Penn Neurology, in collaboration with the Penn Sleep Center, uses a multidisciplinary approach to care to address and treat all primary neurologic sleep disorders as well as sleep disturbances that arise in other neurological conditions.

Not all sleep disorders are caused by a neurologic condition. If a neurological condition is suspected to be the cause or contribute to a sleep disorder, a neurologist with specific expertise in sleep medicine will provide care.

Sleep plays an essential role in our health and can negatively affect every aspect of our lives when we receive inadequate or disturbed sleep on a regular basis. When sleep disorders are addressed and treated, patients benefit from an enhanced quality of life including improved physical health and emotional well-being.

Types of Neurologic Sleep Disorders

The control of sleep and wakefulness is an essential function of the brain. There are a number of neurological conditions that interfere with this function, causing disruption of normal sleep patterns.

Primary neurologic sleep disorders include:

  • Central nervous system hypersomnia
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Fatal familial insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Parasomnias
  • REM sleep behavior disorder

Common neurologic disorders that are accompanied by sleep problems and disorders include:

In addition, obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most commonly treated sleep disorder, is a risk factor for stroke, cognitive impairment and poor seizure control.

Diagnosing Neurologic Sleep Disorders

When a sleep disorder is suspected, diagnosis and care begins at the Penn Sleep Center. Here, a thorough evaluation will determine whether or not a neurological condition is the cause. During an initial consultation a physical examination will be performed and a complete medical history and sleep record will be obtained. After an evaluation is complete, a patient may be referred for an overnight sleep study and/or a series of nap studies performed during the day.

Treating Neurologic Sleep Disorders

Neurologists at the Penn Sleep Center provide care for neurologic sleep disorders in collaboration with pulmonologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and many other specialists from within Penn Medicine. Treatment may include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) — A machine used to treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy depending upon the sleep disorder
  • Medication

Neurologic Sleep Disorder Team

Penn neurologists with specific expertise in Sleep Medicine provide care for patients with primary neurologic sleep disorders and sleep problems that accompany other neurologic conditions.

  • Charles Cantor, MD is the medical director of the Penn Sleep Center, which has outpatient practices and sleep laboratories in Philadelphia and several suburban locations. His clinical interests include sleep disturbances in Parkinson's disease and other extrapyramidal disorders, narcolepsy, adult parasomnias including REM sleep behavior disorder and restless legs syndrome.
  • David Raizen MD, PhD is currently involved in basic science research focused on the regulation of sleep and sleep-like states. He uses C. elegans as a model for his research. His laboratory has combined the use of genetic manipulations with state-of-the-art optogenetic methods to identify neurons and genes involved in the control of sleep and wakefulness. His clinical interests include the neurologic sleep disorders.
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