This article explains the clinical approach to patients presenting with sleepiness or sleeplessness in a neurologic practice setting. Addressing the patient’s sleep symptoms may help improve symptoms of their other underlying primarily neurologic disorder.
New diagnostic modalities at home such as home sleep apnea testing have improved access and diagnosis of sleep apnea. Consumer health tracking devices have also helped patients focus on their sleep duration and quality, prompting them to bring their concerns to their neurologist.
Like many neurologic disorders, a detailed history and physical examination are critical in the evaluation of patients with sleepiness or sleeplessness. Patients who have neurologic disorders are more likely to have poor-quality sleep. Questions about the patient’s sleep schedule or screening patients for common sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are useful to add to a typical neurologic evaluation to better recognize sleep disorders in this population. Polysomnography, home sleep apnea testing, multiple sleep latency tests, and actigraphy can be used with the available history and examination to determine the proper diagnosis and management plan for these patients.