5 Common types of sleep disorders

September 29, 2020 4 mins read
5 Common types of sleep disorders

If you can hardly remember the last time you had six to eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, then you could be suffering from one of these common sleeping disorders.

A continued lack of sleep can affect your thinking and concentration, disturb your metabolism and lead to weight gain. If that’s not enough, sleep deprivation can also make you moody, irritable and emotional – and it can put you in danger of serious illness (from a weakened immune system) and heighten the risk of accidents.

Are you one of the millions of adults in the U.S. that are regularly not getting enough quality shut-eye? Sleep specialists have identified over 70 sleep disorders and of these, there are five common types. Read on to find out which sleeping disorders could be robbing you of quality sleep – and what you can do to get back to bed to enjoy a good night’s rest.

What causes sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders can be caused by physical, medical, psychological or environmental effects.

Physical causes

You could be struggling to sleep because of migraines or have chronic pain from an ailment like arthritis. Perhaps you have sleep apnea, a classic sleep-stealer. Genetics can also affect your sleep patterns as some sleeping disorders, like narcolepsy, are inherited. And then there’s aging. Most adults over the age of 65 grapple with one or more sleep disorders.

Medical causes

People who have a chronic illness like diabetes, heartburn, kidney disease, thyroid disease, respiratory problems like TB, and neurological disorders can battle with sleeping disorders.


Besides the general stresses of everyday life, chronic mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect your ability to sleep and cause insomnia.


Is your room well ventilated? Do you have a partner who snores? How much time do you spend on your phone or watch TV before bed? Do you work odd hours and have an irregular sleeping schedule? All of this and more (think: diet, exercise and alcohol) can affect your sleeping health and, over time, lead to a more serious sleeping disorder.

5 Common types of sleep disorders

There’s a good chance that you will experience sleep issues at some point in your life. If your sleeplessness persists, it may be due to one of these five common sleep disorders.

1. Sleep apnea

A person with sleep apnea will stop breathing intermittently throughout the night. This is because the muscles of your throat relax, and your tongue can sometimes roll back and block air from freely flowing in and out of your nose and mouth. Sleep apnea is typically treated effectively with CPAP therapy.

2. Restless legs syndrome

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless legs syndrome causes an urge to frequently move your legs as you sleep because of an uncomfortable sensation. By moving or getting up to take a short walk, you can ease the discomfort.

3. Narcolepsy

A rare brain disorder, narcolepsy causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at any time. The illness is characterized by a loss of muscle control and feeling extremely sleepy during the day.

4. REM sleep behavior disorder

We spend 20 to 25% of our sleep in the rapid eye movement cycle, in which we dream the most. To prevent us from acting out our dreams, we are temporarily paralyzed. However, people with REM sleep behavior disorder miss this crucial step and can physically respond to vivid dreams (think kicking, punching and shouting).

5. Insomnia

Have you ever spent the whole night tossing and turning, unable to sleep? If this happens often, you may have a case of insomnia. This common sleeping disorder is also characterized by waking up earlier than intended and feeling lethargic and drowsy in the daytime.

Diagnosing a sleep disorder

If you are displaying any symptoms of a sleeping disorder, or your poor sleep quality is affecting your life, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a sleep study to investigate the cause of the problem.

During a polysomnography sleep study, sleep experts will monitor your sleep. It’s one of the best ways to identify sleeping disorders and find the right treatment to help you reclaim control of your sleep.