What is the diagnosis of Insomnia?

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Written by: Dr Poonam SachdevUpdated at: May 30, 2012 12:28 IST
What is the diagnosis of Insomnia?

What is the diagnosis of InsomniaGood sleep is important to keep you healthy and fit. Number of hours one sleeps is not considered while defining insomnia as individuals vary significantly in their sleep needs (individual sleep requirement can vary from 6 to 10 hours every day).  If you have difficulty in falling asleep at night or wake up frequently during the night or have any other problem with sleep consult your physician and/or a sleep specialist. They can evaluate you and diagnose the cause of your sleep problems. Read to know how your doctor will diagnose insomnia.

History: This is important part in the diagnosis of insomnia or in fact any sleep disorder. To find the cause of insomnia your doctor will take a detailed history of your sleep pattern and other relevant facts. The doctor may ask question such as:

  • Do you feel drowsy or tired the next day ?
  • Do you take any naps in the daytime and duration of these naps?
  • Do you have any chronic health problem such as arthritis, COPD or mental health disorder?
  • If there is any work or personal problems such as separation, job loss, illness in the family?
  • If you are on any long term medication ?

Sleep history: To understand your sleep pattern and problem your doctor will ask you questions regarding sleep 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 time you stay awake each time.
  • What you do before going to bed (like watch TV, read a book, have alcohol or coffee)
  • If you take a nap in the day time.
  • Do you feel fresh or tired in the morning.
  • Does your bedroom have high noise level, lighting, and distractions, such as a TV or computer.

You may be asked to make a record of your sleep habits for 1 or 2 weeks so that the doctor can review it on your follow-up visit. Insomnia is a clinical diagnosis and your doctor can diagnose insomnia based on your medical and sleep history. If needed you may be recommended a sleep study. For example, sleep study may be done if the cause of your insomnia is unclear.

Sleep study: If the cause of your insomnia is not clear or your doctor suspects some other cause for your sleep problems he may recommend evaluation in a sleep laboratory. During sleep study (or polysomnography) you will be observed while sleeping. If needed a video recording of unusual movements during an entire night's sleep will be done. During polysomnography the following parameters are recorded:

  • electrical activity of the brain (electroencephalography-EEG).
  • rhythm and rate of heart (Electrocardiography-ECG.
  • recording and monitoring of breathing functions.
  • eye movement during REM stage of sleep (electro-oculography).
  • 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).

Physical Exam: Your doctor will do a detailed physical examination to make sure that some other physical problem is not causing your sleep disorder.