Three diagnostic classifications for sleep disorders have been developed recently: the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition (DSM-IV), and the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10). No data have yet been published regarding the frequency of specific diagnoses within these systems or how the diagnostic systems relate to each other. To address these issues, we examined clinical sleep disorder diagnoses (without polysomnography) in 257 patients (216 insomnia patients and 41 medical/psychiatric patients) evaluated at five sleep centers. A sleep specialist interviewed each patient and assigned clinical diagnoses using ICSD, DSM-IV and ICD-10 classifications. "Sleep disorder associated with mood disorder" was the most frequent ICSD primary diagnosis (32.3% of cases), followed by "Psychophysiological insomnia" (12.5% of cases). The most frequent DSM-IV primary diagnoses were "Insomnia related to another mental disorder" (44% of cases) and "Primary insomnia" (20.2% of cases), and the most frequent ICD-10 diagnoses were "Insomnia due to emotional causes" (61.9% of cases) and "Insomnia of organic origin" (8.9% of cases). When primary and secondary diagnoses were considered, insomnia related to psychiatric disorders was diagnosed in over 75% of patients. The more narrowly defined ICSD diagnoses nested logically within the broader DSM-IV and ICD-10 categories. We found substantial site-related differences in diagnostic patterns. These results confirm the importance of psychiatric and behavioral factors in clinicians' assessments of insomnia patients across all three diagnostic systems. ICSD and DSM-IV sleep disorder diagnoses have similar patterns of use by experienced clinicians.