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Primary Sleep Disorder Diagnosis

(Also Known As: Sleep Disorders Diagnosis, Sleep Problem Diagnosis, Hypersomnia Diagnosis, Dyssomnia Diagnosis, Insomnia Diagnosis)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

How is Primary Sleep Disorders Diagnosed?

The key to a successful diagnosis of sleep disorder is the conduct of a detailed clinical history while evaluating the symptoms. The history should elicit the course of symptoms, its chronology and type of complaints. It should also include the factors that alleviate and exacerbate the symptoms, as well as the patient’s response to treatment. The physician should also evaluate the presence of psychiatric disorders and medical illnesses at the onset of the sleep problem in order to help establish the possible etiology of the condition. 10

It is also crucial to determine whether the sleep disorder experienced is intermittent or chronic in order to help establish a differential diagnosis. Narcolepsy is usually manifested with persistent daytime sleepiness while hypersomnia has a more intermittent course of its symptoms. Insomnia can be short-term, transient, or chronic type, varying the treatment and etiology.

The most common diagnostic tool in sleep disorder is polysomnography. This involves recording of the eye movement, muscle activities, brain waves, airflow at the mouth and nose, oxygen saturation, heart activity, and respiratory effort overnight. This form of diagnostic tool is needed for the assessment of individuals with excessive daytime sleepiness, parasomnias, narcolepsy, nocturnal seizure, and restless leg syndrome. 11

In polysomnography physiological sensor leads are placed on the patient in order to record the following physiological variables: 12

  • Eye and jaw muscle movement
  • Airflow
  • Brain electrical activity
  • Leg muscle movement
  • EKG
  • Respiratory effort, such as abdominal and chest excursion
  • Oxygen saturation

The Multiple Sleep Latency Test is also another diagnostic tool that is important to document pathologic sleepiness and a narcolepsy diagnosis, as it records muscle activities, brain waves, heart activity, and eye movements.

Keeping a sleep diary is also a helpful diagnostic tool to aid in understanding the course and type of symptoms experienced by the person with sleep disorder. This is usually undertaken for one to two weeks, where the person records their symptoms to track their progress and improvement.

Could You Have Primary Sleep Disorder?

Primary Sleep Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Dyssomnia – excessive sleepiness, inadequate quantity of sleep, sleeping difficulty, insomnia
Hypersomnia – excessive daytime sleepiness, daytime napping, anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness
Narcolepsy – chronic sleep disorder, dyssomnia, insomnia, disturbed sleep, cataplexy