Common Sleep Disorders

Updated May 27, 2022

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Sleep Problems?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 70 million Americans struggle with some kind of chronic sleep disorder. If you are reading this, you may be suffering from one of the many possible disorders that someone could face. Having your sleep disrupted on a regular basis can harm your overall quality of life.

Certain sleep disorders can be caused by a number of issues including mental health, poor sleep hygiene, and others. If you struggle with mental health, you can check out our page about sleep loss for more help. For others, this page will explore some of the most common sleep disorders and ways to treat them.


Up to one-third of US, adults live with some form of insomnia. Insomnia can come in multiple forms. According to Verywell Health, insomnia can be present in several forms. One form is the issue of falling (taking more than 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep). Another issue is waking up frequently and struggling to fall back to sleep.

There are two types of insomnia, acute and chronic. Acute means that the problem is short-term and usually comes from an identifiable cause. Some examples are stress from a new job or a death in the family.

Chronic insomnia is much more serious and can be diagnosed if your insomnia persists for at least three months occurring three nights per week.

Treatments For Insomnia

The most popular treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This involves making lifestyle changes such as establishing a proper sleep schedule to make sure that you get enough sleep. Changes other than sleep behavior could include eliminating caffeine, or alcohol, especially before bed. If this does not work, talk to your doctor as short-term sleep medication may be needed.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a strong urge to move your legs, generally accompanied by uncomfortable sensations according to Mayo Clinic. These sensations may include aches, burning, tingling, or crawling sensations on your legs. These symptoms are most common when you are resting, sleeping, or trying to fall asleep.

This can cause a lack of sleep. This problem could be genetic, it is also a common side effect for pregnant women, iron deficiency, and certain drugs.

Treatments for RLS

Verywell Health suggests different remedies such as increasing iron intake, weight loss, or possibly certain medication. Check with your doctor before taking medication. Stretching, walking, or rubbing your legs may help during an episode.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that makes you stop breathing while you are sleeping. According to Mayo Clinic, some of the signs of sleep apnea could be loud snoring, waking up with a dry mouth, gasping for air during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Some of the people who are at the highest risk are men, people who are older, struggle with obesity, and people who use certain medications.

There are three different types of sleep apnea.

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea- The more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax. This causes your diaphragm and chest to work harder.

  2. Central sleep apnea- When your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This is related to the function of your central nervous system.

  3. Complex sleep apnea- When someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Diagnosis of sleep apnea can be done after a patient undergoes a sleep study at a sleep clinic. After diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe the patient with a sleep machine such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure, or some other type of machine. Other treatments could include a mouthpiece, surgery, weight loss, or other treatments depending on your doctor’s recommendation.

Predicting Sleep OSA

To predict the severity of OSA, doctors will use the Mallampatie score, this is a method in which patients are given a classification of 1through through depending on the visibility of the soft palate fauces and the uvula. Below are the four classes

Class 1 - Faucial/tonsillar pillars, uvula, and soft palate are all visible. 

Class 2 - Partial visibility of the faucial/tonsillar pillars, uvula, and soft palate. 

Class 3 -  Base of the uvula, soft and hard palate visible.

Class 4 -Only the hard palate is visible.

Someone who is a class 3 will experience moderate difficulty breathing while a class 4 will have more severe difficulty breathing. Class 3 and 4 are usually indicators of OSA. For a visual aid to the Mallampati score check out this page for For a more in-depth look at the Mallampati score, visit The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine website.


If you find yourself frequently nodding off during the day, or having the sudden urge to fall asleep you may struggle with narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy will have difficulty staying awake for long periods of time. The risk is higher in young people ages 10-30 or people with a family history.

Besides feeling tired during the day, there are other symptoms that come with narcolepsy according to Mayo Clinic.

  • Sudden loss of muscle tone - this is a condition called cataplexy which results in muscle weakness mass and slurred. Episodes can vary from once or twice a year to daily and can last up to a few minutes.

  • Sleep paralysis - This is a common symptom for people with narcolepsy. While falling asleep or waking up, people will temporarily be unable to move. Episodes only last a few minutes but they can be frightening. Some people may experience hallucinations. Some might be specific or more confusing.

  • Changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - Transition is made within 15 minutes of falling asleep.

Treatment for Narcolepsy

There is no cure for narcolepsy; however, a doctor can prescribe certain sleep medicine and suggest lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and a proper sleep schedule or sleep pattern. Scheduling naps can also help relieve daytime drowsiness.


Sleepwalking is a type of parasomnias. It involves irregular types of behavior during sleep. Most people just think of someone just walking around in their sleep, but it can be much worse. Some people engage in different activities.

According to experts, some people get dressed, move furniture, engage in sexual behavior, or urinate in inappropriate places. In some cases, people try to do something more extreme like drive a car. This can disrupt your sleep as well as your bed partner.

Another sleep disorder that is paired with sleepwalking is night terrors. Night terrors are when someone wakes up screaming during the night and is most popular among children and are usually not cause for concern. Most children outgrow night terrors by the time they are teenagers.

Sleepwalking is typically a symptom of something else like sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, stress, or something else.

Treatment for Sleepwalking

The good news is sleepwalking does not require any treatment in most cases. Some safety precautions you can take are, keep your room clear of tripping hazards, latch doors and windows, and set alarms on doors. The biggest treatment is to fix the underlying cause.

Acid Reflux

According to WebMD, acid reflux is caused when acid produced by your stomach moves up to your esophagus. This can cause a burning in your chest called heartburn. If you have symptoms more than twice a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Sleeping with acid reflux can cause difficulty sleeping which can result in sleep loss. If you currently or have ever struggled to sleep with acid reflux, MedCline offers some advice on what to do.

Sleep at an incline - Try to give yourself some elevation when you sleep. One way to do this is to put blocks under your bed, another is to invest in an adjustable base. Laying flat on your back with no incline will worsen the symptoms because the acid will flow up your esophagus more easily.

Sleep on your left side - When you sleep flat on your right side, your body has to work harder to return acid contents to your stomach. Your Lower esophageal sphincter (LES) stays higher when you sleep on your left side allowing acid to return to your stomach more quickly than sleeping on your right side. The best position is at an incline on your left side.

Treatments for Acid Reflux

  • Some home remedies include milk, chewing gum (avoid mint), and herbal remedies.

  • Over-the-counter medications are available such as antacids, PPIs, and H-2 can offer. relief. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, see a doctor for additional help.

  • Avoid spicy, fatty, and acidic foods because they can trigger heartburn.


Remember that there are several types of sleep disorders, and it is not uncommon to struggle with one or at least know someone who does. The good news is, most of them are easily treatable. Whatever your sleep disorder or medical condition is, one of the best ways to improve your health is to improve your sleep habits.

Put yourself on a consistent sleep schedule to ensure that you obtain the proper amount of sleep. If this fails, reach out to a doctor or healthcare provider so they can give you better help or prescribe you some sleep medicine to help you through your sleep disorder and improve your overall sleep quality.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven Bieber HeadshotSteven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.

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