Sleep disorders are acknowledged to be common but remain underrecognized by the medical community, often attributed to the failure to question patients about their sleep quality. We examined the prevalence of sleep complaints (insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness) in a group of general medical patients by administering a questionnaire to hospitalized patients in a Veterans Affairs tertiary care medical center. A total of 222 consecutive adults (215 men, 60 +/- 14 years; body mass index, 24.8 +/- 5.6) completed the questionnaire. Of these, 105 patients (47%) had either insomnia, excessive daytime somnolence, or both; 63 (28%) had excessive daytime somnolence, which was severe in 27 (12%). Of 75 patients (34%) who had insomnia, a third were taking hypnotic medication. Forty patients (18%) had snoring, which was associated with excessive daytime somnolence in 36, whereas 46 patients (21%) had either restless legs or a combination of leg jerks and leg kicking or twitching during sleep, associated with a sleep complaint (insomnia in 32). The medical records were subsequently reviewed to assess the admitting physicians' recognition of these symptoms. No record included mention of any patient symptom related to sleep. We conclude that symptoms related to sleep, some of which may be clinically important, are common, and that none of these complaints appear to be recognized by the physicians of record.