How to diagnose Sleep Disorders

By  , Expert Content
Feb 27, 2012

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How to diagnose Sleep Disorders

Sleep is important for good health, but the exact amount of sleep that is needed to keep an individual healthy is not known. Individual sleep requirement can vary from 6 to 10 hours every day. Sleep disorders can lead to lethargy and cause poor health and mood, negatively impact motivation, relationships, and job performance. If you have problems with sleep consult your physician and/or a sleep specialist. He can help to diagnose the cause of your sleep problems. Following are some of the ways in which sleep disorders are diagnosed.


History taking and examination


This is the most important step in the diagnosis of any sleep disorder. Your doctor will take a detailed history of your sleep pattern and other relevant facts. Then s/he will do a general and detailed medical examination (such as if you are feeling sleepy in daytime and note your vital signs such as blood pressure, and pulse rate). The doctor may ask you to keep a record of your sleep habits such as:

  • The time you go to sleep and wake up in the morning.
  • How often do you wake up during the night and the duration for which you stay awake each time?
  • Your activities before going to bed.
  • How you feel the next day (drowsy / tired).
  • If you take any naps in the daytime and how long do they last?


Sleep study


If the diagnosis is not clear post history taking and examination or if your doctor wants further examination he may recommend evaluation in a sleep laboratory to diagnose the sleep disorder. During this evaluation, polysomnography is done and you will be observed while sleeping.


If needed a video recording of unusual movements during an entire night's sleep will be done. Polysomnography includes recording of electrical activity of the brain (electroencephalography-EEG), rhythm and heart rate (Electrocardiography-ECG), recording and monitoring of breathing functions, eye movement during REM stage of sleep (electro-oculography). It will also record muscle activity of the facial area and legs (electromyography) and oxygen levels in the blood with a probe placed on the ear lobe or finger (oximetry).

Sleep disorders can be defined as any difficulty related to sleeping such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at wrong times (while driving, in the office), significant increase in total sleep time, or abnormal behaviours associated with sleep (sleep walking, sleep talking, vivid dreams). If you have any symptom which suggests sleep disorder; consult a sleep specialist. The test your doctor will recommend may vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder.


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