Classification of sleep disorders

Neurotherapeutics. 2012 Oct;9(4):687-701. doi: 10.1007/s13311-012-0145-6.


The classification of sleep disorders is necessary to discriminate between disorders and to facilitate an understanding of symptoms, etiology, and pathophysiology that allows for appropriate treatment. The earliest classification systems, largely organized according to major symptoms (insomnia, excessive sleepiness, and abnormal events that occur during sleep), were unable to be based on pathophysiology because the cause of most sleep disorders was unknown. These 3 symptom-based categories are easily understood by physicians and are therefore useful for developing a differential diagnosis. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, version 2, published in 2005 and currently undergoing revision, combines a symptomatic presentation (e.g., insomnia) with 1 organized in part on pathophysiology (e.g., circadian rhythms) and in part on body systems (e.g., breathing disorders). This organization of sleep disorders is necessary because of the varied nature and because the pathophysiology for many of the disorders is still unknown. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, version 2 provides relevant diagnostic and epidemiological information on sleep disorders to more easily differentiate between the disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / classification*