’s a risky proposition, says Dr. Raymond Gottschalk, the director of a sleep disorder clinic at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.
Gottschalk says a better idea for patients suffering from sleep disorders is to consult an expert who might be able to suggest underlying causes such as chronic pain, the effects of medication or degenerative diseases.
“Just look at behaviours and patterns of behaviour,” he says.
“Are you going to bed at a suitable time? Is the bed comfortable enough?”
While sleepwalking and sleep talking are common sleep disorders, Nancy Jordan has a more unique condition. She says she often finds herself eating in her sleep.
“I can go through a loaf of bread at night,” she says.
While medical, physical and mental issues can cause sleep disorders, lifestyle also plays a role. Gottschalk says he’s had several clients who had trouble sleeping due to who – or more accurately, what – else was in their bed.
“I’m always astonished at how many people share a bed with a pet,” he says.
“It certainly will result in significant sleep disruption, because the animals move. They get up and walk around.”
Among the most common animals found in beds are dogs and cats, but Gottschalk says he’s treated one person who shared a bed with a pot-bellied pig.
Experts say if consulting a doctor about sleep disorders, a detailed diary of sleep times and problems should be brought to the appointment.