How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Your doctor will want to take a full medical and sleep history, as well as conduct a physical examination.

Insomnia is diagnosed based on your medical and sleep histories, and a careful physical examination

Medical History

To find out what's causing your insomnia, your doctor may ask:

  • How is your pain condition being managed? What is your level of pain?
  • What prescription and/or over-the-counter medications do you take?
  • Have you experienced a new health problem?
  • Do you have symptoms or a history of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness?
  • Are you coping with highly stressful life events, such as work, divorce, or death in family?
  • Your doctor also may ask questions about your use of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.

Sleep History

To get a better picture of your sleep patterns, you doctor or physician will ask you for details about your sleep habits, including: 

  • How often you have trouble sleeping and how long you have been experiencing the problem
  • The time you go to bed and get up on workdays and weekends
  • How long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up at night, and how long it takes to fall back asleep
  • Whether you snore loudly and often or wake up gasping or feeling out of breath
  • How refreshed you feel when you wake up, and how tired you feel during the day
  • How often you doze off or have trouble staying awake during routine tasks, such as driving

To find out what's causing or worsening your insomnia, your doctor also may ask you:



  • Whether you worry about falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep
  • What you eat or drink, and whether you take medicines before going to bed
  • What routine you follow before going to bed
  • What the noise level, lighting, and temperature are like where you sleep
  • What distractions, such as a TV or computer, are in your bedroom

To help your doctor, consider keeping a sleep diary for 1 or 2 weeks. The diary should be used to write down when you go to sleep, wake up, and take naps; as well as how much you sleep each night, and how sleepy you feel during the day.

You can find a sample sleep diary in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep." You can find a sample sleep diary in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep."

Physical Exam

A physical exam is performed to rule out other conditions that might be causing insomnia. The doctor will examine your head and neck, as well as take blood to test for possible thyroid problems or other conditions that are associated with sleep disturbances.


Updated on: 04/14/15
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