Sleep disorders, or sleep-wake disorders, are problems with sleep quality, sleep timing, and sleep amount. This can lead to daytime distress as well as impairments in function. Sleep-wake disorder often occurs in conjunction with other mental disorders or medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, or cognitive disorders. Insomnia is one of the many types of sleep-wake disorders. Other sleep-wake disorders include parasomnia (parasomnia is a sleep disorder), narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome.

Sleep problems are associated with both physical and psychological issues. Sleep disorders can exacerbate or contribute to mental conditions, and they can also be symptoms of mental conditions.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is an essential human need that is important for both mental and physical health. Sleep is divided into two categories that occur three to five times per night.

  • Rapid eye movement (REM), when the most dreams occur,
  • Non-REM sleep has three phases, including the deepest phase.

It is important to know when you sleep. You can tell when you should sleep by the 24-hour cycle that your body follows.

The amount of sleep that we require varies by age and person. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults require seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night. In 2015, the Foundation updated its sleep recommendations based on an extensive review of the scientific literature.

We do not sleep enough. Nearly 30% of adults sleep less than 6 hours per night, and only 30 percent get 8 hours or more on average.

More than half of Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders.

Consequences of Lack of Sleep and Coexisting Conditions

Sleep is important for brain health. Sleeping badly or not enough can have many negative consequences. Fatigue, decreased energy, and irritability are the most common concerns. Your mood and ability to make choices can be affected. Sleep problems are often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety or depression. Sleep problems can worsen depression or anxiety. Depression or anxiety can also lead to sleep issues.

Sleep disorders, including heart disease and diabetes, are associated with both too little and too much rest. Sleep disturbances are also a sign of medical and neurological conditions, including congestive cardiac failure, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s.

Insomnia Disorder

Insomnia is the most common form of sleep disorder and involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Around one-third of adults have insomnia symptoms. 10-15% report having problems during the daytime, and 6–10% show symptoms severe enough to qualify as insomnia. About 40–50 percent of people with insomnia have another mental disorder. 1

Symptoms of Diagnosis

For insomnia to be diagnosed, sleep problems must occur three or more nights per week for a minimum of three months, and they must cause distress or significant problems in the workplace, at school, or any other area that is important to a person’s daily functioning. Sleep disturbances do not always cause distress or problems with functioning.

A physician must rule out any other sleep disorders, medication side effects, substance abuse, depression, and other mental and physical illnesses before diagnosing insomnia. Certain medications and medical conditions may affect sleep.

A comprehensive assessment of insomnia or sleep disorders may include a history of the patient, a physical examination, a sleep journal, and clinical testing (a study on sleep). A sleep study is a way for your physician to determine how long you sleep and how well. It also allows them to detect sleep disorders. It is a record that you can share with your doctor. The sleep diary includes details such as the time you go to sleep, when you wake up, and how often and where you get out of bed. It also contains information about naps, eating, drinking, and exercising.

Sleep disorders can affect anyone, but they are most common in young adults. Types of insomnia vary with age. Young adults are more likely to have difficulty falling asleep. Middle-aged and older adults are more likely to have problems sleeping.

Insomnia can manifest as:

  • The symptoms are episodic (lasting between one and three months).
  • Persistent symptoms (lasting three months or longer)
  • Recurring (two or more episodes in a single year)

Insomnia symptoms can be triggered by specific events or situations in life.

Treatment and self-help

Regular sleep habits can help improve sleep problems. Tips on sleep hygiene can be found in the section on sleep hygiene. You should consult a doctor if your sleep issues persist or if you are experiencing difficulty concentrating or functioning during the day.

In the case of sleep disorders, it is important to address them regardless of any mental or medical issues that may exist. Chronic insomnia is usually treated by combining sleep medication with behavioral techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy. You can use a variety of medications to treat insomnia or to help you get to sleep. These medications can be habit-forming, and they should only be used under a doctor’s supervision for short periods. Some antidepressants can also be used to treat insomnia.

Antihistamines are common ingredients in many over-the-counter sleeping pills, and they are often used to treat allergies. Although they are not addictive, their effectiveness can decrease over time. These drugs can also cause confusion, blurred eyesight, urinary retention, and falls among the elderly. They should only be used with caution.

Sleep problems are often treated with complementary health methods. The National Institutes of Health says that some complementary health approaches are safe and effective, while others have no evidence supporting their effectiveness or safety.

  • Relaxation techniques used before bedtime can help with insomnia.
  • Melatonin may help people who suffer from insomnia. The safety of melatonin over the long term has not been studied.
  • Mind-body approaches such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, massage, and acupuncture are not proven to be effective, but they are generally considered to be safe.
  • Herbs and dietary supplements have been shown not to be effective in treating insomnia. Some herbs and dietary supplements, such as L-tryptophan or Kava, are associated with safety concerns.

Tell your doctor if you take any alternative medications or supplements.

Sleep hygiene: tips for healthy sleep to solve sleep problems

  • Even on weekends, stick to the same sleep schedule.
  • Avoid electronic devices and allow your body to relax with a calming, meditative activity such as reading.
  • Avoid napping, especially in the afternoon.
  • Exercise daily
  • Be sure to pay attention to the bedroom environment, which should be quiet and cool. Also, your mattress and pillow should be supportive and comfortable.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy food in the evening.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea involves breathing interruptions during sleep. Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated episodes of airway blockage during sleep, which can cause snoring or snorting or gasping. Interrupted sleep can cause fatigue and sleepiness during the day. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by a sleep study. Sleep study (polysomnography), which monitors the number of obstructive airflows (absence of oxygen) or hypopneas (reduction of oxygen) while sleeping.

The main risk factors for sleep apnea include obesity, male gender, and a family history of the condition.

Sleep apnea can be improved by lifestyle changes such as losing weight, if necessary, or sleeping on the side. A custom-fitted plastic mouthpiece may help keep the airways open while sleeping. A dentist or orthodontic specialist can make the mouthpiece. A doctor can prescribe a CPAP device (continuous positive pressure airway) for moderate to severe sleep apnea. The CPAP device works by blowing gently through a tube with a face mask that covers your nose and mouth to keep the airways open.

Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain is unable to control breathing properly during sleep. This causes breathing to begin and stop. A sleep study can diagnose central sleep apnea if it identifies at least five central apneas per hour. Central sleep apneas are rarer and less common than obstructive apneas. This condition is more prevalent in older adults and people who have heart problems or strokes. It’s also more common among people taking opioid pain medication. It can be treated with a CPAP device or another device used during sleep.

Sleep-Related hypoventilation

Sleep-related hypoventilation is characterized by episodes of shallow breathing during sleep, high blood CO2 levels, and low levels of oxygen. This condition is often associated with other medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), medication, or substance abuse. Sleep-related hypoventilation is often accompanied by insomnia or excessive daytime fatigue. Sleep-related hypoventilation can be caused by medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and obesity, as well as certain medications such as benzodiazepines or opiates.