Your doctor will likely diagnose insomnia based on your medical and sleep histories and a physical exam. He or she also may recommend a sleep study. For example, you may have a sleep study if the cause of your insomnia is unclear.
To find out what's causing your insomnia, your doctor may ask whether you:
Your doctor also may ask questions about your work and leisure habits. For example, he or she may ask about your work and exercise routines; your use of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol; and your long-distance travel history. Your answers can give clues about what's causing your insomnia.
Your doctor also may ask whether you have any new or ongoing work or personal problems or other stresses in your life. Also, he or she may ask whether you have other family members who have sleep problems.
To get a better sense of your sleep problem, your doctor will ask you for details about your sleep habits. Before your visit, think about how to describe your problems, including:
To find out what's causing or worsening your insomnia, your doctor also may ask you:
To help your doctor, consider keeping a sleep diary for 1 or 2 weeks. Write down when you go to sleep, wake up, and take naps. (For example, you might note: Went to bed at 10 a.m.; woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep; napped after work for 2 hours.)
Also write down how much you sleep each night, as well as how sleepy you feel throughout the day.
You can find a sample sleep diary in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep."
Your doctor will do a physical exam to rule out other medical problems that might cause insomnia. You also may need blood tests to check for thyroid problems or other conditions that can cause sleep problems.
Your doctor may recommend a sleep study called a polysomnogram (PSG) if he or she thinks an underlying sleep disorder is causing your insomnia.
You’ll likely stay overnight at a sleep center for this study. The PSG records brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and blood pressure.
A PSG also records the amount of oxygen in your blood, how much air is moving through your nose while you breathe, snoring, and chest movements. The chest movements show whether you're making an effort to breathe.
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