Sleep Disorders

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If you have trouble getting to sleep, sleeping through the night or if you feel a need to constantly sleep, you’re not alone. Sleep disorders are something that we all experience at some point in our lives & they can be deeply distressing. What’s important to recognise is that sleeplessness may lead to serious stress, safety & other health issues. That’s because sleep is vital. It’s a time for rest, recuperation, healing & offers our brain some much needed down time.


There are many different types of sleep disorders: insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, night terrors, teeth grinding, RBD, DSPS – the list goes on. The good news is that there is help available & many sleep disorder symptoms can be managed.


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Sleep disorders occur when an individual has problems with his/her sleep cycle. As a result, it may take patients longer to fall asleep, patients may wake up during the night, wake up early, they may fall asleep throughout the day, have severe nightmares (called night terrors), act out their dreams, or stop breathing during sleep.


The most common types of sleep disorders include delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), insomnia, narcolepsy, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), and sleep apnea.


There are two phases of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). The first hour or two of sleep is called NREM sleep. During this phase, the brain waves slow down.


After one to two hours of NREM sleep, the brain activity increases, and REM sleep begins. This is when most dreaming occurs. During REM sleep, the eyes (although closed) move rapidly, breathing becomes irregular, blood pressure rises, and individuals are in a state of temporary sleep paralysis. This temporary immobility prevents individuals from acting out their dreams.


Most sleep disorders can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medications.

Common Sleep Disorders

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Overview: Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), also called circadian rhythm sleep disorder- delayed sleep phase type, occurs when a person's internal clock is not in sync with the normal sleep patterns of most adults. The patient's sleep pattern is delayed by two or more hours, causing later bedtimes and wake times. When patients follow their internal clocks and go to bed when they are tired, they get enough sleep. However, patients with DSPS have abnormal internal clocks, and they typically do not feel tired until 2:00 a.m. or later. Since this does not match normal school and work schedules, patients feel tired when they try to follow conventional sleeping schedules. DSPS patients typically find that sleeping aids do not help them fall asleep any earlier. DSPS is a long-term condition that is most common among adolescents. DSPS can develop suddenly or gradually. Symptoms generally go away spontaneously without treatment.


Symptoms: Patients with DSPS generally have difficulty falling asleep before 2:00 a.m. Individuals often feel tired upon waking. Individuals may continue to feel fatigued or drowsy throughout the day.



Overview: Insomnia occurs when individuals have difficulty falling or staying asleep, and they wake up too early in the morning. It is a common health problem that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. Long-term insomnia may cause an individual to feel tired, depressed, or irritable. Individuals may also have trouble paying attention, learning, and remembering, which may prevent them from performing fully on the job or at school. Severe insomnia can result in neurochemical (brain chemical) changes that may lead to problems, such as depression and anxiety, further complicating the insomnia.


Symptoms: The main signs and symptoms of insomnia are trouble falling or staying asleep or waking early, followed by a distinct feeling of fatigue (tiredness) the following day. Most often, daytime symptoms will bring people to seek medical attention. Daytime problems caused by insomnia include anxiousness, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration and difficulty focusing, impaired memory, decreased motor coordination, impaired social interaction, and motor vehicle accidents because of fatigued, sleep-deprived drivers.



Overview: Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that occurs when individuals are overwhelmingly tired and spontaneously fall asleep throughout the day. Patients have a hard time staying awake for extended periods of time, regardless of the circumstances or how much sleep they get. The severity of narcolepsy varies among patients. Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 25. It is uncommon for patients to be diagnosed with the disorder when they are older than 40 years of age.


Symptoms: Patients with narcolepsy are excessively tired throughout the day. Individuals can fall asleep at any time or any place throughout the day. For instance, they may fall asleep in the middle of conversations with friends. These sleep attacks may last anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour. Individuals also experience decreased alertness and concentration.


About 70% of narcoleptic patients also experience periodic episodes of cataplexy, which is a sudden and temporary loss of muscle tone. This condition, which may last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, may cause symptoms that range from slurred speech and drooling to complete muscle weakness. Laughter or strong emotions, especially excitement and sometimes fear or anger, typically trigger cataplexy. Some patients may only experience cataplexy a few times a year, while others may experience symptoms several times a day.


Sleep paralysis may also occur while the individual is falling asleep or awakening. This temporary inability to move typically lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. When sleep paralysis occurs, patients may feel scared because they are often aware of what is happening even though they cannot move. Some patients may experience hallucinations. This occurs if the patient is semi-awake when he/she starts dreaming. Additional symptoms may include restless nighttime sleep or sleepwalking. Some patients may also act out their dreams and talk or move their arms or legs.


Night Terrors

Overview: Night terrors are similar to nightmares. However, night terrors are scarier and more intense. Night terrors typically cause individuals to scream and thrash about during sleep. Individuals usually do not remember their night terrors when they wake in the morning. Night terrors primarily affect young children, usually between the ages of four and 12. Night terrors during childhood are not usually a cause for concern, and most children outgrow night terrors by adolescence. In rare cases, adults may experience night terrors, usually in response to extreme stress or anxiety. Adults may benefit from medications if they experience frequent night terrors.


Symptoms: Night terrors typically occur two to three hours after an individual has fallen asleep. During sleep, the patient may scream or yell, sit up in bed, thrash around, sweat, or breathe rapidly. If a parent or bedmate tries to hold or comfort the patient during a night terror, the patient may unknowingly put up a fight. Adults, who are larger and stronger than children, may even injure their bedmate as they thrash around during night terrors. Most night terrors only last a few minutes. Once the individual wakes up, he/she probably will not remember the episode.


Rem Sleep Behavior Disorder

Overview: REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) occurs when patients do not experience temporary paralysis during REM sleep. As a result, patients act out their dreams, which are often intense, vivid, and violent. The patient may yell, punch, kick, jump up from bed, and punch the air. RBD typically occurs in middle-aged to elderly patients. It is more common in men than women.


Symptoms: Patients with RBD act out their dreams. This may include yelling, screaming, thrashing around, kicking, punching, sitting up in bed, or getting out of bed during sleep. In some cases, RBD may cause self injury or injury to the bed partner. If the person wakes up in the middle of an attack, he/she is often able to remember the dream in detail.


Sleep Apnea

Overview: Sleep apnea is a serious condition that occurs when the individual stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. Because sleep apnea causes individuals to wake up frequently throughout the night, patients are often drowsy during the day.


Symptoms: Many of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are the same. Common symptoms of both of these disorders include loud snoring, waking from sleep abruptly, difficulty staying asleep, waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, and drowsiness during the day. In addition, individuals with central sleep apnea often wake up with shortness of breath and headaches. 

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Note: MojoGuru does not recommend any treatment, therapy or particular provider. We do not recommend that you self-diagnose. If you are suffering from a health condition and before starting a new treatment or therapy, we do recommend that you first consult a GP. More