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Diagnostic Approach and Investigation in Sleep Medicine

Silber, Michael H. MBChB, FAAN

CONTINUUM: Lifelong Learning in Neurology: August 2017 - Volume 23 - Issue 4, Sleep Neurology - p 973–988
doi: 10.1212/CON.0000000000000491
Review Articles

ABSTRACT Purpose of Review: This article provides a clinical approach to the appropriate investigation and diagnosis of sleep disorders commonly seen by neurologists.

Recent Findings: Home sleep apnea testing in appropriate situations can replace laboratory polysomnography in many cases of uncomplicated sleep apnea. Multiple sleep latency tests must be performed meticulously and interpreted in the clinical setting to avoid overdiagnoses of narcolepsy. Human leukocyte antigen testing has limited utility in establishing a diagnosis of narcolepsy because a positive test has low specificity. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder is frequently the first manifestation of an evolving synucleinopathy, and a careful history and neurologic examination are needed to determine other early features of these disorders.

Summary: A meticulous history from the patient, supplemented by collateral history from an observer, is essential to establishing the diagnosis of sleep disorders. Judicious supplementary use of investigations, such as laboratory polysomnography, home sleep apnea testing, wrist actigraphy, and multiple sleep latency tests, can confirm the correct diagnosis. This article describes an approach to the sleepy patient, the patient with neuromuscular disease and possible sleep-disordered breathing, the patient with restless legs syndrome, and young and older patients with abnormal movements during sleep.

Address correspondence to Dr Michael H. Silber, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St SW, Rochester, MN 55902,

Relationship Disclosure: Dr Silber receives royalties from Oakstone Publishing and UpToDate, Inc.

Unlabeled Use of Products/Investigational Use Disclosure: Dr Silber reports no disclosure.

Supplemental digital content: Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are included in the HTML, PDF, and app versions of this article.

© 2017 American Academy of Neurology
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