The Cleveland Clinic

Sleep Disorders: When to Call the Doctor

A sleep disorder is broadly defined as a physical or psychological problem that impairs your ability to sleep or causes increased sleepiness during the day. Everyone can experience problems with sleep from time to time. However, you might have a sleep disorder if:

  • You regularly experience difficulty sleeping
  • You are often tired during the day even though you slept for at least 7 hours the night before
  • You have a reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities

It is important to explore the possible causes of your difficulty with sleeping and/or daytime sleepiness and try to find a solution. One way to evaluate the quality of your sleep and to see whether you have a sleep disorder is to know the characteristics of various sleep disorders and to keep track of your sleep patterns by keeping a sleep diary.

Warning Signs

Ask yourself the following questions. Do you:

  • Fall asleep while driving?
  • Struggle to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading?
  • Have difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home?
  • Have performance problems at work or school?
  • Often get told by others that you look tired?
  • Have difficulty with your memory?
  • Have slowed responses?
  • Have difficulty controlling your emotions?
  • Feel the need to take naps almost every day?

If you experience one or more of these characteristics, you may not be getting proper sleep at night.

Sleep Diary

In order to determine if you have a sleep disorder, pay attention to your sleep habits by keeping a sleep diary and discussing patterns and characteristics of your sleep with your doctor. It is important to note that insomnia can be a sleep disorder, or can be a symptom of another problem. Many common sleep problems can be treated with behavioral treatments and increased attention to proper sleep hygiene. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep patterns.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.




Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005