Guide To Sleeping Disorders

January 24, 2021

According to the National Institute of Health, up to seventy million Americans toss and turn in their beds at night. Of those who have trouble sleeping, approximately sixty percent of them have a chronic sleeping disorder. When counting sheep at night doesn't help you sleep, it may be worth considering the presence of a sleeping disorder. The first step to a healthier lifestyle and better quality of sleep is understanding precisely what sleeping disorders are and the various types. Start reading for this information now.

What Is A Sleeping Disorder?

First things first, it is paramount to understand 'sleeping disorder' is a broad term, and it actually fits over one hundred types of specific conditions. In an effort to make things easier for everyone, researchers have grouped sleeping disorders into four overarching categories, which are: insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep rhythm problems, and sleep-disruptive behaviors. These conditions are strikingly similar in their causes and health effects on the body, but their symptoms and treatments are often more specific to the actual condition.

Definition Of Main Sleeping Disorders

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a category of disorders causing individuals to sleep often during the day more often than taking the occasional nap. One key example of excessive daytime sleepiness would be narcolepsy, the significant tendency to fall asleep when in relaxing surroundings, regardless of the time. Sleep rhythm problems involve not being able to sleep on a regular, healthy schedule. These can include a delayed sleep pattern (two or more hours delay), advanced sleep pattern (the reverse of delayed, where a person sleeping earlier and wakes earlier than most), and an irregular sleep rhythm (no discernable pattern, in and out of sleep).

Sleep-disruptive behaviors include conditions causing aberrant behaviors while asleep, such as sleepwalking. Insomnia is perhaps what most individuals would first think of when they hear the term 'sleeping disorder.' It is a condition wherein individuals cannot fall or stay asleep.

Causes Of Sleeping Disorders

The causes of various sleep disorders is a lengthy list and include depression, anxiety, bipolar or mood disorders, and thyroid problems. Medications and other chemicals, such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and certain prescription medications, may contribute to insomnia.

Lifestyle plays a major role in causing insomnia, and often changes to these habits are part of the treatment. Taking naps during the day or staying in bed too long while awake can confuse the body. Having irregular sleep patterns, such as working swing shifts, is another potentially significant problem. The body prefers regular routines, and when they're disrupted, sleep can become difficult. Other lifestyle factors can cause sleeping disorders, including a lack of exercise or the use of phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices in bed.

Risk Factors And Dangers

Risk factors for sleep disorders include advanced age (individuals over sixty). Women and seniors are more likely to have sleep disorders due to hormonal changes. Hormones regulate sleep within the body, and during menopause or monthly hormonal cycles, the imbalance of hormonal activity can disrupt normal sleeping patterns. People who travel for their work are also more likely to have sleeping disorders because of extended periods of inactivity and jet-lag, which is another major cause of sleeping disorders.

The body needs sleep just as it needs food and water. Sleeping disorders cause an array of medical problems aside from the obvious fatigue, lethargy, and irritability. Lack of sleep leads to hormonal imbalances and can cause mood disorders including depression and anxiety. The hormonal changes can also trigger weight changes and obesity. If left untreated, sleep disorders can catalyze more serious diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease.


With such broad causes and types of sleeping disorders, treatment is tailored to the individual patient. However, there is a general pattern. For instance, doctors will typically first look to find an underlying cause of the sleeping disorder, which will require treatment for a lasting change. These underlying causes can include mood disorders, as well as thyroid and prostate problems. Doctors often prescribe sleeping aides, and for many patients, medication is a necessity.

Good sleep hygiene can also be a great way to combat and even prevent most sleeping disorders. While the precise amount of sleep needed depends upon the person, the average adult needs six to eight hours of sleep per night. Keeping a regular sleeping pattern, without the distraction of TVs or others screens, will improve the quality of sleep. An overall healthy lifestyle also promotes quality sleep including regular exercise and a healthy diet.

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