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Sleep Disorders Overview and Guide

America’s sleep situations are poor even in some of the best situations. Many American’s find themselves burning the midnight oil just to get their work for the day completed and in the past years, more and more Americans report sleeping less than 6 hours per night on average. The number of people in the US who get 8 hours of sleep is on a steady decline and sleep disorders are on a steady rise.

Sleep disorders range on the spectrum from not getting enough sleep (insomnia) to getting entirely too much sleep (narcolepsy). The most common symptom of a sleep disorder is fatigue but depending on the disorder, the severity and the individual there may be many other symptoms associated with sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome but there are many others.

Types of Sleep Disorders

While there are four very common sleep disorders these by far are not the only types of sleep problems. In fact, there are more than 85 recognized sleep disorders that all manifest themselves in various ways and result in different side effects or symptoms. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of sleep disorders and their symptoms.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes the individual to stop breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing for 10, 20 or even 30 seconds and this can cause quite an upset for the sleeping partner. After a person with sleep apnea stops breathing they will then gasp for air as if it were their last breath and then continue snoring or breathing normally – but only for a short period of time. Sleep apnea is a continuous cycle that lingers throughout the entire night.

People who suffer from sleep apnea may wake up feeling like they are dehydrated. They may have a headache or even feel hungover as a result of the apnea. Sleep apnea causes significant memory loss and can affect concentration and moods. Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder that affects as many as 7% of the general population. Sleep apnea places a person at an increased risk for high blood pressure but is treatable with physical therapy, mechanical therapy, surgery or other forms of therapy.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome is another common sleep disorder that affects about 15% of the population by causing the feeling that there are pins and needles or itchy crawly skin on the legs. People who suffer from restless leg syndrome will feel a significant need to move their legs in bed in order to get rid of the creepy crawly feeling in the legs.

People with this sleep disorder have difficulty falling asleep and they may even awaken out of sleep with the restless leg syndrome symptoms. Restless leg syndrome is not a serious medical condition but it can dramatically interrupt sleep patterns and cause difficulty with daily functioning for those who do not get a good night’s sleep as a result of this sleep disorder.

Restless leg syndrome does respond well to various types of medication but in most cases people who suffer from this sleep disorder must take medication regularly in order to prevent the syndrome symptoms from occurring. The three most common types of medication prescribed for people with restless leg syndrome include Dopaminergic agents such as Permax or Mirapex, benzodiazepines such as Valium or Klonopin and Opioids such as Percocet.


People with narcolepsy won’t have any trouble falling asleep. In fact people with this sleep disorder will fall asleep excessively and in situations in which they shouldn’t fall asleep such as while driving or at work. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that is characterized by falling asleep spontaneously and suffering from excessive sleepiness during the daytime when one should be alert.

Narcolepsy can be treated with behavioral changes and medication depending on the severity of the condition. People who are narcoleptic should avoid working shift work so that they can attain a routine schedule. Additionally, people who are narcoleptic should avoid large or heavy meals and they should not drink alcohol as this can cause the sleep disorder to be worse. Timed naps are also a good idea to help people who suffer from this sleep disorder to regain control of their life.


People who suffer from insomnia will usually suffer from additional underlying problems that are often the cause of the insomnia. Insomnia causes people to have trouble falling asleep and they may wake up earlier than usual resulting in a lack of enough sleep. Insomnia is sometimes the result of other sleep disorders or medical disorders such as sleep apnea.

For people who have prolonged phases of insomnia that last more than a month or symptoms that interfere with daytime activities it is important to seek medical treatment immediately. People who suffer from insomnia may need to see a sleep disorders specialist in order to determine the patterns of their sleep and where the sleeping pattern is interrupted. Some patterns of insomnia will be associated with a lifestyle change or relationship change.

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