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The doctor will ask about any symptoms, and medical and family history. There will be questions about whether you have problems initiating sleep, staying asleep, waking up early, or feeling tired despite seeming to sleep for a normal amount of time.

To make a diagnosis of insomnia, the doctor will ask about:

  • Excessive fatigue or daytime sleepiness
  • Impairment of attention, concentration, or memory
  • Impairment in social, occupational, or academic performance
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Diminished motivation, energy, or initiative
  • Occurrence of frequent errors or accidents at work, or while driving
  • Presence of tension headaches or gastrointestinal distress from lack of sleep
  • Preoccupation with sleep

To help determine a cause of insomia or any associated conditions, the doctor will ask about:

  • Moods or mood changes
  • Physical or mental symptoms or problems
  • Daily activities
  • Work pattern or history
  • Sleep patterns
  • Snoring
  • Medication use
  • Travel patterns
  • Eating habits
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

You may also be asked to fill out a sleep diary, which is a record of your sleep patterns. Your doctor may want to speak with your bed partner concerning the quantity and quality of your sleep. Other specialized tests may be ordered depending on what your doctor suspects may be the cause of your insomnia.

In some instance where the diagnosis is not clear, your doctor may order a polysomnogram (sleep study), where your sleep is analyzed during a 1 or 2 night stay in a sleep lab.


Buysse DJ. Insomnia. JAMA. 2013;309(7):706-716.

How to talk to your doctor about your sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: Accessed March 2, 2016.

Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated March 21, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 2, 2016.

Merrigan JM, Buysse DJ, Bird JC, Livingston EH. JAMA patient page. Insomnia. JAMA 2013;309(7):733.

Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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