If you think you have insomnia, you can go to your doctor or healthcare provider. Your doctor may perform a physical examination to identify the exact problem you have. He or she might ask you about your medical and sleep history to ascertain the reason for your sleep problems. There may be some medical or psychological illness that might be the cause of your insomnia.

The following tests can be used to diagnose insomnia

Epworth Sleepiness Scale

Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a set of small questions that a physician can ask to determine the amount of daytime sleepiness. This scale was introduced by Dr. Murray Johns of Epworth Hospital which is in Melbourne, Australia. The method is to measure the daytime sleepiness on a scale.

A total of 8 questions are there in the questionnaire. You can easily answer these questions without assistance in 2 or 3 minutes. You need to rate your chances of dozing off or falling asleep on a 4 point scale (0 3). Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

  • 0 you would never doze or sleep
  • 1 you have a slight chance of dozing or sleeping
  • 2 you have a moderate chance of dozing or sleeping
  • 3 you have a high chance of dozing or sleeping Situation Chance of Dozing or Sleeping
SituationChance of Dozing or Sleeping
Sitting and reading
Watching TV
Sitting inactive in a public place
Being a passenger in a motor vehicle for an hour or more
Lying down in the afternoon
Sitting and talking to someone
Sitting quietly after lunch (no alcohol)
Stopped for a few minutes in traffic while driving
Total score (add the scores up)
(This is your Epworth score)


Polysomnogram is a test conducted during the night to record the sleeping patterns. You need to go to a sleep study center to take this test. Electrodes are used to record sleeping activity. These electrodes are placed on your chin, scalp and outer edge of eyelids. Monitors are also used to record your heart rate and breathing. These monitors are attached to your chest.

This study measures the sleep cycles and stages by recording our brain wave activity (Electroencephalography), eye movement, blood pressure, heartbeats, and muscle movements. The time taken to fall asleep and to enter into REM sleep is recorded using these electrodes.

Note: Do not take any medication and do not drink alcohol or any caffeine-containing food or substance before this test.


In actigraphy, a watch shaped device is worn on the wrist of the non-dominant arm. Actigraphy is very useful in determining sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.

The actigraph unit

It is an electronic device containing the following:

actigraphy unit
  • a piezoelectric accelerometer,
  • a low-pass-filter that filters out all vibrations or sounds except the range of 2-3 Hz. This filter is used to ignore the external vibrations that may interfere with the sleep study.
  • A timer to start or stop the actigraph unit. It is also used to accumulate the values for a specific time.
  • A memory card to store these resulting values.
  • An output interface, usually a USB or serial to get the data out of the unit and also to reprogram the timer.

Mental Health Assessment

A mental health assessment can also be done to know your mental and emotional health. Your doctor may ask you questions to judge how well you can think and remember. The questions are generally based on your mood, behavior, memory, your ability to express yourself, how well you deal with other people, including your family and friends.

Why Mental Health Assessment?

This test is done basically to find out mental health problems like depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. These mental conditions can also be the reason for insomnia. This test also tells the difference between mental and physical problems.