Sleep Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Are you grappling with problems related to sleep disorders? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, around 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorders. However, there is absolutely no need to worry about this nagging problem anymore. In this article, we delve deep into sleep disorders, the various types, causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What are sleep disorders?

The term sleep disorders refers to conditions that affect your ability to get the rest required for your body and maintain wakefulness. As a result of sleep disorders, the quality, timing, and quantity or duration of your sleep will be impacted.

What are sleep disorders

There are more than 80 different types of sleep disorders. The most common among them are:

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – This is a kind of sleep movement disorder. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, RLS leads to an uncomfortable sensation and a temptation to move your legs when you attempt to fall asleep.
  • Narcolepsy – In this condition, you feel extreme sleepiness during the day and tend to fall asleep suddenly during the daytime.
  • Shift work sleep disorder – You experience trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. It also leads to sleepiness at unwanted times due to your work schedule.
  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome – Under this condition, it takes at least two hours more than your desired bedtime to fall asleep. You may also experience difficulty waking up on time for school or work.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder –  You act out your dreams while being in the sleep’s rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

What are the causes of sleep disorders?

There are various reasons why you may suffer from sleep disorders. Some of them are:

  • A symptom of a mental health condition. Examples are depression or anxiety disorder.
  • As a result of a side effect of a medication.
  • Genetic factors (a mutation).
  • Working in the night shift.
  • Low levels of certain minerals or chemicals in your brain.
  • Substance use before bedtime. Examples include caffeine or alcohol.
  • An unknown cause.


Some typical symptoms of sleep disorder include:

  • Feeling very sleepy during the daytime. You may also face trouble falling asleep at night.
  • There are some cases where people fall asleep at odd times, say while driving.
  • Breathing in an unusual pattern or experiencing an uncomfortable urge to move while trying to fall asleep.
  • You may go through unusual or bothersome movements or experiences during sleep.
  • Experiencing an irregular sleep and wake cycle.


Treatment for sleep disorders consists of

causes of sleep disorders

a. Light therapy

This is a type of therapy where you sit in front of a light box that emits bright light similar to sunlight. Light visors and light glasses are also used. Light therapy may help adjust the amount of melatonin required by your body to reset your sleep-wake cycle.

b. Orofacial therapy

This involves exercises for your mouth and facial muscles and is found effective in treating sleep apnea in both children as well as adults. 

c. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)

This is a 6- to 8-week treatment plan in which you learn how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Generally recommended as the first treatment option for long-term insomnia, this treatment method can be done by a therapist, healthcare provider, or a nurse.

Some medicines aid you in falling asleep. However, these medicines have side effects and it is not recommended to be taken long-term. Some of the common prescription medicines used include Benzodiazepine receptor agonists, Orexin receptor antagonists, Melatonin receptor agonists, and Benzodiazepines. Off-label medicines that are used for treating other health conditions such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants are also used to treat insomnia. Last but not least, Over-The-Counter (OTC) medicines that contain antihistamines, melatonin supplements, and dietary supplements also help you get sleep.

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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