6 most common sleep disorders

June 21, 2022
Reading time: 9min

Not getting enough sleep affects our quality of life. Sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy,
sleepwalking, and sleep apnea may affect our mental health, weight, relationships, and productivity
levels. Moreover, long-term sleep disorders can lead to diabetes, depression, and heart disease. So, to
be better at being awake, we constantly have to trace how good we are at sleep.


Not getting enough sleep affects our quality of life. Sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy,
sleepwalking, and sleep apnea may affect our mental health, weight, relationships, and productivity
levels. Moreover, long-term sleep disorders can lead to diabetes, depression, and heart disease. So, to
be better at being awake, we constantly have to trace how good we are at sleep.

What causes sleep disorders?

Every one of us can experience some kind of sleeping difficulties from time to time. Sometimes, we all
undergo some stressful times, at work or personal level, that may mess up our circadian rhythm.
According to experts, you should sleep at least 7-9 hours per night to get enough rest. People who suffer
from sleep deprivation tend to sleep less, use their mobiles at night and bring their work laptops athome. Over time, this kind of lifestyle will definitely affect our quality of life and sleep. Also, sleep
quality can be deteriorated by the delicate need to frequently use the bathroom or physical pain.

Your sleeping difficulty may refer to a sleep disorder if:
1. You can´t sleep all night, your sleep is disrupted and you wake up often, or are unable to fall
2. You are constantly tired and feel the need to take daily naps – even after getting enough hours
of sleep at night.
3. You struggle with staying awake while working, learning, watching television, or reading.
4. Your concentration and productivity levels are down, and you have hard time sticking with your
5. You experience sleeping problems regularly, daily, or several times a month.
The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, sleepwalking and sleep-
related movement disorders, restless legs syndrome, and REM sleep behavior disorder.


Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. Basically, insomnia means that your circadian
rhythm is not functioning the way it should. The main symptoms of insomnia include problems with
falling asleep and staying asleep. People with insomnia may often wake up during the night, toss and
turn before falling asleep, or wake up too early and feel fatigued in the daytime.
Insomnia reduces the quality of sleep. Nearly 50% of adults have experienced occasional insomnia. For
one in 10, this is a long-term problem. Short-term insomnia can be caused by stressful times, staying up
late, watching TV or mobile screen before sleep, and by environmental factors such as excessive light,

noise, or heat. Long-term insomnia is a more serious condition and may need a special treatment. The
chronic condition contributes to depression, long-term stress, or discomfort at night.


People with narcolepsy experience uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime. These
episodes may occur at any time of any day, at the meetings, after lunch, while watching TV, or even
while chatting with your partner or friends.
Narcolepsy is caused by the brain disorder. With narcolepsy, the brain is unable to regulate the rhythm
of sleep and awake. While normally the sleep cycle starts with light sleep phase, which is followed then
by deep sleep and REM sleep, then with narcolepsy syndrome, you will fall straight to REM sleep, where
dreams will happen.
The first signs of narcolepsy usually show up between the ages of 15-25. In many cases, narcolepsy is left undiagnosed.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can affect children as well as adults. Sleep apnea refers to a condition in which your breathing
is disrupted at night. This literally means that while at sleep, you may have hard times breathing or
might even stop breathing for a little while. The cause behind the sleep apnea is the narrowing or
blockage of the upper airway.
Sleep apnea is related to being overweight and is more prevalent in people with a neck circumference
over 40 cm. Another trigger of sleep apnea may be the amount of alcohol consumed before bedtime.
Risk factors are snoring and chronic conditions of the upper respiratory tract.
Sleep apnea may cause headaches in the morning and low levels of productivity and concentration. If
you experience this kind of breathing difficulties, you will need definitely to call your doctor, because if
your body consumes permanently less oxygen than it actually needs, it can lead to more serious health


Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is familiar to many of us. This sleep disorder is more common in children and teenagers, although adults may also experience sleepwalking from time to time. Sleepwalking takes place in the deep sleep phase and usually we don´t remember it in the morning. Examples include getting up in the middle of the night, getting dressed, heading to the kitchen,
or eating. Adults may also experience driving a car while sleepwalking, which can be really dangerous.
Sleepwalking may develop as a result of chronic sleep deprivation.

Also, genetics play a role, along with stress, certain medications, and alcohol consumption. To prevent sleepwalking, you should review your sleep schedule and make sure you will get enough quality sleep. It is also important to find out, what is behind these sleepwalking episodes and why this kind of sleep disorders occur. When talking about children, no special treatment is usually needed and sleepwalking episodes will stop in time as kids grow older.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that gives you every now and then the feeling that you need to
move your legs. This is a nervous system disorder and is commonly associated with pregnancy in
women. Also, you may experience restless legs at night while you are under a lot of stress, or you are
not working out or spending time outdoors enough. Stimulants, such as coffee and alcohol may also
contribute to this syndrome.
Sleep-related movement disorders can be quite tiresome, especially when these happen at night, while
you are dreaming of a good night´s sleep. The urge to move your legs constantly and unintentionally
makes it difficult to fall asleep, which also affects your sleep and awake rhythm and inner body clock.
Often, people with restless legs syndrome need to walk around at night or get up from bed and shake
their legs to get rid of this sensation. This, in turn, can be associated with problems like feeling dizzy in
the daytime, irritability, and low productivity, because your body didn´t have enough chance to restore
itself during the night and sleep.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM sleep, also known as the dreaming phase, is an important part of our sleep cycle. During this phase,
usually, our brain is active, and the body is calm and rested. But, with REM sleep behavior disorder your
body is not relaxed. Instead, it works with the same intensity as the brain. This basically means that
instead of “watching your dreams,” your whole body, including your arms and legs, will vividly respond
to your dreams.
Often, dreams with REM sleep behaviour disorder are negative. This can lead to shouting or crying for
help at night. Because your body is tense, your feet and hands may move abruptly. In worst cases, you
may even hit your partner. Unlike sleepwalking, with REM sleep behaviour disorder a person is usually
aware of his or her movements and remembers the episode in the morning.
REM sleep behaviour disorder occurs mainly in men over the age of 50 and may co-exist with more
serious mental health problems. This kind of sleep disorders may also appear with alcohol withdrawal or
while taking antidepressants.

How sleep disorders can be treated?

If you experience sleep disorders, you may not always need a special treatment, but rather some
changes in your life, to alleviate symptoms. To overcome your problems with sleep, it is important to
review your sleep-awake schedule or your circadian rhythm and make changes in your lifestyle, if

One of the first steps is to make sure you get enough sleep every night. Raising awareness of sleep
disorders and how they affect our daily life can also be helpful and of course, taking care of your health
in general.
Here are some more tips, on how to relieve and prevent sleep disorders:
1. Check your bedroom – it should be comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark and should be used only
for sleep and intimate moments. Remember, no eating, working, or watching television while in
2. Stick with your routine – to keep up with your circadian rhythm, you should go to bed and wake
up at the same time every day.
3. Try a relaxing routine before bed – take a warm bath, listen to music, meditate or read.
4. Avoid going to bed with a negative mindset – while heading to bed, leave all frustrating
emotions behind.
5. Get regular exercise in the mornings or afternoons – physical activity is absolutely essential. If
you have trouble with sleeping, avoid working out 2-3 hours before bedtime.
6. Minimize the noise – the bedroom should be quiet at all times. If you happen to live right next
to noisy traffic, try using background sounds like white noise or earplugs.
7. Minimize the light in your bedroom – yup, that means putting away all your tablets and phones.
8. If you struggle with light coming from windows, try a sleep mask or blackout curtains. Blackout
curtains also help to control the temperature, as they block direct sunlight.
9. Manage the heat – recommended temperature in the bedroom is around 15 to 22 degrees
Celsius. If warm nights are expected, then pay attention to your bedding – the best bed linen
and blankets are made of breathable fibers like sateen or bamboo that won´t make you sweat at
night. High-quality sateen bedlinen have a smart feature to transfer the moisture from your skin
to the upper layers, keeping you cool and comfortable all night.
10. Exchange your blanket and your pillow – pay attention to your blanket, the fabric should be
breathable, allergy-free and non-toxic. Choose the pillow, that will adjust to your sleeping
position and offers support while you are sleeping on your back, or stomach.

In case your experience sleep-related movement disorders and restless legs, you may get some
relief from using the weighted blanket, which offers your body moderate pressure, that will
calm you down.

If sleeping disorders are permanent, you should consult with your health care provider or a sleep
specialist who will examine your overall health, symptoms and provide a treatment plan. Also, you may
be asked to keep a sleeping diary or undergo a sleep study.
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