Reviewed by Melinda (Santa) Gladden, LCSW
Of all the things we do daily, sleeping is important to our everyday health and wellness. It is the best opportunity our body has to regenerate, recover, and repair itself so you can be prepared for what lies ahead the following day.
That is why it is so important to not only get enough sleep but also get quality sleep each night. According to the American Sleep Association, adults should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, while children should get anywhere from 10-14 hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, many people worldwide struggle with sleep disorders that affect their ability to either get enough sleep or get quality sleep. In fact, nearly 50-70 million Americans struggle with this daily, weekly, or daily.
How often do you ask yourself, “Why can't I sleep through the night?” or think to yourself, “I’m tired, but I can’t sleep!” Do not worry, you are not alone.
Since so many of those struggling with a sleep disorder don’t know it, we’re going to discuss with you the various types of sleeping disorders, how they affect your life, what makes you unable to sleep, and how you can tell when you’re having trouble sleeping.
What Are The Different Types Of Sleeping Disorders?
Contrary to popular belief, the term sleep disorder is more of a blanket term or umbrella term that refers to a wide range of different disorders. It includes any disorder that affects your quality of sleep, your circadian rhythm, the amount of sleep you are getting, your behavior while sleeping, or your ability to function properly when awake.
Over a hundred different disorders can fall into this category. Still, they are categorized into one of six categories -- breathing disorders, insomnia, hyperactive somnolence disorders, sleep-wake disorders, parasomnias, and movement disorders.
Let us take a closer look at each category to understand the various disorders that affect your ability to sleep properly.
- Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders
Abnormal breathing causes sleep-related breathing disorders during sleep. Some people experience irregular breathing, while some people experience heavy snoring. Either way, these types of sleeping disorders lead to a wide range of daytime issues due to the lack of quality sleep.
Some of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, sleep-related hypoventilation disorders, and sleep-related hypoxemia disorder.
Insomnia is one of the most common types of sleeping disorders and affects around 10-30% of all adults. With insomnia, you have either difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep -- even when sleeping is the only thing you want to do at that moment.
There are several different types of insomnia, including sleep-onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), sleep maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep without disruption), and mixed insomnia (a combination of both).
In addition to that, it can be labeled as either chronic insomnia or short-term insomnia. Chronic insomnia is insomnia lasting at least three days per week, for at least three months. Anything less than three months is considered short-term insomnia.
- Hyper somnolence Disorders
Those who experience sleepiness or chronic fatigue during the day could be suffering from a hyperactive somnolence disorder. These disorders generally occur when the person has a healthy circadian rhythm and receives the right amount of sleep each night.
Some of the most common types of hyperactive somnolence disorders include narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, and Kleine-Levin syndrome -- which is when patients experience excessive sleep that sometimes exceeds 15-20 hours per day.
- Sleep-Wake Disorders
Everyone has a circadian rhythm, which is their internal clock that regulates the various processes and reactions inside the body. For example, our bodies release melatonin when it starts to get dark out, making us feel sleepy. These levels start to decrease when it is light out, making us feel more alert.
Sleep-wake disorders occur when your circadian rhythm is misaligned and abnormal. There are various sleep-wake disorders, including sleep-wake phase disorder, irregular rhythm sleep-wake disorder, non-24 sleep-wake disorder, shift work sleep disorder, and jet lag disorder.
Parasomnia sleep disorders refer to unusual or abnormal behaviors that occur before falling asleep, asleep, and in the moments between sleeping and waking up. These sleeping disorders are categorized based on the sleep stage it coincides with -- either non-rapid eye movement (NREM), rapid-eye-movement (REM), or neither.
NREM parasomnia can refer to confusional arousals, night terrors, sleepwalking, or sleep-related sexual abnormal behaviors. REM parasomnia can refer to REM sleep behavior parasomnia, sleep paralysis, or nightmare disorder.
There are also a few types of parasomnia that do not fall into either category, such as sleep enuresis, sleep-related hallucinations, and exploding head syndrome.
- Sleep-Related Movement Disorders
The final type of sleeping disorder we are going to discuss are sleep-related movement disorders. These disorders refer to any unusual behavior experienced while sleeping that might be disruptive to their quality of sleep or to anyone else they are sharing the bed/room with.
Some of the most common sleep-related movement disorders include restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements, and sleep-related bruxism. Some people report grinding their teeth during sleep, pain in their legs, or even random movements they have no idea about.
What Causes Difficulty in Sleeping?
Now that you understand all the different types of sleeping disorders and how they are categorized, you must understand what makes it difficult to sleep -- especially since there is usually an underlying condition or issue that makes it difficult to sleep well.
While there is a wide variety of different causes and you should visit a doctor or therapist to discover the exact reasons, the causes are generally broken up into one of four categories -- chronic pain, stress or anxiety, respiratory issues, and frequent urination.
Let us take a closer look at each cause!
- Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can deplete your quality of life in any situation. Still, chronic pain experienced while sleeping can be extremely damaging to your body, health, and quality of life. Arthritis, pain in the legs, headaches, back pain, and more will fall into this category.
In some cases, chronic pain will keep you awake when all you want to do is fall asleep. In other cases, the pain will wake you up when you are deeply immersed in sleep. Either way, the pain will disrupt your body’s ability to repair, rejuvenate, and recover itself throughout the night.
- Stress And Anxiety
Stress, anxiety, and depression are often linked to sleeping problems -- whether it be difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Unwanted and excessive stress can also cause various sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking, sleep-talking, and nightmares.
Either way, it will be difficult to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed. Instead, you will feel paranoid, exhausted, anxious, and often more stressed than when you went to bed. As you can likely imagine, this gets extremely difficult to handle the more often it occurs.
- Respiratory Issues
Much as we discussed before, some sleep disorders are caused by difficulty breathing. A majority of these disorders are linked to some sort of respiratory issue -- such as a cold, allergies, asthma, or any other upper respiratory infection that might make it hard to breathe.
Since your body needs to breathe no matter what, it will often do what it has to so you can stay alive. This might mean making weird noises or snoring, which could affect anyone else in the room with you -- whether it be a child or partner.
- Frequent Urination
Frequent urination, also known as nocturnal, is another major reason people find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Some people will get all cozy in their bed and be on the verge of falling asleep when they have to urinate, causing them to get up and mess up their relaxation.
On the other hand, frequent urination could also mean frequent stops to the bathroom throughout the night. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up every 2-3 hours in the middle of the night just to use the bathroom. Even if you manage to get 8-9 hours of sleep, you will not feel refreshed when waking up.
What Are the Symptoms Of Sleeping Problems?
By now, we have a clear idea of what sleeping disorders are and what causes them, but you still might be a little unsure of how to detect a possible sleeping disorder in yourself or in a loved one. Do not worry, we have got you covered.
Let us look at some of the most common symptoms of chronic sleep problems in adults:
- Cannot seem to fall asleep at night, constantly wake up during the night, and never wake up refreshed in the morning.
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion during the middle of the day, despite receiving enough sleep the night before.
- Always needing a nap during the day, difficulty concentrating during the day, or irritability throughout the day.
- Abnormal breathing, abnormal movements, or abnormal behaviors before bed, asleep, or waking up.
Anytime you are experiencing any of the above symptoms several times per week for longer than a few months, you could be developing a sleep disorder -- or already have developed one without knowing it. Like most disorders, the best thing you can do for yourself is early detection.
If you are still having difficulty, determining whether you need to seek help from a therapist or not, Mind Diagnostics is here to help. We offer an online sleeping disorder test that measures how well you sleep and whether you could be sleeping better. If you feel you need professional help, we will help match you with the right therapist in your area!