Aging & Health A to Z
Diagnosis & Tests
Make an appointment to see a healthcare professional if you think you have a sleep problem. Arrange to have your bed partner accompany you, since only he or she can report on some of your symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history for past or present diseases or other conditions, possibly give you a questionnaire (Epworth Sleepiness Scale), or ask you questions such as:
- Are you satisfied with your sleep?
- Does daytime sleepiness interfere with your daytime activities?
- Does your bed partner or family mention that you snore, stop breathing, or move your legs in your sleep?
- When do you go to sleep and when do you get up?
- What medicines and other remedies do you take?
- Do you smoke, drink alcohol or beverages containing caffeine?
- Do you have pain at night?
- Do you have to go to the bathroom at night? How often do you urinate?
- Have there been recent events in your life that are upsetting or bothering you?
You will be given a physical exam to check blood pressure, heart rate, lung function, and general health, and possible lab tests will be ordered. If you have reported pain, such as joint pain from arthritis, your healthcare professional will examine the affected areas. A report of frequent urination might need to be followed up by tests for bladder, kidney, or prostate conditions or for diabetes.
Keeping a Sleep Diary
Your healthcare professional may also ask you to keep a sleep diary for a week or two to record
- when you go to bed and wake up
- the time it takes you to fall asleep
- how long you sleep
- how often you wake up at night and for how long
- any other symptoms that occurred during the night
- how much you napped during the day
- comments from a bed partner or others about each night
- how rested you feel in the morning.
Your healthcare professional will ask you about your sleepiness and possibly have you fill in a questionnaire. If he or she suspects that you may have sleep apnea, you may need to participate in a full night sleep study (polysomnography) in a sleep lab.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
The report of a bed partner may be enough, or your healthcare professional may suggest a sleep lab study such as polysomnography. The diagnosis is based on at least 15 episodes of limb movements and muscle contractions per hour that cause you to partially wake up.
Sleep-wake Cycle Disorders
Your sleeping or waking time may be recorded by wrist actigraphy – a method in which a monitor is placed on your wrist and movements are registered automatically. This test can be carried out at home, and is also used for nursing home residents.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012