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Diagnosing insomnia can be difficult since there is not one single definitive test. Your doctor can explore the underlying causes and treat them accordingly in an effort to provide you with relief. The symptoms of this sleep disorder include:
Insomnia can cause irritability, fatigue, and trouble concentrating. It can wear down the immune system too. A detailed medical history and physical exam can often help diagnose a sleep disorder.
A physical exam might be done to explore whether there are any physical reasons for the insomnia. There may be a physical or emotional component to your sleep problems. You might have blood tests performed to check for health issues that may be interfering with sleep.
A medical history, or diagnostic interview, can give your doctor valuable information in understanding the causes of your insomnia. Certain things like mental health disorders or substance abuse can interfere with sleep. If either of these are the cause of your insomnia, treating them can help address it.
If a specific underlying problem is found to be contributing to your sleeplessness, then targeted treatments can potentially be used. A targeted approach will generally be more effective than simply trying to "knock a patient out" with potent hypnotic pharmaceutical agents.
The doctor might also have you fill out a sleep journal or sleep log. This is usually kept for two weeks. It involves recording:
When your doctor reviews it, they may be able to identify any patterns that might help with diagnosis.
Your doctor may order a sleep study, also called a polysomnogram (PSG). The purpose of this test is to determine whether a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome is causing the insomnia. It involves staying overnight at a sleep center and sleeping with electrodes attached to your body. These monitor bodily processes like brain waves and eye movements. The electrodes are hooked up to an EEG machine, which monitors your sleep cycles and stages. All of the information can help the doctor get a better picture of what may be going on physiologically.
If you are experiencing insomnia, talk with your doctor. You may be able to sleep better once these issues are addressed. Your doctor can work with you to find treatments that work best for you.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Oct 01, 2014: Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD
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