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When your doctor doesn't listen to you... tips for getting the care you need


I recently changed my primary care physician because my prior doctor of 15 years retired. Good for him, but not for us! We were spoiled by such a high-quality osteopath.

My new physician is pretty good, but I’ve discovered she doesn’t put much attention toward sleep. She doesn’t ask me about sleep, and she misread my health records showing a sleep disorder, sleep studies, and treatment. When I’ve raised the subject again, it got lost in a discussion about another chronic health concern I have.

I bring this up because, even though I’m a sleep professional, I understand directly as a patient what it feels like to have symptoms and complaints dismissed by doctors. I know I’m not alone here with this challenge.

I’m luckier than most: I have a dentist who is trained in dental sleep medicine and he and I have worked closely on my UARS and use of oral device. It’s time to re-address that therapy, so I was able to get his professional opinion in writing form and deliver it to my PCP. I also have a neurologist who is poised to refer me should my primary overlook my request again.

So this is a solution I can offer to others who think they have a sleep problem or need a study, but who may not be listened to by their own doctors: find another specialist you are already seeing, who can connect the dots, and have them give you the recommendations needed to inspire your doctor to get you the referral you need.

That could be a dentist, a neurologist, an ear-nose-throat specialist, a pulmonologist, even a cardiologist or an endocrinologist. Sleep disorders can be a whole-body problem and not just one of snoring or having trouble falling asleep. Even a specialist in rheumatoid arthritis can write you a letter if they think your untreated sleep problems are contributing to a degenerative disease course and increases in pain.

Many general practitioner doctors are not trained to look for and identify underlying sleep problems. They might have had an hour’s worth of training in sleep health during med school. If this sounds like your doctor, then you might try getting support from another medical professional. These days, it’s more important than ever to be your own advocate so that you, as a patient, don’t fall between the cracks in the system.


I’d like to open this up to all members: if you have had a doctor in the past who seemed uninterested in sleep, what ways have you been able to get their attention about your sleep concerns so you could get a specialist to take a look? Or what problems with communicating this need are you having now? Maybe we can all help each other.