Clinical History

Obtaining a detailed clinical history is especially important when diagnosing a sleep disturbance because routine physical examination is often not revealing during the waking hours. From the history, age of onset, duration and progression of the sleep complaint, and the general classification of the type of sleep disturbance is usually obtained. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders categorizes sleep disturbances as (1) dyssomnias or disorders that result in insomnia or excessive sleepiness; (2) parasomnias or disorders of arousal, partial arousal, or sleep stage transition; and (3) sleep disorders associated with medical or psychiatric disorders.^ The dyssomnias include the intrinsic sleep disorders arising from bodily malfunctions such as psychophysiological insomnia, obstructive and central sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Examples of parasomnias include sleep walking, sleep terrors, sleep talking, nightmares, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), bruxism, and enuresis. Sleep disorders associated with medical and psychiatric conditions include those secondary to mood disorders, alcoholism, neurological disorders such as parkinsonism and dementia, and gastroesophageal reflux. [6] , M

Sleep complaints often involve three areas of sleep disturbance: (1) the perceived inability to obtain sufficient sleep (insomnia), (2) the presence of excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day (excessive daytime somnolence [EDS]), and (3) the occurrence of unusual events during sleep (parasomnias) (see the section entitled Clinical Syndromes). The clinical history should investigate each of these areas because there is often overlap among them.

The first part of the interview examines the quantity and quality of sleep: The hour of bedtime and final awakening, the latency from bedtime to onset of sleep, events that delay sleep onset, number and duration of nocturnal awakenings, activities during the night, and perceived sleep quality are obtained by patient history. Is there a variation in the timing of sleep from day to day? Those who work or attend school may sleep less during the week, then sleep much longer when their activites are not structured during the weekend. y Shift workers or those who work in the evening or at night may find it very difficult to obtain a consistent timing and duration of sleep. They may be always fighting the circadian clock, which keeps internal rhythms and levels of alertness set to a 24-hour cycle. [9] Patients with neurodegenerative diseases often have internal clocks that no longer function effectively. Sleep and wakefulness may occur haphazardly around the clock or may be reversed, with most sleep coming during the daylight hour. y Withdrawal from pharmacological agents, especially those that cause sedation, is another possible cause of sleep disruption.

A sleep diary is a useful adjunct to the patient history. The patient completes a sleep diary every day for a consecutive 14-day period. This daily record of the patient sleep cycle provides the clinician with an indication of the timing and quantity of sleep obtained. This method is particularly useful in diagnosing sleep phase shifts, and timing of insomnia. Patients with delayed phase sleep may show an inability to fall asleep until late at night, with a corresponding late awakening. Likewise, patients with phase advanced sleep may fall asleep easily at an early hour but awaken early in the morning. In particular, sleep diaries allow for an assessment of spontaneous sleep patterns during weekends or vacation periods, when the necessity to accommodate a work or school schedule is not present. Actigraphy is a useful adjunct to a sleep diary. A wrist actigraph is worn by the patient for 2 weeks and continually records physical activity. Although it does not specifically record sleep, periods of quiescence suggesting sleep time, punctuated by periods of muscle activity can be stored in the actigraph and later retrieved. In conjunction with a sleep diary, actigraphy is a powerful tool in estimating routine sleep patterns at home. y

The evaluation of sleep quality relies on the subjective perception of sleep. Several scales have been developed to assess overall sleep quality. Some of these scales have been validated. y The structured interview provides insight into several domains of sleep quality. How well does the patient sleep? Does the patient feel that sleep is troubled or insufficient? Good sleep satisfies several criteria: (1) it is sufficient-providing for adequate alertness and a feeling of vitality during the day, (2) it is efficient--easily initiated, continuously maintained, and not excessively prolonged, and (3) it is convenient-occurring during a period of time when the patient would not need or prefer to be awake, which is usually at night but may vary for those with other life demands, such as a nighttime job.

An evaluation of the presence and severity of daytime sleepiness is a vital part of the sleep interview. Patients whose sleep is significantly disrupted or fragmented, y or those who simply do not get enough sleep may be sleepy during the daytime. Typically, EDS manifests as nodding off or napping during quiet, passive activities, such as reading, watching television, or listening to a lecture. In more severe cases, sleep may occur during active periods such as while eating, talking, or driving a motor vehicle. When EDS is severe, it can impair the quality of life and even lead to life-threatening situations, such as falling asleep while driving. In contrast to the EDS arising from nocturnal sleep disruption, narcoleptic patients may have attacks of sleep in which REM sleep occurs.

In determining whether or not there are unusual events during sleep, interview of the bed partner or family members who are able to observe sleep may be essential. A variety of abnormal events during sleep may impair sleep quality, cause patient discomfort, or interrupt the sleep of the bed partner. Snoring or gasping during sleep may be a sign of respiratory difficulties or sleep apnea. Unusual sleep-related movements can indicate the presence of or PLMD, nocturnal epilepsy, or RBD. Other behaviors may suggest the presence of sleep walking (somnambulism), sleep talking (somniloquy), tooth grinding (bruxism), or attacks of eating in a fuguelike state (nocturnal eating disorder). [5

Events occurring before sleep onset may provide clues to the cause of insomnia. Good sleep hygiene, which can help sleep quality, involves consistent calming activities before sleep.U Poor sleep hygiene may interfere with the ability to sleep. These activities include caffeine and nicotine intake, late-day napping, exercising immediately before bedtime, and using the bed to read, watch television, or

work. Alcohol intake at bedtime may shorten sleep latency but often causes sleep fragmentation later in the night, with early morning awakening. Patients may report sensory phenomenon in the legs or arms when they lie down to sleep. These sensations may be described as tingling, tightness, crawling sensations or pain. These sensations may be severe enough to interfere with sleep onset and may be relieved only with movement of the limbs, or walking. This history suggests that the diagnosis of RLS. PLMD is frequently associated with RLS and may cause disruption of sleep once sleep is obtained. A prominent jerk just at sleep onset that runs through most of the body, sometimes associated with a sensation or illusion of falling, is a hypnic jerk and is experienced by most people on occasion. y

Psychological states at the time of sleep onset are important to assess in patients with insomnia. Patients reporting excessive worries, ruminations over daytime problems, and anxiety may find that despite feeling sleepy, these intrusive thoughts cause alertness and prevent sleep onset. They may feel increased muscle tension. The duration and triggering factor for the insomnia is important to obtain. Patients experiencing transient insomnia related to particular life events may benefit from treatment strategies inappropriate for the patient with chronic, recurrent insomnia. Depression and anxiety are psychiatric disorders that are strongly associated with sleep disturbances. A psychiatric assessment may provide useful clues to the presence of these potentially treatable causes of insomnia.

Medical conditions may also interfere with normal sleep. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be awakened by pain. Patients with neuromuscular disease may awaken because of respiratory difficulty. Patients with Parkinson's disease may awaken because their medications have worn off and they are uncomfortable and unable to shift posture. Prostate disorders may lead to frequent awakenings to urinate during the night

Neuromuscular disorders, Parkinson's disease, multisystem atrophies, lung disease, obesity, acromegaly, or thyroid disease can all be associated with respiratory disturbances in sleep.y Different medical and neurological conditions, including iron deficiency, uremia, and peripheral neuropathy, are associated with RLS and PLMD.y Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, may result in a breakdown of the circadian clock, which regulates the alternation of sleep and wakefulness. Tic disease may lead to parasomnias in children. Patients with Parkinson's disease, as well as those with neurodegenerative disease or brain stem strokes, may have RBD, in which dreams can be acted out with injurious consequences.y

A history of hallucinations either at sleep onset (hypnogogic) or on awakening from sleep (hypnopompic), sleep paralysis (the inability to voluntarily move upon awakening), sleepiness during the day, or cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone during wakefulness) may indicate a diagnosis of narcolepsy, particularly if onset occurred during youth, adolescence, or young adulthood. y

Ingestion of medication is a particularly important part of the clinical history. There are many medications that cause drowsiness during the day or disrupted sleep at night. In severe cases, this disruption may lead to lethargy, confusion, or forgetfulness. Although sedative and hypnotic medications, particularly those with long half lives, are usually recognized as a cause of daytime sleepiness, there are numerous additional agents that have a similar effect, including antihistamines, neuroleptic agents, antihypertensives, anticonvulsants, antiparkinsonian medications, antidepressants, analgesics, and muscle relaxants. Elderly patients, especially those with hepatic or renal insufficiency, may be particularly susceptible to medication side effects because a drug or its active metabolites may accumulate owing to impaired metabolism or excretion. Alcohol, ingested near the sleeping hour, may help induce sleep, but later in the night, after several hours of sleep, alcohol may cause awakenings and sleep disruption. Alcohol also worsens most respiratory problems in sleep.

Antiparkinsonian medications may cause vivid dreams and nightmares. The benzodiazepines and barbiturates may suppress SWS, decrease the amount of REM sleep, and exacerbate sleep apnea. With chronic use, these agents often lose their efficacy, and sudden discontinuation frequently causes rebound insomnia. Stimulants used for attention deficit disorder and in narcolepsy may cause insomnia. Dopamine-blocking agents including metoclopramide can aggravate RLS, whereas antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, may activate PLMD.

A family history of sleep disturbance may suggest particular sleep disorders. In particular, RLS is inherited as an autosomal dominant disorder. y Narcolepsy and sleep apnea are other sleep disorders with strong hereditary origins. Fatal familial insomnia is a rare disorder in which family history is essential for a correct diagnosis (..Chapter.43 ).[2i]

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