Sleep Disorders

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 professional.


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 insomnia.

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 two percent of children and twenty 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.