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Sleep Disorders


Snoring is the sound that can occur during breathing while asleep, and is caused by the flow of air vibrating the tissues in the back of your throat. Snoring can be a nuisance to your partner and anyone else nearby. You may even snore loudly enough to wake yourself up, although in many cases people do not realize that they snore.

Snoring can also cause you to have a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up. Light snoring may not disrupt your overall sleep quality. Heavy snoring may be associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder and a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. When you fall asleep, the muscles of the upper airway relax, causing the airway to become blocked and limiting the amount of air that reaches your lungs. When this happens, you may snore loudly or making choking noises as you try to breathe. Your brain and body becomes oxygen deprived and you may wake up. This may happen a few times a night, or in more severe cases, several hundred times a night.

Sleep apnea can make you wake up in the morning feeling tired or unrefreshed. During the day, you may feel fatigued, have difficulty concentrating or you may even fall asleep unintentionally. The lack of oxygen your body receives can have negative long-term consequences for your health, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.


Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that causes you to feel overwhelmingly tired, and in severe cases, have sudden uncontrollable sleep attacks. Narcolepsy can impact nearly every aspect of your life. It is dangerous because you can have excessive sleepiness or a sleep attack at any time of the day, in the middle of any activity, including eating, walking or driving. Operating a vehicle with untreated narcolepsy can be very dangerous and is illegal in some states.

Narcolepsy may be associated with cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone while you are awake. This may lead to slurred speech and buckling knees, or in more severe cases complete paralysis. These events are usually triggered by strong emotions such as joy, surprise, laughter or anger.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by an overwhelming urge to move your legs. RLS makes it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. You may lie down and begin to feel burning or itching inside your legs. If you move your legs or get up and walk around, these symptoms may go away. The discomfort may return when you try to go to sleep again. Many people with RLS get less than five hours of sleep per night.

The accumulated sleep loss from RLS can make you excessively sleepy during the daytime, cause you to be irritable and make concentration difficult. This may have a major impact on your professional and personal life. People with RLS are more likely to have depression or anxiety.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a sleep disorder where the patient moves limbs involuntarily during sleep. This can range from a small amount of movement in the ankles and toes, to wild flailing of all four limbs. PLMD should not be confused with restless legs syndrome, which occurs while awake as well as when asleep, and when awake, there is a voluntary response to an uncomfortable feeling in the legs.

PLMD on the other hand is involuntary, and the patient is often unaware of these movements altogether. Patients with PLMD will complain of excessive daytime sleepiness, trouble falling asleep at night, and difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.


Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint and it can be a symptom of a condition or a disorder of its own. It involves trouble falling asleep, remaining asleep, and waking up too early in the morning. The effects of insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of one’s life, including daytime energy levels, health, mood, and thinking. Although almost everyone has an occasional poor night of sleep, some individuals experience repeated nights of problems sleeping.

A psychologist specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) or a physician experienced in sleep disorders can help patients resolve their insomnia and identify other sleep conditions contributing to one’s insomnia.

Learn more about our Insomnia Program ›


Parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders that involve unwanted events or experiences that occur while you are falling asleep, sleeping or waking up. Parasomnias may include abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions or dreams. Although the behaviors may be complex and appear purposeful to others, you remain asleep during the event and often have no memory that it occurred.

If you have a parasomnia, you may find it hard to sleep through the night. Parasomnias include sleepwalking, confusional arousals, night terrors, sleep talking and teeth grinding (bruxism).

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythms are biological processes that are controlled by a “body clock” and work on a daily time scale. These affect body temperature, alertness and appetite, as well as sleep timing.

Circadian rhythm disorders are a family of sleep disorders affecting the timing of sleep. Individuals with circadian rhythm disorders are unable to sleep and awaken at the times required for normal work, school, and social needs. They are generally able to get enough sleep if allowed to sleep and awaken at the times dictated by their body clocks. An example is shift work sleep disorder, which affects people who work nights or rotating shifts.