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Sleep disorders

Contents of this page:


Irregular sleep
Irregular sleep
Sleep patterns in the young and aged
Sleep patterns in the young and aged

Definition    Return to top

Sleep disorders involve any difficulties related to sleeping, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.

Causes    Return to top

More than 100 different disorders of sleeping and waking have been identified. They can be grouped in four main categories:


Insomnia includes any combination of difficulty with falling asleep, staying asleep, intermittent wakefulness and early-morning awakening. Episodes may come and go (be transient), last as long as 2 to 3 weeks (be short-term), or be long-lasting (chronic).

Common factors associated with insomnia include:

Disorders include:


Disorders of excessive sleepiness are called hypersomnias. These include:


Problems may also occur when you do not maintain a consistent sleep and wake schedule. This occurs when traveling between times zones and with shift workers on rotating schedules, particularly nighttime workers.

Sleep disruption disorders include:


Abnormal behaviors during sleep are called parasomnias and are fairly common in children. They include:

Symptoms    Return to top

The symptoms vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Tests vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder. A sleep study (polysomnography) may be done.

Treatment    Return to top

Treatments vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder.


Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome varies with the type of disorder. Some disorders may clear up on their own.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if lack of sleep or too much sleep is interfering with daily living.

Also call if non-breathing spells are observed during sleep.

Prevention    Return to top

Maintaining regular sleep habits and a quiet sleep environment may prevent some sleep disorders.

Update Date: 9/11/2008

Updated by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ . Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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