How is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi   by Tatheer Zehra Zaidi, M. Pharma    Last updated on April 18, 2021,

how is insomnia diagnosed


There is no definitive test that can tell if you have insomnia. Doctors use many tools to measure your insomnia symptoms. These tools may involve asking questions to you and to your partner (who sleeps along side in bed) related to your daily and routine activities, getting certain blood tests, and studying your sleep history for the last several days or weeks. Together, these tests and tools help the doctor understand your condition and create a treatment plan for you.

Read about insomnia.

Diagnosing Insomnia

In case the symptoms worry you for a probable insomnia, it will be better if you document details such as sleep history for a week or so before you meet the doctor. This will be helpful as your doctor will review your condition and symptoms. Read about signs and symptoms of insomnia.

The diagnosis of insomnia and knowing for its causes may involve tests and procedures such as these:

Physical Examination

If there is no apparent risk factor or probable cause of your insomnia or sleep disruption, your doctor may do a physical examination to look for signs of medical conditions that may be related to insomnia. Sometimes, he or she may ask you to give a blood sample. Your blood will be tested in a pathology lab for ruling out thyroid problems or other medical conditions that may cause poor sleep.

Sleep Log / Sleep History

A sleep log is a diary that maintains details about your sleep. You can record details like your sleep time, wake up time, how sleepy you feel at various times during the day, how frequently you wake up in the night, and more. A sleep log can also help your doctor understand what might be causing insomnia symptoms.

Your doctor may ask questions to understand your sleep patterns such as the following:

  • How often you have the trouble in sleeping?
  • How long do you've the problem?
  • When do you go to bed and wake up on workdays and days off?
  • How long does it take you to fall asleep?
  • How often do you wake up at night?
  • How long it takes to fall back asleep if you wake up in the night?
  • Do you snore loudly?
  • How refreshed you feel when you wake up?
  • Do you feel tired during the day?
  • Do you doze off or have trouble staying awake during routine tasks such as driving or working? If yes, how often does it happen?

Your doctor may ask other questions as well to understand an underlying cause of the sleep problem. Read about insomnia causes.

These questions may include:

  • What do you eat or drink?
  • Do you take any medicines before going to bed?
  • Do you worry too much about falling asleep, staying asleep?
  • What is your routine before going to bed?
  • Do you have any distractions, such as a TV, video game etc, in your bedroom?
  • What are the noise level, lighting, and temperature in your bedroom? What is the overall sleep environment?

Sleep study (polysomnography)

Your doctor may ask you to do an overnight sleep study to collect necessary information about your nighttime sleep if he or she thinks an underlying sleep disorder is causing your insomnia. This test is called polysomnography (PSG).

In this procedure, you are required to sleep overnight in a lab setting in a comfortable sleep environment. You will be connected to an EEG to monitor various stages of your sleep. A PSG also measures you’re your brain activity, eye movements, blood pressure, oxygen levels, body movements, heart beat patterns, and breathing patterns, how much air is moving through your nose while you breathe, snoring, and chest movements.

It is a completely non-invasive test and is not painful at all.

Medical History

Before your doctor decides about the possible causes of insomnia, he or an attendant will collect information on your and your family medical history, including any instances of sleep disorders with your family members. Insomnia may be linked to certain genetics and heredity factors and to your own medical history.

Your doctor may ask if you:

  • have any new or ongoing health problems
  • have injuries or health conditions, such as arthritis or other joint problem
  • take any medicines (both over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause insomnia)
  • have symptoms or a history of brain problems such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, or epilepsy
  • are living a highly stressful life
  • had any recent life event that may trouble you such as divorce or death of a loved one
  • if any of your family members had instances of sleep disorders

Other Reasons

Your doctor may ask questions about your work and leisure habits. He or she may ask about your exercise routines, whether you consume too much of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, and about your travel, in particular long-distance travel.

Your doctor may ask whether you have any work or personal or family-related problems or stresses in your life.

Based on the evaluation of your symptoms and possible causes, your doctor will draft a complete treatment plan. Read about insomnia treatment.

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi

Tatheer Zehra Zaidi is a clinical pharmacist and pharmacologist with a master’s degree in pharmacy practice. She aims to deliver a positive contribution in the field of healthcare and research. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jamia Hamdard New Delhi and then joined Spirant Communication Private LTD as a Medical content writer.


Currently she is working at Maxinov Solutions Private LTD as a research associate and is associated with DiseaseFix as a medical content writer. Tatheer’s areas of interest include clinical research, clinical trial disclosure, and pharmacovigilance.

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