Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders affect more than 70 million people in the United States. In fact, one-third of all adults experience insomnia, and two to four percent of middle-aged adults have significant breathing disorders during sleep. Other less common sleep disorders include narcolepsy, nocturnal movement disorders, sleepwalking or other unusual nocturnal behaviors.

Sleep disorders impair sleep and wakefulness and can have a significant impact on your quality of life. If you suffer from a sleep disorder, you might:

  • Miss work or perform poorly at work due to fatigue
  • Experience memory and concentration problems and/or depression
  • Be habitually irritable and short-tempered
  • Experience sexual problems that strain your personal relationships
  • Endanger yourself or others by falling asleep while working or driving

If you have a sleep disorder, you or your sleeping partner may notice these symptoms:

  • Loud snoring
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Waking up frequently at night
  • Jerking or twitching in your legs
  • Walking, punching or kicking in your sleep
  • Gasping or choking at night
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Early morning awakenings
  • Morning headaches
  • Impotence

Common Sleep Disorders
There are more than 80 different disorders that can affect your sleeping and waking cycles. Penn Sleep Center physicians, who are researchers and teachers in the area of sleep, have extensive experience both diagnosing and treating these disorders.

Among the most common are:

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep accompanied by daytime symptoms, such as fatigue, poor concentration, and irritability. Insomnia may occur alone or with another physical or mental disorder.

Usually diagnosed in teenagers or people in their early 20s, narcolepsy can also appear later in life. It is characterized by an often overwhelming feeling of sleepiness and may be associated with other sleep disturbances.

Parasomnias are abnormal behaviors that occur while you sleep, such as sleep talking, night terrors, sleepwalking, bedwetting and teeth grinding.

Sleep Apnea
If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during sleep for brief periods of time. This may happen several times a night and is often identified by loud snoring and/or choking or gasping as you try to resume breathing. Sleep apnea has been associated with hypertension, heart disease and increased risk of stroke.

For more information about these and other sleep disorders, visit, a website from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In This Section

Sleep Apnea

As many as 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women suffer from sleep apnea, making it one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States.

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