Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders Overview


The symptoms of sleep disorders vary between people in

type and severity. Some sleep disorders cause people to

have trouble sleeping at night. Others make people feel

drowsy all day even though they slept all night.


While we usually recognize when we have had a bad

night’s sleep, sometimes it is not so clear. For many, sleep

problems develop slowly and gradually over years and

may seem like a normal part of life. Others are very

aware of their problem and experience symptoms which

affect their quality of life. Additionally there people who

would not consider their symptom(s) to be a problem

with sleep. For example, a person might feel that he/she

sleeps well but is still sleepy during the day.




  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Waking frequently after falling asleep

  • Waking during sleep and not being able to fall back to sleep

  • Snoring loudly

  • Awaking to find yourself gasping for breath

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day

  • Moving during your sleep

  • Hitting or kicking your bedmate

  • Walking or talking in your sleep

  • Sleeping at the wrong times


If you experience any of these symptoms they may be

caused by a sleep disorder. There are many identified

sleep disorders. Below we provide a brief description of

several common sleep disorder diagnoses. Other pages

on this website are designed to give you more detailed

information about some common disorders.




Sleep problems vary in intensity from minimal to severe.

Problems with sleep can have both short-term and long-

term effects on a person. The effects or symptoms can

build up slowly and not be readily apparent. Long-term

effects may be personal and social, related to work,

school and family. More importantly, long-term effects

can be also be medical and lead to many chronic

debilitating medical conditions. If you or your family

suspect problems, it is a good idea to review them with a




Insomnia – Difficult falling asleep or staying asleep

One in three American adults has trouble falling asleep

at night. This condition affects people of all ages, has

many causes and can lead to irritability, drowsiness,

anxiety, or depression. Causes of insomnia include sleep

habits, emotional turmoil, anxiety, and other medical

conditions. Difficulty staying asleep is a form of



For more information about insomnia, review our Insomnia page.



The sound of breathing during sleep can be as faint as a

snowfall or as loud as thunder. Snoring is most often a

sign of significant breathing problems while sleeping.


Breathing problems while asleep


A major sleep problem facing many Americans is sleep

apnea. This condition occurs in approximately three to

five percent of children and twenty five percent of

adults. There are two types of apnea: obstructive and

central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common

type. It can be described as choking in your sleep.

Central sleep apnea can be described as holding your

breath while you sleep.


For more detailed information about apnea, visit our Sleep Apnea page.


Moving while asleep


Changing positions while you are sleeping is normal.

Kicking, walking, talking, thrashing, and other

movements are not. Many movement disorders have

been identified. Common disorders are Restless Leg

Syndrome, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and REM

Behavior Disorder. For more information about these

disorders, visit our Sleep Movement page.

Excessive daytime sleepiness


The normal amount of sleep required by adults ranges is

approximately 8 hours per night. Some people require

more, some less. If after sleeping a normal amount of

time a person is still sleepy during the day, they may

have a sleep disorder. The majority of people who are

excessively sleepy during the day, after sleeping seven or

more hours at night, have a problem with the quality of

their sleep. Conditions such as apnea and movement

disorders can disrupt sleep and make it non-refreshing.


For those individuals who do experience normal, quality

sleep and sleep a normal amount of time but are still

sleepy during the day, other reasons may be the cause.

Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, brain injuries,

strokes, medications and other medical conditions must

be considered. The only way to determine your quality of

sleep is to undergo a sleep study (polysomnogram). Your

physician should investigate excessive daytime

sleepiness and a thorough sleep evaluation should be

considered. For additional information see our pages on

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness.


Updated June 2022