Problems with sleep affect a large part of the general population, with more than half of all people in the United States reporting difficulties with sleep or insufficient sleep at various times and about 40 million affected chronically. Sleep is a complex physiologic process that is influenced by many internal and environmental factors, and problems with sleep are often related to specific personal circumstances or are based on subjective reports from the affected person. Although human subjects are used widely in the study of sleep and sleep disorders, the study of animals has been invaluable in developing our understanding about the physiology of sleep and the underlying mechanisms of sleep disorders. Historically, the use of animals for the study of sleep disorders has arguably been most fruitful for the condition of narcolepsy, in which studies of dogs and mice revealed previously unsuspected mechanisms for this condition. The current overview considers animal models that have been used to study 4 of the most common human sleep disorders-insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea-and summarizes considerations relevant to the use of animals for the study of sleep and sleep disorders. Animal-based research has been vital to the elucidation of mechanisms that underlie sleep, its regulation, and its disorders and undoubtedly will remain crucial for discovering and validating sleep mechanisms and testing interventions for sleep disorders.