How often have you been to your doctor only to leave frustrated that you have not had the main reasons you were there addressed? It’s a problem, and one that is getting worse given the pressure on physicians to see more patients in a shorter amount of time. Whether you are seeing your primary care doctor, a doctor in the ER, or a specialist for the first time, here are a few tips on how to get the most out of every visit.
1) Bring a list of all medications that you take, the doses and how often you take them each day.
2) Bring a list of all your medical problems (like Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol) and surgeries.
3) Bring a list of what medicines you are allergic to, if any.
4) Tell your doctor at the beginning of your visit what you would like to discuss with them.
5) Communicate with your doctor what is the one most important thing to you to be addressed at this visit.
If you bring this information with you, your doctor will not need to spend most of the visit gathering this from you or your medical records and will have more time to discuss with you why you are actually there. Taking responsibility for this information as the patient allows your doctor to more easily address your health concerns. And, communication is important too. A regular office visit usually allows for a doctor to address about 2-3 things with a patient. Any more than that will require a second visit. This is why you must prioritize your most important concerns and communicate that to your doctor.
One of the most common complaints I hear from patients is “I’m not sleeping well.” While there are several different medications that can be used to treat insomnia, I find many people have very poor “sleep hygiene” which can cause or exacerbate sleep problems. Here are a few tips to improve your sleep hygiene.
– Do not watch TV, play video games or use your computer 2-3 hours before bedtime. These types of activities stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to wind down for bedtime.
– Establish a regular sleep schedule.
– Avoid caffeine after lunch.
– Avoid alcohol near bedtime. (While alcohol does make you sleepy, it disrupts your sleep cycles later in the night making it difficult to stay asleep.)
– Stop smoking, especially just before bedtime.
– Exercise regularly (just not right before bedtime!)
– And lastly, if you can’t sleep, get up! Read until you feel sleepy and try again but don’t just lay there getting frustrated that you can’t fall asleep.
While all of these will help, just simply avoiding TV, video games, computers and caffeine prior to bedtime can have a dramatic impact on your ability to fall asleep quickly at night.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.