The diagnosis of insomnia is made by a physician based on the patient's reported signs and symptoms. It can be useful for the patient to keep a daily record for two weeks of sleep patterns, food intake, use of alcohol, medications, exercise, and any other information recommended by the physician. If the patient has a bed partner, information can be obtained about whether the patient snores or is restless during sleep. This, together with a medical history and physical examination, can help confirm the doctor's assessment.
A wide variety of health care professionals can recognize and treat insomnia, but when a patient with chronic insomnia does not respond to treatment, or the condition is not adequately explained by the patient's physical, emotional, or mental circumstances, then more extensive testing by a specialist in sleep disorders may be warranted.
Treatment of insomnia includes alleviating any physical and emotional problems that are contributing to the condition, and exploring changes in lifestyle that will improve the situation.
Changes in behavior
Patients can make changes in their daily routine that are simple and effective in treating their insomnia. They should go to bed only when sleepy and use the bedroom only for sleep. Other activities like reading, watching television, or snacking should take place somewhere else. If they are unable to go to sleep, they should go into another room and do something that is relaxing, like reading. Watching television should be avoided because it has an arousing effect. The person should return to bed only when they feel sleepy. Patients should set the alarm and get up every morning at the same time, no matter how much they have slept, to establish a regular sleep-wake pattern. Naps during the day should be avoided, but if absolutely necessary, then a 30-minute nap early in the afternoon may not interfere with sleep at night.
Another successful technique is called sleep-restriction therapy, which restricts the amount of time spent in bed to the actual time spent sleeping. This approach allows a slight sleep debt to build up, which increases the individual's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If a patient is sleeping five hours a night, the time in bed is limited to 5-5 1/2 hours. The time in bed is gradually increased in small segments, with the individual rising at the same time each morning; at least 85% of the time in bed must be spent sleeping.
Donald G. Barstow RN, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,