5 sleep troubles to discuss with your doctor

June 30, 2015

If you feel you're doing all you can to fix your sleeping habits and nothing works, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Here are some possible ailments that may be affecting your sleep:

5 sleep troubles to discuss with your doctor

1. Sleep apnea

  • Does your partner say you snore loudly or seem to be holding your breath while you sleep? You might have sleep apnea, a malady that interrupts the rhythmic breathing that other sleepers enjoy.
  • Sleep apnea can irritate diabetes-related conditions like high blood pressure, obesity and impotence. It also raises the risk of heart disease.
  • If you sleep alone and always wake up exhausted, set up a noise-activated recorder before you go to bed to help you rule out sleep apnea. If you suspect you have it, talk to your doctor.
  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, connected to the sleeper by a mask and hose, is often the answer.

2. Nerve damage

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends visiting your doctor or foot care specialist to test for nerve damage.

3. Depression

  • The Canadian Diabetes Association reports that people with diabetes are at a greater risk for depression than people who do not have diabetes.
  • The reasons for this are unknown, but something is known; depression can interfere with sleep. If you find yourself lying awake early in the morning and feeling hopeless or "down," talk about it with your doctor.
  • It's possible that treatment for depression, which may include medication, psychotherapy or both, will put you on the path to better sleep.

4. Stinging pain

  • If a stinging sensation that feels like bees attacking your feet or legs is keeping you awake at night, ask your doctor if you have neuropathy (nerve damage).
  • Treatments for another condition, restless leg syndrome, are frequently advertised on television, but don't assume that's the problem — neuropathy is different.
  • Prescription drugs including certain antidepressants and anticonvulsants can provide relief for this sleep-robbing malady, or your doctor may recommend over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Some people find that walking regularly or wearing elastic stockings helps, too.
  • Creams that contain capsaicin, the "hot" ingredient in hot peppers, may provide relief for people who have foot pain caused by nerve damage.
  • Rub some onto your feet three or four times a day. Initially, the cream will provide a warm sensation.
  • Over several weeks, the nerve pain will subside. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after applying the cream, or use protective gloves to apply it, and make sure it doesn't come in contact with your face.
  • If you really want to turn up the heat, ask your doctor about a prescription-strength capsaicin cream.

5. Low nighttime blood sugar

  • In the middle of every night this week, set your alarm for 3 a.m. and check your blood sugar each time.
  • If you find consistently normal readings, that should set your mind at ease. If you find that your blood sugar is below 75 mg/dl when you check it at 3 a.m., eat a snack.
  • Keep graham crackers in the drawer of your nightstand for this, and have a bottle of water handy to wash them down.
  • If you find an ongoing pattern of low blood sugar in the middle of the night, talk to your doctor about the possibility of adjusting your nighttime insulin dose or the snack you eat (if any) before bed.
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