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What are the most common sleep disorders? Your list of sleep disorders

We all have the occasional bad night of sleep. 

Maybe you’re up all night worrying about a work thing you need to do the next day. Perhaps you’ve been studying for that big final exam, or you’ve been watching a little too much Netflix. 

Whatever the reason, you wake up feeling groggy and tell yourself you’re going to go to bed early to make up for your bad behaviour. Simple. 

Unfortunately, things aren’t always that easy. 

Some people don’t just have one bad night of rest — they have endless. 

Sleep disorders refer to recurring problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep that you get. 

The more you deal with these disorders, the more you suffer from side effects caused by sleep deprivation.

The most common sleep disorders include things like insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. 

However, the list of sleep disorders keeps getting longer as scientists continue to explore unique elements in the way that we snooze. 

If you’re concerned that you might be having an issue with your sleep schedule, then you may want to spend some time getting to know the different types of sleep disorders that exist.

Most Common Sleep Disorders

Common sleep disorders? How many people have a disorder?

The first thing that you need to know, is that plenty of people have sleep disorders.

You’re definitely not alone in your suffering. 

Estimates predict that anywhere up to 70 million people have a sleep disorder in America alone

Around the world, problems with sleep are an epidemic. They cause everything from lapses in concentration to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease. 

If you or a loved one is spending their days feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it’s likely that sleep disorders could be the culprit. The best thing you can do in this case is speak to a doctor or sleep specialist to get to the root of your problem. 

After all, there are many different types of sleep disorders. Just as each problem comes with its own selection of specific symptoms to understand, they also come with their own treatment options too. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that although sleep disorders are pretty common, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

The government in the US estimates that 30% of the adults in the country have a disorder that leads to an impact on their mortality and disability. 

While a lack of sleep is unlikely to kill you, it can make you more prone to significant problems, including heart issues, diabetes, and even mental illness. Many psychiatric illnesses like depression and anxiety are exacerbated by sleep disorders. 

An introduction to the types of sleep disorders

There are dozens of different common sleep disorders out there. 

To help identify and treat each condition, doctors and the academies of sleep medicine often classify disorders into common categories, such as: 

  • Insomnia: Problems with getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • Circadian rhythm disorders: Otherwise known as sleep/wake disorders, when people don’t fall asleep or wake up at appropriate times. 
  • Hypersomnias: This causes people to be extremely sleepy during the day. 
  • Parasomnias: Events and experiences that happen when sleeping, falling asleep, or waking up — like night terrors or sleepwalking. 
  • Movement disorders: problems that occur before or during sleep that affect restful sleep, such as teeth grinding or RLS (restless leg syndrome)
  • Breathing disorders: Abnormal breathing that affects the quality of your sleep, like sleep apnea. 

Let’s take a look at the types of sleep disorders in closer detail. 

Most Common Sleep Disorders

What are some common sleep disorders? Insomnia

Ask anyone “what are some common sleep disorders?” and the first thing they’re likely to mention is insomnia. Insomnia is easily the most common sleep disorder, affecting around 10% of adults chronically, and 25% acutely. 

In any list of sleep disorders, insomnia is one of the better-known issues. However, it’s also one of the more complicated options too. 

That’s because insomnia can take many forms. Some people have problems falling asleep, others can’t stay asleep once they’ve dozed off, and some just wake up constantly. 

There are also some specific kinds of insomnia — like fatal familial insomnia. This is a rare kind of sleep disorder that runs in families. It can be life-threatening. 

Despite being one of the most common sleep disorders, insomnia can still be very detrimental. It commonly leads to symptoms of sleep deprivation.

People can have issues concentrating at work and problems with motivation and depression. 

On the positive side, if you suffer from insomnia, something as simple as improving your sleep hygiene could be the cure. Making lifestyle changes like avoiding electronic devices at night could instantly give you a better night’s sleep. 

In other cases, your doctor may discover that your insomnia is caused by a deeper, underlying condition that requires additional treatment. 

Either way, working with a specialist will help you to overcome your condition much faster. 

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders: Circadian disorders

Otherwise known as sleep/wake disorders, circadian rhythm sleeping problems are another common issue among problem sleepers. These conditions arise from problems with your biological clock. 

We all have a natural sleep/wake cycle that tells us when to be alert and when to feel sleepy. However, things like shift work, jet lag, or even blindness can disrupt that rhythm. 

When your circadian rhythm is out of balance, your ability to fall asleep and wake up at the right time is jeopardized. 

People suffering from these common sleep disorders have trouble waking up and going to sleep at appropriate times. What’s more, they may not be able to move through all of the natural stages of sleep properly. 

A lot of people say that living with a sleep/waking disorder is a lot like trying to get by when you have permanent jet lag. 

The symptoms of a circadian rhythm disorder can vary a lot. They usually include things like a lack of energy, general exhaustion, and problems with concentration. You might find that you’re more likely to suffer from feelings of isolation and depression too. 

One of the most common sleep disorders caused by your circadian rhythm is jet lag. That’s what happens when you travel rapidly from one time zone to another. The sunlight patterns are different to what you’re used to at home. 

Usually, this problem goes away after a couple of days. 

Lifestyle can cause more long-term circadian rhythm disorders. For instance, shift workers are unable to get sunlight at the right time.

Light therapy, melatonin, and several other methods are the main treatment of these disorders.

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders: Hypersomnias

When it comes to understanding the types of sleep disorders you may experience, it’s often easiest to think of hypersomnia as the opposite of insomnia.

While individuals with insomnia have a hard time getting enough sleep, people with hypersomnia sleep a lot longer than they should

Individuals with hypersomnia often get at least 9 hours of sleep each day, but they still don’t feel rested when they wake up.

Excessive sleepiness caused by hypersomnia can sometimes be linked to other disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which prevent restful sleep. 

However, idiopathic hypersomnia exists independently of any circadian rhythm or environmental disturbances. Doctors aren’t sure what causes idiopathic hypersomnia at this time. 

Narcolepsy is a very well-known kind of hypersomnia on our list of sleep disorders. 

This rare lifelong condition is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. Some people even experience sudden sleep attacks during the day, including hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. 

Neurological issues in the brain causes narcolepsy. 

If you struggle with narcolepsy, then you may have other symptoms too, such as cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone. Cataplexy can cause people to physically collapse in response to physical stimuli or emotional reactions. 

Sleep paralysis is another common symptom of narcolepsy; however, it can also occur with no connection to narcolepsy at all. 

Sleep paralysis in small doses is one of the most common sleep disorders, affecting around 25% of people at least once in their lives. 

Though it’s very common, sleep paralysis is one of the scarier types of sleep disorders, because it may leave you trapped, unable to move, and experiencing hallucinations for a few seconds. This leaves some people feeling as though they’re in a waking nightmare. 

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders: Parasomnias

The term parasomnia comes from the Latin “around sleep”.

When you’re trying to understand the common types of sleep disorders, it’s best to think of parasomnias as anything that involves abnormal sleep behaviours. 

Possible conditions may include:

  • Sleep paralysis: When you’re unable to move, but alert when waking up or falling asleep. 
  • Sleepwalking: When you stand up and move around during non-REM sleep
  • Exploding head syndrome: When you hear sudden or loud noises that jolt you awake.
  • REM behavior disorder: When you move around or yell out during sleep.
  • Night terrors: Where you scream, appear panicked, or experience extreme fear during the stage between NREM and REM sleep.

Experts believe that around 66% of adults will experience some kind of parasomnia at some point during their lives.

Some common sleep disorders caused by parasomnias are more common during childhood, such as bedwetting and sleepwalking. 

Other behaviours can persist throughout your life, like REM behavioral disorder, and sleep paralysis. 

In certain cases, the underlying causes of these types of sleep disorders can be another condition, like sleep apnea. 

Doctors will often seek out the cause of your parasomnia when giving treatment, and recommend safety precautions, like locking doors in case of sleepwalking. 

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders: Movement disorders

We’ve already spoken about some of the types of sleep disorders that can include movement — such as sleepwalking. However, there are a whole category of issues related to movements that occur during sleep. 

For instance:

  • Sleep bruxism: A condition characterised by unconscious grinding of the teeth.
  • Restless leg syndrome: An issue that includes uncomfortable sensations in the lower legs when you’re lying down. The only way to relieve the problem is to move your legs.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder: Characterised by repetitive movements during periods of non-REM sleep. 

Sleep-related movement disorders, like many of the most common sleep disorders, are problematic because they often lead to sleep deprivation. 

These issues make it difficult for you to enjoy a full and restful night of sleep, because you’re constantly moving around.

Bruxism and other types of sleep disorders that involve regular movement can cause damage to the teeth and muscles. 

Sleep movement disorders are a little rarer than some of the other common issues that we’ve discussed on our list of sleep disorders. However, they often go undiagnosed, because many people don’t realise that they’re a victim. 

The only way you’d notice that you had PLMD, for instance, is if a partner told you about it. 

The good news is that there are treatment options, including weighted blankets and dental devices that protect your teeth and jaw during sleep. 

Psychotherapy may also be useful, as stress can contribute to or worsen these conditions. 

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders: Breathing disorders

Snoring is one of the most common sleep disorders.

However, most people don’t realise that they’re experiencing a disorder at all. 

Snoring happens because your throat is closing slightly when you’re asleep. If your throat closure is bad enough that it cuts off your breathing even for just a few seconds – then you’re going to have more problems. 

When your breathing stops as you sleep, this is called sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a chronic and sometimes serious medical condition. People with sleep apnea can stop breathing for extended periods of time  — multiple times in an hour. 

This makes the energy levels in your blood drop, and it also forces you to pull yourself out of deep sleep so you can breathe again. 

Breathing interruptions and apneas can be caused by different factors, including obstructions in your upper airway. When obstructions get in the way, this is called obstructive sleep apnea. 

The other form of sleep apnea that you may encounter is central sleep apnea — which is caused by the central nervous system. 

Sleep apnea and the problematic sleep that it causes can worsen other medical conditions, including heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. This condition can also lead to serious consequences, like heart failure, and strokes

Unfortunately, sleep apnea and other common sleep disorders caused by breathing problems are often difficult to diagnose. You won’t necessarily know when these problems are happening, unless your partner informs you of them. 

If you do experience any symptoms of sleep apnea, including loud snoring, it’s important to take it very seriously. Seeking assistance from a doctor is crucial, as your sleep apnea can cause a number of very serious side effects. 

Although snoring won’t always mean sleep apnea, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Diagnosing common sleep disorders

You may assume that most common sleep disorders are difficult to diagnose, because they happen when you’re sleeping. That means that you can’t necessarily keep track of what’s going on yourself. 

However, medical professionals and sleep specialists have a variety of tools that they can use to detect sleep issues. 

The first step of diagnosing a sleep disorder often starts with you going to your doctor, suspecting that you may have a problem. You might notice that you’re always exhausted, or having a hard time getting to sleep each night. 

Sometimes, your family member will alert you to your sleep issue. If you sleep with a partner, there’s a good chance that they’re going to notice if you’re getting up to walk around every night, for instance. 

Once you consult a doctor about your sleep issue, they’ll ask you to keep a diary. This will help them to compare your symptoms to some of the most common sleep disorders.

They’ll also ask you some questions about your sleep hygiene and may provide advice on how to improve your sleep strategy. 

If you and your doctor notice something abnormal in your sleep, you may be sent to a clinic for a sleep study. 

Sleep studies allow experts to perform various tests on you to diagnose your disorder. This might include having a polysomnogram, which is when you’re asked to stay at a clinic overnight. Your heart rate, brain waves, and breathing are monitored. 

Although having a sleep study might seem like a scary thing at first, it’s usually a very comfortable and simple procedure. It will help your doctor to determine what kind of common sleep disorders you might be suffering from. 

Additionally, it ensures that you’re not left to tackle the problem on your own if you’re dealing with a very dangerous kind of sleep disorder. 

Remember, even if your sleep problem isn’t caused by something as potentially life-threatening as sleep apnea, anything that causes you to suffer from the symptoms of sleep deprivation can diminish your quality of life. 

The less sleep you get, the more dangerous the world around you becomes, as you’ll be more clumsy, prone to accidents, and susceptible to illness. 

The quicker you can get to the bottom of your sleep issue, the faster you can find a solution. 

Narrowing down your list of sleep disorders

The unfortunate truth is that most sleep disorders are a lot more common than you may think. Many of us experience trouble with our sleep at one time or another. Usually, that issue is caused by something simple, like travel, stress, or illness. 

A temporary interruption to your sleep routine might not be too much of a problem. However, if sleep disorders become a common occurrence, they’ll often begin to interfere with your daily life, and make it difficult for you to live happily. 

Common sleep disorders can be a frustrating and debilitating thing for anyone to face. When you sleep badly at night, you feel exhausted through the day. The limited energy that you have quickly drains, and you have trouble managing your mood, productivity, and efficiency. 

Gradually, ignoring sleep problems can lead to weight gain, impaired performance at your job, and strained or damaged relationships. 

To feel our best, we all need plenty of high-quality sleep. Rest isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity for all life. 

If you’ve been struggling with sleep problems — whether it’s been months or just a couple of days, the best thing you can do is seek help from a doctor or specialist. Professionals can help you to better understand the most common sleep disorders, and how they might affect you. 

What’s more, your doctor will help you to find the right treatment strategy for your condition, so you can get back to having a good sleep routine in no time. 

In the meantime, why not check out our website for more tips and guidance on how to manage common sleeping disorders?

Siestio. Sleep Matters. 

Medical disclaimer
You must not rely on the information provided on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other healthcare professionals. For more information read our full disclaimer here.

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