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What is Sleep Disorder?

A sleep disorder is a condition that disrupts your regular sleep pattern. There are multiple types of sleep disorders, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep apnea, hypersomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, and parasomnia. While these sleep disorders vary in signs and symptoms, each one causes disturbed sleep cycles and can lead to mental, emotional, and physical health complications. Especially when left untreated, sleep disorders can contribute to the development of various other conditions.

Sleep disorder commonly leads to sleep deprivation. When you don’t get enough sleep each night, it may begin to affect your ability to function in day-to-day activities. Adults generally need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night to be rested and ready for the coming day. The amount of sleep that you need every night may differ depending on how old you are, the lifestyle you lead, and the state of your health, among other factors.

Signs of Sleep Disorder

Signs of sleep disorder may vary depending on the specifics of the individual disorder. Generally, people with sleep disorders may struggle to fall asleep at night but feel sleepy throughout the day. Common symptoms for various sleep disorders include:

  • Waking up multiple times throughout the night
  • Waking up excessively early in the morning.
  • Taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep each night
  • Trouble falling back asleep after waking up throughout the night
  • Fatigue during the day and/or a need to take multiple naps
  • Falling asleep at strange times (i.e. while driving)
  • Snoring, gasping, snorting, and intermittent breathing while sleeping
  • Irregular breathing patterns during sleep
  • Jerking limbs during sleep
  • Intense dreams or dream-like sensations while falling asleep
  • Feeling unable to move after waking up
  • Tingling or creeping sensations while trying to fall asleep
  • Sudden onset muscle weakness in moments of intense emotion (anger, fear, etc.)

How is Sleep Disorder Treated?

Depending on the type of sleep disorder that you’re experiencing, a range of treatment methods may be effective. The treatment of disrupted sleep generally starts by determining its cause. If the underlying cause of a sleep disorder is another health condition, that condition may need to be treated and effectively managed before the patient regains a healthy sleep schedule.

If a sleep disorder isn’t caused by an underlying mental or physical condition, it may require an individual treatment plan. Common treatment strategies for sleep disorder include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy is a treatment method that may be effectiveness in the management of stress, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral causes of disordered sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help in the adoption of relaxation methods and stress-relieving habits to improve sleep quality.

Medications and/or supplements

Sleeping pills, melatonin supplements, allergy or cold medications, or medications for conditions causing sleep disorder may help ease disrupted sleep.

Devices to facilitate breathing

For individuals with respiratory problems that can cause disrupted sleep, breathing devices may help achieve better quality sleep. Breathing devices can also help reduce snoring, snorting, and grunting while sleeping

Dental guards

Dental guards may help prevent teeth grinding that can result from some sleep disorders.


Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.

If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.

And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.

Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:

  • Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
  • Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
  • Encourage resilience and self-management
  • Identify and change negative behaviors
  • Identify and encourage positive behaviors
  • Heal pain from past trauma
  • Figure out goals and waypoints
  • Build self-confidence

Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?

Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.

So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.

Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.


Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your mental health specialist.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:

  • Make sure someone stays with that person.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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