Sleep Disorders vary in nature and degree. The three major sleep disorders are dyssomnias, hypersomnia and parasomnias

Examples Of Sleep Disorders Include


Insomnia, the sense of not getting enough sleep to awake refreshed, affects 20 to 40 percent of all adults in the course of any year. Although insomnia has myriad causes, it can roughly be divided into three categories: predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating.

Predisposing factors are the built-in characteristics of a person that make him or her vulnerable. Tense or driven people whose heads are brimming with plans or worries can easily lose sleep. Others with severe depression often cannot sleep through the night. In manic disorders, sleeplessness may be important early sign of impending mania in bipolar patients. A few have neurologic or other conditions that affect them mainly at night – restless legs syndrome (for example) or the involuntary twitching of leg muscles (nocturnal myoclonus).

Precipitating factors are events in life that trigger a period of disturbed sleep. Stresses that precipitate insomnia may include an increase in responsibilities, the loss of a loved one, hospitalization or acute pain, to name a few. An abrupt alteration of schedule, resulting from a change of shift at work or jet lag, can also provoke insomnia.

Perpetuating factors are behaviors that help to maintain sleeplessness once it has begun. These include irregular sleep habits and the use of drugs. Abuse of alcohol may cause or be secondary to the sleep disturbance. Heavy smoking (more than a pack a day) causes difficulty in falling asleep. When sleeping pills help, it is mainly with the precipitating causes of insomnia and only then for a relatively brief period of time.

Short-term or transient insomnia is seen in people who have no history of sleep disturbances and who have a fairly obvious precipitating factor. Taking sleeping pills for a short period of time (perhaps a few days) may be helpful in such cases, and there is little controversy about prescribing them to help people through a crisis. However, chronic insomnia (defined as three weeks or more of almost nightly sleep difficulty) is rarely helped by drugs.

Early Awakening

Waking too early may represent a rebound from use of alcohol at bedtime or even from certain types of sleeping pills. It is also a symptom of depression. Some people sink into depression gradually, and feeling blue eventually becomes a chronic way of living. Others focus on poor sleep, telling themselves and others, “Life would be much better if only I could get a decent night’s sleep.”

Sleep Apnea

The word “apnea” means the absence of breathing. During sleep, our breathing changes with the stage or depth of sleep. Some individuals stop breathing for brief intervals, however, when these episodes of apnea become more frequent and last longer, they can cause the body’s oxygen level to decrease, which can disrupt sleep. The patient may not fully awaken, but is aroused from the deep restful stages of sleep, and thus feels tired the next day.

Sleep apnea should be suspected in individuals who are noted to have excessive daytime sleepiness and other symptoms described above, especially if they are known to snore and have a restless sleep. Commonly, these patients have exhibited loud snoring for many years, more often are male, and note that the daytime sleepiness has become a progressive problem over many months. Less commonly, they may be bothered by bedwetting or impotence. The sleep problems are often aggravated by alcohol or sedative medications. They are also more readily noticed by the patient’s family and friends, especially the bed partner.


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder, characterized by excessive sleepiness and accompanied by a series of auxiliary symptoms, typically beginning in adolescence or young adulthood. It affects both sexes approximately equally. The principal symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), cataplexy (loss of muscle tone), hallucinations, sleep paralysis and disrupted nighttime sleep. Doctors also diagnose narcolepsy by measuring how quickly the patient falls asleep and how often rapid eye movements are present at or near the onset of sleep.

Your physician will take a complete medical history, perform a physical exam and may suggest additional tests, including sleep studies.

Treatment varies, depending on the specific sleep disorder, but may include psychologic strategies as well as medications.

  • Good sleeping habits
  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Sleep only in the bedroom.
  • If still awake after 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return when sleepy.
  • Get up at the same time each morning regardless of the amount of sleep during the night.
  • Discontinue caffeine and nicotine in the evening (if not completely).
  • Establish a daily exercise program.
  • Avoid alcohol because it may disrupt continuity of sleep.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques.