8 Common (And Terrible) Sleep Disorders

8 Common (And Terrible) Sleep Disorders 2
8 Common (And Terrible) Sleep Disorders 3
Restless girl suffering insomnia looking at you in the bed in the night


People who have experienced trouble sleeping only knows how it can be frustrating. When there is a lack of rest, it affects your brain function, mood, and overall health. Plenty of people are suffering from sleep disorders. It prevents you from getting the much-required amount of sleep.

As a result, you tend to feel tired along with lots of other physical and mental complications. Sleep disorders are associated with obesity, diabetes, memory loss, heart attack, depression, neck pain and more. They are responsible for frustrating nights and difficult mornings. Here are the eight common sleep disorders that impact adults.


According to reports, about one-third of the entire population in America suffers from insomnia. It is a common sleep disorder that affects about 25% of people acutely and 10% of people chronically. Insomnia won’t get you enough sleep and leaves you sleepy all day long. Insomnia takes many forms of disorders.

Some people face problem while falling fast asleep and takes more than 30 minutes before dozing off. Some other wakes up often and have trouble going back to sleep. Insomnia can happen either for a short term (acute) or a long term (chronic). 

If you are having the disorder for 3 nights a week continuously for 3 months, you are suffering from chronic insomnia. There exist several kinds of insomnia including fatal familial insomnia. It is a rare type and runs in families. It makes people stay awake for a prolonged time. It can be life-threatening as well.

People suffering from this sleep disorder have trouble getting a good nights’ sleep, have daytime fatigue, and other indications of sleep deprivation. As aforementioned, some people may experience it for a short period of time, while some others may have to suffer from it for a longer time. 

Some of the main causes of insomnia include high-stress levels, anxiety, medications, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse. If you are suffering from insomnia and want to relieve yourself from this deadly disorder, you need effective and successful treatment. Only such treatment will help you to have a deep sleep without disturbances.

One of the effective treatments for curing any type of insomnia is by CBTI (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia). Another successful treatment that comes handy includes limited usage of prescribed medications for sleep. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in many countries.

Sleep apnea

8 Common (And Terrible) Sleep Disorders 4
Side view portrait of a insomniac girl unable to sleep in the night on a bed

Snoring may appear kind-hearted. It naturally happens when the throat is closing while you are asleep. If it occurs such that the throat closure becomes bad enough to cut off your breathing for some moments, this is treated as a disorder. And, this disorder is called sleep apnea.

It is a more serious cousin to snoring. Sleep apnea is a potentially severe and chronic medical condition. It may amaze you, but a person suffering from sleep apnea tends to stop breathing for about 10 seconds or even more. It occurs multiple times within an hour during sleep. 

When the breathing stops for a few moments, the oxygen levels in the blood tend to drop naturally. The body senses that there has been a drop-in oxygen level. The body reacts to this situation and pulls it from the deep sleep so that the breathing can resume again. 

Sleep apnea or breathing interruptions occurs when there is an obstruction of air in the upper airways. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea. The brain periodically fails to keep up with the breathing as well. This is called central sleep apnea. That’s because it is linked with the central nervous system. 

When a person suffers from sleep apnea, it leads toward a poor-quality sleep. As a result, sleep apnea along with low-quality sleep can give rise to many medical conditions. In addition, it can even worsen certain conditions such as diabetes, heart failures, and hypertension. 

Sleep apnea further leads to severe consequences which may result in heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and sudden death. Sleep apnea is associated with a sleep study called polysomnography. However, the good news is that you can choose from a range of effective treatments. The most popular among them is through a CPAP machine. It keeps the person’s throat open through the stream of air.

RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome)

Restless Legs Syndrome or RLS is a type of neurological movement disorder. It is characterized by an irresistible and strong urge to make movements in your legs while you are sleeping. It may feel like there has been muscle tension, tingling, aching, or crawling sensation through the feet and legs. 

It creates such a sense of discomfort that you may feel the need to get rid of this irritating sensation. All the discomfort tends to vanish in thin air as soon as you stretch, rub, or move your legs. In general, these symptoms appear when you are resting, sleeping, or about to fall asleep. 

Restless legs syndrome will make it almost impossible for you to fall fast asleep, can bring you out of sound sleep, or even wake you from sleep by casting a sense of discomfort. As a result, you may be deprived of having a good quality sleep and have to manage the next day with tiredness. 

Moving your legs will help in relieving the sensations. Walking, stretching and rubbing your legs will be the best option for you. Researchers aren’t quite sure about the occurrence of RLS but have certain theories that show that it is hereditary. Certain medications can cause RLS as well. 

Restless legs syndrome can be triggered by longer sessions of inactivity, obesity, and iron deficiency. Pregnant women tend to suffer from RLS sometimes. RLS may also be associated with other movement disorders called PLMS (periodic limb movements of sleep). RLS is most common in women.

Restless legs syndrome can be treated by including iron supplements in your diet and having properly prescribed medications. RLS can also be treated when you take regular exercise and reduce the consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks. 


It is another sleep disorder caused by ineffective neurological control over alertness and sleep. The most common signs of narcolepsy are sleep paralysis, tiredness, sensorial hallucinations, and cataplexy. A person suffering from narcolepsy will feel excess sleepy during the daytime. This feeling of sleepiness throughout the day may not be good for a person. 

It is seen that people with narcolepsy tend to fall asleep irrespective of any situation and at inappropriate times. Now, it can be an intense situation if a person suddenly falls asleep. Imagine a person falling asleep while driving a car or working through an important assignment. The results would be devastating. 

People who are suffering from this sleep disorder tend to lose control over their muscles in response to bigger and stronger emotions. They are unable to make any movements in their body while transitioning from sleep to wakefulness, and the other way round. That makes an uncomfortable feeling in the person. 

It has been observed that narcolepsy is accompanied by certain additional symptoms. These include sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and cataplexy. Sleep paralysis is the state of your body where it can’t move while falling asleep or waking up. But, during these transitions, you are fully alert. This causes a certain discomfort.

Hypnagogic hallucinations occur as soon as you are trying to fall asleep. During this stage, you begin to dream. But at the same time, you are fully aware and alert of your surroundings. These dreams are often frightening and include tactile, auditory, or visual sensations. Hypnagogic hallucinations are very disturbing.

Cataplexy happens because of a sudden loss in muscle tone. It makes your physique collapse in response to certain things like laughing, excitement, startled, or experiencing a strong emotion. While standing, you may suddenly fall down and unable to move for some time. Sleep testing confirms the diagnosis, and treatment includes medications.

Sleep paralysis

Imagine suddenly waking up in the early morning and can’t move your body. As you have imagined, sleep paralysis is indeed terrifying and horrible. Some people experience this sort of temporary paralysis even while falling asleep. It is a common and frightening sleeping disorder. Sleep paralysis occurs during the transition between being awake and sleep.

There are many people who tend to have hallucinations and that can be frightening as well. You begin to imagine that there is a stranger standing in front of you and within a moment you will get hurt. These hallucinations can be quite confusing because you think that something has happened, but in reality, nothing happened.

When you sleep, your body begins to cycle between different stages of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. You begin to dream during the REM sleep because the brain activity increases. Your body enters a state of paralysis so that it can’t react to the dreams. The voluntary muscles are shut down.

The horrifying visions in the dream are so widespread and popular that people around the world have associated names to these imaginary figures. These include “the shadow man”, “the old hag”, or “incubus”. Sleep paralysis is associated with the tales of abductions done by alien visitors in the US.

Sleep paralysis is a very common sleeping disorder. It has been estimated that about 50% of people will have to go through this horrifying situation once in their lifetime. However, it is interesting to note that only 4% of people have been reported to encounter more than 5 sessions of sleep paralysis. 

Although terrible while experiencing, sleep paralysis is harmless, and people gain movement after a few minutes. Going back to sleep again after such an experience will take some time. Knowing what’s going on will make the situation less scary. In rare cases, a physician may prescribe medications for decreasing episodes of paralysis. 

REM sleep behavior disorder

People who are struggling with REM sleep behavior disorder consider dreaming as physical activity. These people don’t experience any kind of paralysis during REM sleep. However, they tend to act out of violent or intense dreams. As such, this disorder can be very frightening and terrible at the same time.

Instead of taking rest during sleep, people suffering from REM sleep behavior disorder move their hands and legs, leave the bed, and even do certain things they normally do when they are awake. These include walking, hitting, kicking, talking, and yelling. This disorder is very scary and could be dangerous.

The main cause of such uprising is that the mechanism in your brain that prevents your motor movement during sleep, tend to function improperly. As such, there are sudden movements during sleep. This sleep disorder becomes alarming when the person is engaged in acts of violence. People affected by this condition may injure themselves as well.

What’s more frightening is the fact that there is a link between other neurological disorders and REM behavior disorder. According to several studies conducted on this topic, it was found out that this behavioral disorder leads to other neurological disorders. There are chances that about 50% of the patients will have other types of sleep disorders too.

Those may include Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and dementia. The study also highlights the fact that people with REM disorder are very much likely (about 65%) to develop those disorders even after decades or several years since the first symptoms appear.

REM sleep disorder is confused with other types of parasomnias. Hence, for a proper diagnosis, there is a requirement of overnight sleep evaluation. This can only be done in a certified clinic with professionals around. The successful treatment of this medical condition involves medications prescribed by an expert doctor. 


Derived from the Latin word meaning round sleep’, parasomnias are nothing but sleeping disorders that are characterized by frequent abnormal sleep behaviors. They are often associated with other sleep and medical conditions. Parasomnias involve physiological, behavioral, or abnormal events that happen in specific stages of sleep. 

Some of the common forms of parasomnias include sleepwalking, sleep terrors, sleep eat, sleep sex, and REM behavior disorder. Any number of these behaviors can happen when a person is still asleep. However, the basic cause of parasomnias may lie in other sleep conditions like sleep apnea. 

As the name suggests, sleepwalking is a disorder that causes your body to walk while you are asleep. Some other symptoms include difficulty in waking and moving to places during the night. Sleepwalking is basically caused by an inefficient sleep or lack of deep sleep. Some other causes might include illness, fever, or medications.

Other than numerous tales of assault on goods while sleepwalking, an interesting aspect is that it is most common in children. But there aren’t enough explanations on this. It can be assumed that the condition has something to do with brain development. Treatment may include a quiet environment for sleep and maintaining a proper sleep schedule. 

Sleep terrors, on the other hand, are caused by certain medications, illnesses, or sleep deprivation. A person suffering from sleep terrors will scream in a violent tone and have a small burst of body movement during sleep. When a person experiences a session of sleep terror, they aren’t completely awake.

Hence, it becomes extremely hard to calm them down until they waken up. However, nightmares and sleep terrors are not the same. Sleep terrors are simply a notion of danger and fear, whereas nightmares usually have some kind of emotional narrative. Sleep terrors occur mostly in children.

By improving the sleep environment, this disorder can be treated. If the terrors are very intense, mediation is the only way.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

These disorders occur when there are problems with the circadian rhythm. It is the internal body clock that keeps all the biological processes in line. One complete cycle lasts for 24 hours. Circadian are Latin words that mean round the day. Cell regeneration, hormone production, and other activities are connected with the circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm plays an integral role in things like when you are awake or when you are asleep. The normal circadian clock is regulated by the rotation of light and dark in 24 hours. People who are struggling with circadian rhythm disorders have trouble falling and staying in sleep. 

They can’t get back to sleep after waking up too early in the morning and have asleep without the feeling of freshness. There are certain things that can cause circadian rhythm disorders. These include time zones changes, medications, shift work, changes in routine, mental health problems, pregnancy, menopause, and other medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

Some of the common circadian rhythm disorders include jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), shift work sleep disorder, advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS), and sleep-wake disorder. The treatment for this disorder will depend on your specific medical condition. 

The main goal of the treatment is to make adjustments in your sleep patterns into a proper schedule that matches your lifestyle. The treatments include chronotherapy, bright light therapy, lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene, and medications.


The very first step for a successful diagnosis and treatment of a sleep disorder is by consulting a doctor. Effective therapy will help you to sleep and feel better in no time.

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