Types Of Sleep Disorders And Symptoms

A woman sitting on the bed

Quality sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Disturbance of sleep that interferes with everyday functions can make you feel exhausted during the day. And still unable to sleep at night.

If you have trouble sleeping no matter how tired you feel, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. This article will define the types of sleep disorders and symptoms. And you’ll be able to answer the question of do I have a sleep disorder?

Sleep Disorder Signs

Sleeping disorders are broadly categorised by difficulty in getting to sleep, staying asleep, and excessive sleepiness. Other sleep problems cover abnormal movements, emotions, and perceptions. And sleep disturbance caused by a dysfunctional biological clock that affects the sleeping cycle – resulting in problems with the circadian rhythm.

Sleep disorder symptoms may include:

  • Feeling irritable and exhausted during the day
  • Falling asleep while driving, reading, or watching the television
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Slow reactions
  • Loss of control of emotions
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in skin appearance
Woman yawning

Common Sleep Disorders

See some types of sleep disorders here…

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

When your biological clock has been significantly delayed, this results in sleeping and waking much later than normal. This condition makes it impossible to get to sleep any earlier than 2.00am – causing extreme difficulties with keeping a job. Or getting your children to school on time.

Light therapy and chronotherapy can help to readjust an adult body clock that’s out of sync – this common form of disorder in teenagers is often grown out of.


This is a common sleep disorder in adults – and can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, or even the amount of coffee you drink. There are also a number of medical reasons that can cause insomnia. These include:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic pain and lower back pain
  • Depression
  • Endocrine problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Medications
  • Neurological conditions

Insomnia has two types – primary and secondary. Primary insomnia outcomes aren’t directly associated with any other health conditions. Secondary insomnia indicates that sleep problems are due to other health problems such as heartburn, arthritis, or cancer.


Caused by a dysfunction of the part of the brain that controls sleeping and waking – resulting in excessive and uncontrollable sleepiness during the daytime. These sudden attacks of sleep can happen at any time of the day and during any kind of activity.

It’s believed that abnormalities in the genes that control the production of chemicals in the brain are responsible – alongside multiple interacting factors that cause disturbances within the rapid eye movement cycle.

Other symptoms of narcolepsy may include the loss of voluntary muscle control – causing slurred speech, and in extreme cases a total body collapse. This weakness can be triggered by laughter, anger, or other intense emotions.

Hypnagogic hallucinations experienced during sleep and hypnopompic hallucinations when awake are extremely frightening. And sleep paralysis – when moving or speaking is impossible – may occur for a few minutes, but following an episode like this everything returns to normal.

Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder

This is a specific type of circadian rhythm condition that regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes – such as sleep. The ability to sleep at night and be awake in the day is controlled by your internal body clock. People with Non-24 have unsynchronised circadian rhythms often due to a failure of light. So, blind people are particularly susceptible. The disorder causes fluctuating periods of good sleep followed by poor sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS sleep disorder is a neurological condition that causes an irresistible need to move the legs – symptoms worsen during the latter part of the day – especially at times when activity is minimal. These sensations of aching and tingling can cause difficulties in going to sleep and staying asleep.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

If you have to work night shifts this can cause your biological clock to become out of sync. The adjustment of shift work for some people can cause sleep deprivation – as the schedules force you to work when your body is telling you to sleep.

This can actually put you at risk of injury if you suffer from mental lethargy. Working against your body clock makes it difficult to stay alert. Particularly as your circadian rhythm is producing sleep-promoting chemicals. Night shift workers become most sleepy between 4.00am and 5.00am.

Sleep Apnoea

During an episode of this sleep disorder, the airway becomes partially or completely obstructed – resulting in a drop in oxygen levels and pauses in breathing. This, in turn, causes repeated waking up throughout the night. These awakenings are often forgotten but cause exhaustion and irritability throughout the day.

Sleep apnoea is categorised as obstructive, central, or mixed. The obstructive type causes breathing issues alongside snoring, gasping, and choking. The central type happens when your brain doesn’t tell your muscles to breathe – and is normally linked to serious illness in the lower brainstem that controls the breathing. Conditions associated with central sleep apnoea can include kidney failure, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Woman lying forward on the grass

Improving Sleep Problems

Some sleep conditions can be addressed quickly by simply following helpful advice:

  • Before you go to bed make a note of anything that’s concerning you so that you can deal with it the following day
  • Take a warm bath and unwind without electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Focus on your breathing with relaxation techniques to help you get to sleep
  • Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable
  • Your bedroom should be cool, quiet, and dark to help with sleep issues
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule – even at the weekends
  • Get regular daily exercise and eat a healthy diet
  • Keep a sleep diary – really useful if you need to seek professional help

Get Support When You’re Suffering

There’s a wide range of products to help you sleep – look at a few suggestions here:

  • Sleep monitoring sensors with touchpads and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Herbs and minerals such as valerian root and magnesium
  • Soothing fragrances like lavender and passion flower
  • Powders including glycine
  • Sleep-promoting supplements taken before going to bed
  • Over-the-counter sleep aids for a temporary solution
  • Talk to your doctor about recommended behaviour therapy to help you learn new sleep habits

Henry Warren I am a professional writer and health & wellness enthusiast.