Sleep Disorder: Definition, Types, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Many of us experience trouble sleeping at one time or another, usually due to stress, travel, illness, or other temporary interruptions to our routine. Still, if trouble sleeping is a regular occurrence and interferes with your daily life, you may have a sleep disorder.

The disorders of sleep cause more than just daytime sleepiness; it can seriously affect your mental and physical health, which can cause problems with memory, weight gain, and impact on your energy and mood, but do not have to live with a problem to sleep.

What is a sleep disorder?

It is a medical disorder of the sleeping patterns of a person or animal, also called somnipathy; However, it is normal for you to experience difficulties sleeping from time to time; it is not customary to have problems sleeping at night, waking up tired or feeling sleepy during the day. Some are severe enough to interfere with routine physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning; polysomnography and actigraphy are commonly requested tests for some sleep disorders.

Having trouble sleeping can often be a frustrating and debilitating experience; you sleep poorly at night, leaving you feeling dead tired in the morning and your energy draining quickly throughout the day. But then, no matter how tired you feel at night, you still have trouble sleeping, and so the cycle begins anew, taking a severe toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress.

Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can harm your physical health and lead to weight gain, accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and strain on your relationships. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform to your potential, sleep quality is a necessity, not a luxury.

Sleep Disorder

Types of sleep disorder


It is the inability to sleep well at night; it can be caused by stress, a health problem, the medications you take, or even the amount of coffee you drink; it can also be caused by other sleep or mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.

People who have insomnia may have trouble falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem that affects your daytime activities. Read more about insomnia.

Sleep apnea

It is a common (and treatable) sleep disorder. Your breathing temporarily stops during sleep, waking up frequently; if you have apnea, you may not remember these awakenings, but you will likely feel exhausted during the day, irritable and depressed, or your productivity declines. It is a severe and life-threatening sleep disorder, so you should see a doctor and learn what you can do to help yourself.

It can cause severe daytime sleepiness; if left untreated, severe sleep apnea can be associated with high blood pressure and stroke and heart attack risk. Read the complete content on sleep apnea. 

Restless Leg Syndrome

The sleep disorder causes an almost irresistible urge to move your legs (or arms) at night; the desire to move occurs when you are resting or lying down and is usually due to uncomfortable, tingling, painful, or crawling sensations. However, there are many ways to help manage and relieve symptoms, including self-help remedies that you can use at home—more information on restless leg syndrome


It involves excessive and uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. It is caused by a dysfunction of the brain mechanism that controls sleep and wakefulness. If you have narcolepsy, you may have “sleep attacks” in the middle of talking, working, or even driving. Although there is no cure yet, a combination of treatments can help control symptoms and allow you to enjoy many everyday activities. Learn more about narcolepsy. 


They are terrifying dreams that arise during REM sleep; they can be caused by stress, anxiety, and drugs. Often, there is no apparent cause. Read more about nightmares.

Sleep paralysis

It is a temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you wake up or sleep; it is simply a sign that your body is not moving smoothly through sleep. An episode can last seconds or minutes and usually ends independently; it can accompany other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy (a problem with the brain’s ability to regulate sleep)—complete content on sleep paralysis


It originates during deep sleep and results in walking while asleep; it is not a severe disorder, although people can be injured during sleepwalking. It is much more common in children than adults and is more likely to occur if a person is asleep deprived. Learn more about sleepwalking.

What are the symptoms of sleep disorders?

Symptoms can vary depending on the severity and type of sleep disorder; they can also change when they result from another condition. However, general symptoms include:

  • Difficulty falling or falling asleep.
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Strong urge to nap during the day.
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Depression.

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Many conditions, diseases, and disorders can cause sleep disturbance. In many cases, they develop due to an underlying health problem.

Allergies and respiratory problems

Allergies, colds, and upper respiratory infections can make breathing hard at night. The inability to breathe through the nose can also cause sleeping difficulties.


Nocturnia or frequent urination can interrupt your sleep upon waking during the night. Hormonal imbalances and urinary tract diseases can contribute to the development of this condition. (Be sure to call your doctor right away if frequent urination is accompanied by bleeding or pain.)

Chronic pain

Constant pain can make it difficult to fall asleep. It might even wake you up after falling asleep. Some of the more common causes of chronic pain include:

  • Arthritis.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Persistent headaches
  • Continuous low back pain.

Stress and anxiety

They often hurt sleep quality; it can be challenging to fall asleep or fall asleep. Nightmares talks about being asleep or sleepwalking can also disrupt your sleep.

How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

Your doctor will first perform a physical exam and gather information about your symptoms and medical history; they will also order various tests, including:

  • Polysomnography: This sleep study evaluates oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves to determine how they disrupt sleep.
  • Electroencephalogram: This test evaluates electrical activity in the brain and detects any potential problems associated with this activity.
  • Genetic blood tests:  It is a blood test commonly used to diagnose narcolepsy and other underlying health conditions that could be causing sleep problems.

These tests can be crucial in determining the correct course of treatment for sleep disorders.

Sleep disorder treatment

Medications and somatic treatments can provide the fastest symptomatic relief from some sleep disturbances; specific disorders such as narcolepsy are best treated with prescription drugs, such as modafinil.

Medical treatment for sleep disorders may include any of the following:

  • Sleeping pills.
  • Melatonin supplements.
  • Allergy or cold medicine.
  • Medications for any underlying health problems.
  • Breathing device or surgery (usually for sleep apnea).
  • A dental guard (usually for grinding teeth).

Changes in lifestyle

Lifestyle adjustments can significantly improve sleep quality, especially when done in conjunction with medical treatments. You may want to consider:

  • Incorporate more vegetables and fish into your diet and reduce your sugar intake.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety by exercising.
  • Creating and sticking to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Drink less water before going to bed.
  • Limiting your caffeine intake, especially in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Decreasing the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
  • Eat smaller low-carb foods before bed.
  • Going to bed and waking up simultaneously each day can also significantly improve the quality of your sleep; you may be tempted to sleep on the weekends, and it may be more challenging to wake up and fall asleep during the workweek.

When to call a doctor?

If you’ve tried a variety of self-help remedies without success, make an appointment with a sleep specialist or ask your family doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic, especially if:

  • Her main sleep problem is daytime sleepiness, and self-help has not improved her symptoms.
  • You choke or stop breathing while you sleep.
  • Sometimes they fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as talking, walking, or eating.

Provide your doctor with as much supporting information as possible, including information from your sleep diary.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.