To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, v.3
If you’ve taken steps to create a more peaceful environment and made changes to your daily routine to better prepare your body for rest, only to find that you still have poor or interrupted sleep, an underlying medical condition could be the cause. This merits a discussion with your doctor.
Arthritis, diabetes, heart disease (especially congestive heart failure), breathing difficulties, urinary urgency, overactive thyroid, cancer, reflux disease (GERD), Alzheimer's and Parkinson's all can interfere with sleep. If you're already being treated for any of these conditions, you might want to mention your sleep difficulties to your doctor.
Likewise, if you snore, or if you have had to add a second pillow in order to sleep more comfortably, please tell your physician. Snoring may be a sign of other illness, usually obstruction of your upper airway. Needing to elevate your head in order to breathe and sleep may also be a new symptom, and it deserves a mention at your next visit.
Finally, insomnia is a common side effect of many medications. Your pharmacy is likely to mark those medications that make you drowsy, but it is also a good idea to ask either your doctor or pharmacist about the likely effects of any new medication on your ability to sleep. Sometimes all it takes is a change in your dosing schedule to see an improvement in your sleep.
Keep a list of the medicines you take, and their doses and schedules, in a document on your computer. Be sure to update it every time you take something new, or whenever you stop taking a medicine. List your over-the-counter drugs as well. Then take the updated list to every doctor's visit, including urgent care and emergency room visits. Doing so will save lots of time: it will prompt the physician to ask you the right questions and provide you an opportunity to raise any concerns. Your pharmacist also can be a wonderful source of information about managing drug side effects, so share the list with him or her if you have additional questions.
Yours in [restful] health,
Robin Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative