Common Sleep Disorders

The definition of a sleep disorder from a clinical point of view is, a disruptive pattern of sleep that may include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviours associated with sleep. Doctors and specialists who study sleep have identified approximately one hundred different types of common sleep disorders.

Sleep problems are broken down into four categories as delineated by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.

These categories are –

  • Dyssomnias
  • Parasomnias
  • Medical or Psychiatric disorders
  • Proposed Sleep Disorders

These four main categories are further broken down into various sub categories.


Examples of Dyssomnias include a variety of sub categories, including –

  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Restless legs syndrome


Examples of parasomnias include –

  • Sleepwalking
  • Bruxism – The involuntary grinding of teeth whilst sleeping
  • Bed-wetting
  • Primary snoring

Medical or Psychiatric Disorders

Medical or Psychiatric sleep disorders include –

  • Asthma
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • Dementia
  • Degenerative brain disorders

Proposed Sleep Disorders

Proposed sleep disorders are disorders that do not fit in any of the preceding three categories and include –

  • Short sleepers
  • Long sleepers
  • Sub Wakefulness Syndrome
  • Sleep Choking Syndrome

There are many myths that surround sleep and sleep disorders which need to be dispelled.

It is a myth that health problems such as diabetes, depression, hypertension, obesity, etc. have no connection whatsoever to how much sleep or the quality of sleep that a person gets on a regular basis.

Research has proven time and again that there is a very real connection between a bad quality of sleep and/or inadequate sleep due to any number of diseases. To use an example, a lack of sleep can inhibit the ability of the body to properly manufacture insulin, thereby bringing on diabetes.

It is a common myth that as you age you require less sleep to function properly. This is not exactly the case. As a general recommendation, seven to nine hours sleep a night is best for most adults, whether they be twenty or fifty, although the sleep patterns of people can become different as they get older. However, older people may actually get less sleep per night than younger adults because they wake up more often during the night.

Yet another myth is that you can somehow cheat on the quantity of sleep you are getting. It can be adverse to your health and well-being, both physically and mentally, to skimp on your hours of sleep. You cannot save up your sleep for days when you have more time to sleep in. An average of seven to nine hours a night is advisable.

Most people would class insomnia as simply a problem with falling asleep, but this is not the case. Insomnia is more complex condition than that and is associated with four specific symptoms –

  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning and not being able to fall back to sleep
  • Frequent moments of waking up during the night
  • Feeling of being tired or somehow not refreshed a from a night’s sleep

Many people believe that only their brain is at rest while they are sleeping, but this is certainly not the case. It is the body that rests during sleep, while the brain is very much active. During sleep, the brain is recharging its batteries and still very much in control of the majority of bodily functions, including breathing. As we sleep we go back and forth between two states of sleep which are –

  • REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep
  • NREM or Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep

Another myth, that could also prove deadly, is that sleep deprivation will not affect a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. It is estimated that out of approximately 567,000 car accidents in the United States every year, 980 of those highway deaths are related to sleep deprivation.

Doing such things as opening the window, turning on the air conditioner or turning up the radio are only stop gap measures to help keep you awake and alert at the wheel. If you refuse to stop and rest your body, eventually your mind will block out the things you have done to stay awake, and you will fall asleep at the wheel. This could cost you your life and others as well.