Screening for sleep disorders varies depending on the specific condition. Below is a brief overview of the process of diagnosing some of the more common sleep disorders.
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS): Individuals suspected of having this condition may be asked to keep a sleep log tracking the times they feel asleep and woke up every day. To diagnose DSPS, the patient’s symptoms must last for three months. However, DSPS is sometimes misdiagnosed, as some of its symptoms are general and similar to those of insomnia or certain types of mental illness, such as depression.
- Insomnia: Doctors will begin by asking patients for their medical histories, and then check for mental health problems, medications, pain history, leisure habits, and work and home situations, among other factors. After a full physical exam that includes blood tests, a polysonogram—a recording of the breathing, movements, heart function and brain activity—may be performed at a sleep center or hospital.
- Narcolepsy: Suspected narcolepsy patients may be asked to spend the night in a sleep center, where specialists will observe their sleep patterns and behavior—patients with narcolepsy tend to fall asleep quick and enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep almost immediately—and sometimes perform a polysonogram. Patients may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which assesses how tired a patient is during certain activities.
- Night terrors: These intense nightmares generally do not require a diagnosis, though tests may be performed to see what is triggering the night terrors.
- REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD): These patients will usually undergo a polysonogram, which, accompanied by a video recording, will help doctors assess the patient’s sleep. Those with RBD have increase muscle movements associated with increased brain activity.
- Sleep apnea: Suspected sleep apnea patients will often be asked to spend a night in a sleep center, where their sleep patterns will be observed and polysonography, portable cardiorespiratory and oximetry tests may be performed. Sleep apnea patients will have low levels of oxygen before waking up.