Insomnia is a common problem and constitutes one of the most common patient complaints in primary care settings. One study of patients visiting their primary care doctor
estimated that up to 69% of patients had insomnia. Insomnia is defined as a pattern of difficulty initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, or waking up too early and being unable to re-initiate sleep, which is sufficient enough to cause difficulties with daytime function.
For the majority of sufferers, insomnia is intermittent; but in a smaller group of patients it is a chronic problem, occurring more nights than not over a period of weeks to months. The causes and classifications of insomnia are numerous. Briefly, these are: Acute insomnia (short term insomnia related to an identifiable stressor or trigger), Inadequate sleep hygiene (insomnia related to patterns of behavior that are not conducive to initiation of sleep), Psychophysiological insomnia (insomnia related to psychiatric problems such as anxiety, worry, or racing thoughts, which become linked to sleep and which cause physiologic activation such as elevated heart rate or increased adrenaline, hindering the onset of sleep), Idiopathic insomnia (an uncommon and incompletely understood cause of lifelong chronic insomnia with onset in childhood, affecting about 1% of children), Paradoxical insomnia (also called pseudoinsomnia, wherein patients complain of insomnia despite appropriate onset, durration, and quality of sleep; thought to be related to overestimation of sleep latency, underestimation of sleep duration, and increased metabolic rate and arrousal during sleep), and Insomnia due to a primary medical or psychiatric condition (such as sleep apnea
, heart failure, neurologic disease, depression, or anxiety).
There are also several neurologic and genetic diseases that primarily affect sleep, but these are very uncommon and beyond the scope of this question. The most important tool in differentiating between the various causes of insomnia is a detailed history taken by a sleep specialist
. Other important, non-invasive tools are various surveys and diagnostic questionnaires administered by a sleep specialist. One of the most useful medical procedures for diagnosing insomnia is polysomnography, commonly known as a sleep study. This test is useful for studying the onset of sleep, the timing and duration of sleep cycles, the physiologic changes occuring during sleep, and neurologic activity during sleep.
I am not sure whether you are indicating that you are going to participate in sleep research or whether you are indicating that you are going to have a sleep study performed. Regarding the former, depending on the type of research in which you may be participating, there may be the potential for some benefit to you, but this is hard to comment on without knowing more about the study. If you are going to undergo a sleep study, this is purely a diagnostic procedure (which means there is no potential benefit to you, with the exception of more accurate diagnosis of your sleep disorder).
However, once a sleep study is interpreted by a sleep specialist, that professional may be able to indicate what form of insomnia you have and suggest appropriate treatment. In either case, if you have insomnia you should be seen by a physician, such as a sleep medicine specialist, so that serious causes of insomnia such as heart, lung, or neurologic disease can be ruled out.