Sleep disorders are common in the general population and even more so in clinical practice, yet are relatively poorly understood by doctors and other health care practitioners. These British Association for Psychopharmacology guidelines are designed to address this problem by providing an accessible up-to-date and evidence-based outline of the major issues, especially those relating to reliable diagnosis and appropriate treatment. A consensus meeting was held in London in May 2009. Those invited to attend included BAP members, representative clinicians with a strong interest in sleep disorders and recognized experts and advocates in the field, including a representative from mainland Europe and the USA. Presenters were asked to provide a review of the literature and identification of the standard of evidence in their area, with an emphasis on meta-analyses, systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials where available, plus updates on current clinical practice. Each presentation was followed by discussion, aimed to reach consensus where the evidence and/or clinical experience was considered adequate or otherwise to flag the area as a direction for future research. A draft of the proceedings was then circulated to all participants for comment. Key subsequent publications were added by the writer and speakers at draft stage. All comments were incorporated as far as possible in the final document, which represents the views of all participants although the authors take final responsibility for the document.