Sleep disorders impair sleep quality, timing, or duration, hindering individuals’ daytime functioning and overall well-being. This may lead to the development of additional medical issues.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD) is a commonly used resource for categorizing sleep disorders, which includes 60 distinct conditions, each with its unique set of causes, symptoms, and physiological and psychological impacts. Generally, sleep disorders can be identified by at least one of the following four indications:
Individuals who exhibit any of these symptoms may be experiencing a sleep disorder and should seek guidance from their medical provider if they have concerns regarding their sleep quality or daytime energy levels.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep, despite having adequate time and desire to sleep. People with insomnia often experience daytime fatigue and reduced cognitive functioning. Chronic insomnia is diagnosed when these symptoms occur at least three times per week for three months or more.
Read in Detail: Causes of Insomnia And Types of Insomnia
Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep-related breathing disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep. People with this condition frequently snore loudly and may wake up abruptly, choking or gasping for air. Two types of sleep apnea exist: obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the soft tissues in the throat relax, causing the upper airway to narrow, and central sleep apnea, which emerges when the mind briefly stops conveying messages to the muscles that control breathing.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime fatigue, even after getting an appropriate amount of sleep. This often leads to an overwhelming desire to sleep, resulting in “sleep attacks” that last several minutes. These symptoms, along with others associated with narcolepsy, result from disruptions in the brain’s ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a strong urge to move the legs, often accompanied by tingling or crawling sensations. These sensations and urge to move may worsen when sitting or lying down, making it challenging to fall asleep. While RLS has been linked to pregnancy, Parkinson’s disease, iron deficiency, and other factors, the cause of most cases is still unknown.
Parasomnias refer to a range of atypical sleep behaviors that can occur during different stages of sleep, including while falling asleep, sleeping, or during the transition between sleep and wakefulness. While they are more commonly experienced by children, adults can also be affected. These behaviors include sleepwalking, bedwetting, night terrors, and other uncommon conditions such as exploding head syndrome.
Feeling sleepy after losing a night’s sleep is normal, but excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is a medical condition characterized by extreme grogginess that occurs almost daily for a minimum of three months. EDS makes it difficult or impossible to stay awake during the day and can result from various medical and psychological conditions, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, chronic pain, hypothyroidism, anxiety, and depression.
Shift work disorder can develop in individuals whose job entails working late at night or early in the morning. When one sleeps during the day and works at night, it can disrupt the natural circadian rhythms that govern the body’s response to light or darkness, leading to misalignment with the person’s regular daily schedule. Those with this condition often feel excessively tired during work hours and face difficulty obtaining sufficient sleep during their designated rest period.
Most adults have circadian rhythms that reset every 24 hours, guiding their sleep-wake cycle. Hence, they tend to feel sleepy around the same time each night. However, individuals with non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder have circadian rhythms that are either shorter or longer than 24 hours. This results in a progressive shift in their sleep and wake times, moving one to two hours earlier or later each day.