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Misdiagnosis of Insomnia

Misdiagnosis of Insomnia

A diagnosis of the underlying cause of insomnia may be missed or delayed for a variety of reasons. For example, people with a mental illness, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, may fear the stigma of or be embarrassed by mental illness and not seek treatment. In addition, older adults may believe that insomnia is a normal part of aging and not seek care. Insomnia is not a normal condition and can lead to serious complications. Because of this, insomnia, especially long-term or recurring insomnia, should be medically evaluated....more about Insomnia »

Alternative diagnoses list for Insomnia:

For a diagnosis of Insomnia, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for Insomnia:

Diseases for which Insomnia may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which Insomnia is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

Insomnia: Hidden Causes Misdiagnosed?

Causes of Insomnia may include these medical conditions:

  • Common problems with the sleeping environment include:
    • Sleeping area distractions
    • Noise
    • Extreme temperatures
    • Poorly ventilated bedroom
  • more causes...»

Rare Types of Insomnia:

Insomnia: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and Insomnia

Insidious cancer misdiagnosed as mental health condition: Pancreatic cancer is fortunately relatively rare, but this dangerous condition can be misdiagnosed as a mental condition in its early stages. Psychological symptoms similar to depression are common (including suicidal symptoms), leading to possible misdiagnoses of depression. Patients also often have difficulty sleeping leading to a misdiagnosis of insomnia (particularly with difficulty falling asleep), or some sleeping disorder, including the revere symptoms of excessive sleeping (hypersomnia). See the overview of pancreatic cancer.

RLS sleep disorder causing night-time leg sensations often misdiagnosed: A common but relatively unknown sleep-related disorder called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is often misdiagnosed. The typical symptoms are night-time tingling, crawling, or burning sensations in the legs, with the irresistable urge to move the legs. This need for leg movement leads to tossing and turning, or getting up out of bed, all of which interferes with the ability to fall asleep. The sufferer then has the typical symptoms of sleep deprivation during the day: fatigue, tiredness, morning headaches, irritability, poor concentration and so on. This condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as other conditions such as ADHD, sleep disorders, other causes of insomnia, or other causes of leg tingling. Many patients also suffer from a related disorder called Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which causes leg spasms or other jerky movements. See introduction to RLS or introduction to PLMD.

Failure To Diagnose Insomnia

Failure to diagnose Insomnia may be associated with the following:

  • Insomnia often remains undiagnosed because patients are hesitant to bring up sleeping problems with their doctor in case it appears trivial or they may fear it is a sign of a serious illness. Also, symptoms of sleeping problems that are volunteered by patients are often ignored by physicians, especially if the patient is seeing the doctor for other problems as well. Patients and doctors often believe that sleeping problems will resolve spontaneously with time
  • A large portion of the population has undiagnosed insomnia. Often patients try to manage their symptoms themselves through altering sleep routines or medications. An accurate diagnosis can better enable a patient to manage their condition
  • Women are less likely than men to acknowledge the symptoms of insomnia and to seek medical advice. Women also have additional sleep problems to men related to hormonal changes that result from pregnancy, menopause and even menstruation. Women also tend to respond differently to insomnia than men, women will keep going no matter how tired they get whereas men are more likely to increase their sleeping time if they are feeling tired. Women are also more likely to use caffeinated drinks and food to bolster their energy when they feel tired. Studies indicate that more women suffer from insomnia than men but it is generally believed to be more common in men
  • Insomnia is often considered a relatively harmless condition but long-term sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on a person's physical, social and mental health

Notes On Hidden Causes Of Insomnia

The following may be hidden causes of Insomnia:

  • Breathing difficulties such as asthma, coughing, hayfever and other allergies may cause insomnia
  • Insomnia is divided into four main types: psycho-reactive insomnia, endogenous insomnia, exogenous insomnia and functional insomnia
  • Causes of endogenous insomnia include: indigestion, pain, hunger, teething, worms and cramps
  • Causes of exogenous insomnia include: excessive noise, snoring bed-partner, cold bedroom, hot bedroom, uncomfortable mattress and excessive light
  • Causes of psycho-reactive insomnia include: tension, stress, anxiety
  • There is a large range of possible conditions and physical causes which may be the underlying cause of insomnia e.g. menopause, ADHD, pain, sleep disorder
  • Undiagnosed or hidden strokes or other circulatory problems may disrupt sleep and hence be misdiagnosed as insomnia which means that the underlying cause remains untreated
  • Vitamin B12 may be a hidden cause of insomnia
  • Underlying causes of insomnia includes anxiety disorders, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, headaches and benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may be a hidden cause of insomnia

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of Insomnia

Wrong diagnosis of Insomnia may be associated with the following:

  • Chronic insomnia may be misdiagnosed as depression, especially in women. In fact, chronic sleep problems often result in depression and thus the two conditions may co-exist which makes diagnosis more complicated. Symptoms common to depression and insomnia include mood swings, sudden onset of anxiety and behavioural changes
  • Insomnia may also be misdiagnosed as anemia or a thyroid. Insomnia symptoms may sometimes be dismissed simply as laziness
  • Drug causes of insomnia include: antidepressants, high blood pressure medication, muscle relaxants, diet pills, bronchodilators, diuretics, painkillers, steroids, thyroid medications, chemotherapy drugs and any other medications that contain caffeine, aminophylline, ephedrine, norepinephrine and amphetamine. Sometimes a medication on its own doesn't affect sleep but when combined with another medication, sleeping problems may result. Thus it is important to inform the doctor of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) taken
  • Circadian rhythm disorders (delayed sleep syndrome) are often misdiagnosed as insomnia or not diagnosed at all. These people tend to stay up late and get up late and this may be diagnosed as sleep-onset insomnia whereas it is really a problem with the body's internal sleep cycle timing
  • Changes in sleep cycles are often a normal part of aging but this may be misdiagnosed as insomnia which leads to unnecessary treatment
  • Obstructive sleep apnea may be misdiagnosed as a less serious sleeping disorder called insomnia

Complications Of Misdiagnosis Of Insomnia

The following may be complications of misdiagnosis of Insomnia:

  • Teenagers often need more sleep than adults. Many teenagers who appear lazy, irritable, and moody or don't perform as well at school as expected often have their symptoms put down the hormonal changes rather than considering a insomnia as a possible cause
  • Chronic sleep problems caused by a mild brain injury may be misdiagnosed as insomnia. Treatment will only mask the symptoms and not treat the underlying cause. The treatment may also exacerbate the brain injury symptoms (e.g. headache and cognitive impairment)
  • Insomnia in older patients may also mimic dementia. Common symptoms include impaired cognitive function and memory and mood changes

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of Insomnia:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of Insomnia:

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of Insomnia or confirming a diagnosis of Insomnia, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of Insomnia may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of Insomnia. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


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