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Types of Sleeping Disorders

Written by Salma Dawood, Nutritionist BSc

Types of Sleeping Disorders

Struggle to sleep at night? Do you have trouble sleeping continuously throughout the night? Or maybe you sleep for 8 hours, but wake up restless and fatigued. If so, you might have a sleep disorder.

Did you know that there are over 85 types of sleep disorders that individuals can suffer from? Sleep disorders are extremely common, and affect up to 70 million US adults (1).  Sleep disorders are not just limited to sleeplessness during the night – some types cause excessive daytime sleepiness. It is essential to figure out which type you suffer from, in order to receive the correct sleeping disorder treatment.

In this article, you will discover more about the most common sleep disorders.


Insomnia is possibly the most common sleeping disorder. Chronic insomnia affects around 30% of the population, and is more prevalent amongst women and the elderly (2). It can be described as having poor sleep quality due to:

  • Interrupted sleep during the night
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up too early in the morning.

Types of Sleeping Disorders - InsomniaWhen insomnia occurs frequently, it can have negative effects on the individual’s health, energy levels, and much more. Some underlying symptoms reported by insomniacs include:

  • Low energy levels
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating on a task
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings and behavioral changes
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Fatigue

Acute insomnia occurs when the individual experiences infrequent sleeplessness, and is generally short term. Chronic insomnia occurs where sleeplessness is experienced at least 3 nights a week for a month or longer. It can be caused or triggered by a variety of factors, and influences, such as:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Medical issues
  • Poor lifestyle habits
  • Illness
  • Discomfort
  • Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol
  • Certain medications

Insomnia can be treated medically, using over-the-counter sleep aid, or by analyzing the trigger and trying to eliminate or solve the underlying issue.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the second most common sleeping disorder. In fact, many people with OSA don’t realize they suffer from the disorder. This type of disorder is caused by the blockage of the upper respiratory airway, causing your breathing to stop occasionally during the night for a couple of seconds. The severity of OSA ranges from mild (5-14 interruptions in breathing per hour), to severe (30+ interruptions in breathing per hour).

Types of Sleeping Disorders - Sleep ApneaOSA can affect anybody, but these causes may trigger the disorder in individuals:

  • Weight: Individuals that are overweight/obese are more likely to have OSA, due to fatty tissue building up at the neck and throat.
  • Age: Older individuals tend to be more likely to suffer from OSA, as throat muscles begin to lose their tone.
  • Enlarged tonsils: This is the leading cause of sleep apnea in children.
  • Smoking: Frequent smoking can cause inflammation in the airways, impeding breathing.
  • Natural causes: Some individuals may suffer from OSA due to a naturally narrower throat, or an enlarged tongue that can obstruct the airway.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you may have sleep apnea:

  • Snoring: this is the tell-tale sign of sleep apnea
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability and mood swings

Treatment for OSA includes dietary and lifestyle changes, positive airway pressure therapy, surgery, or the use of oral appliances to stop blockage of the airways. There are also natural remedies that have been shown to be effective at improving sleep quality, such as magnesium sprays, natural herbs, and chamomile.


This neurological disorder occurs when the brain is unable to regulate the sleep/wakefulness cycle. It affects approximately 1 in 2000 people, and can affect anyone.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from Narcolepsy:

1) Excessive daytime sleepiness: This occurs when the individual experiences bouts of sudden sleep attacks, which last for a few seconds to several minutes. This can occur at any time during the day, even if the individual had a restful night’s sleep.

2) Hallucinations: Vivid hallucinations could happen as soon as the individual wakes up from sleep, or right before they fall asleep.

3) Disturbed sleep: If the individual suffers from broken sleep at night, it may be due to narcolepsy. It often happens for no clear reason, and can frequently occur during the night.

4) Sleep paralysis: This occurs when the individual is conscious of his/her surroundings, but cannot move or speak. It often lasts up to a few minutes and does not cause any permanent effects.

Again, narcolepsy can be treated with a variety of solutions, such as lifestyle changes, natural remedies, regulating the sleeping pattern, or taking drug treatments.


Insomnia, Narcolepsy, and Sleep Apnea are only three of around 100 sleep disorders. If you suffer from sleeplessness at night, or have any symptoms, try to begin with natural remedies and lifestyle changes before opting for drug/surgery alternatives.

Types of Sleeping Disorders
~ Written by Salma Dawood, Nutritionist BSc


1) National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) Accessible from

2) Roth, T. (2007). Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5 Suppl), S7–S10.



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