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Types of Sleep Disorders Explained By Leading Pulmonologist

women suffering from sleep disorder

Having sleepless nights can be a choice for some and a liability for many. To quote the famous words of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” While the whole world regales in the romanticism of sleepless nights, it is a big deal for a person with sleep disorders. Sleep disorder is a broad umbrella term that includes many different medical conditions. It is often the starting point of most mental health issues which gradually surface over time. 

So if you can’t get any “shut-eye” despite multiple efforts or are not able to sleep despite everything being “normal”, read on…

What is a Sleep Disorder?

As mentioned earlier, sleep disorder refers to various medical conditions that affect sleep quality & duration, and directly affect the person’s ability to properly function during the day when they are awake. To date, there are 100+ sleep disorders broadly based on the cause, symptoms and physical and psychological effects. But most disorders can be classified under the following:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Difficulty in staying awake during the day.
  • Imbalances in circadian rhythm.
  • The tendency of retorting to unusual behaviours instead.

These are all signs of a disorder that are either physical or psychological and need medical intervention.

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Those who get at least a good uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep are normal and do not fall under the category of sleep disorders. But those who might be suffering from sleep disorders get bogged down by:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Allergies and respiratory problems.
  • Nocturia, or frequent urination
  • Erratic and hectic schedules
  • Underlying psychological problems
  • Physiological pain, and/or
  • Other causes like arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

Once this condition starts, it does not seem to stop and eventually becomes a big roadblock in leading normal day-to-day life. Each of these triggers leaves a negative impact on our energy, mood, concentration, and overall health. The best way out is medical treatment and lifestyle changes.

Experts suggest that prompt diagnosis helps resolve the condition faster as prolonged sleep disorders become deep-rooted with further health complications. Since the conditions are linked to mental health issues they can directly affect

  • Performance at work
  • Personal relationships
  • Daily activities.

What are the different types of sleep disorders?

  1. Insomnia: It is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can be linked to jet lag, stress, hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, or some other underlying health concern. It disrupts your overall health and quality of life. It can also be the cause of depression, weight gain, irritability, and lack of concentration at work or school to name a few.
  2. Sleep Apnea: This is a sleep disorder characterised by erratic breathing patterns. The condition is very serious as the body ends up taking less oxygen and patients can suddenly sleep and suddenly wake up throughout the day and night.
  3. Parasomnias: This is another subset of sleep disorder that is caused due to abnormal movements and behaviours during sleep. The person who gets this unconsciously gets involved in these behaviours and has no recollection of it later.
  4. Restless Leg Syndrome: RLS is the overwhelming urge to keep moving your legs. This urge, often accompanied by a tingling sensation, can occur during the day, but mostly at night. This is an allied condition to more severe medical conditions like ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, however the exact trigger for this behaviour is not alway clear.
  5. Narcolepsy: This is an extremely tricky condition and as the name suggests, it comes in fits. The person tends to get “sleep attacks” while they are awake, which leads to suddenly feeling extremely tired and instantly falling asleep. Over time this leads to sleep paralysis where the person finds it impossible to move after they wake up. This might be your body’s way of indicating possible neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Disorders?

Symptoms of each type of sleep disorder depend on the severity and type of disorder. It will also depend on the severity of any underlying condition. Generally, the notable symptoms are:

  • difficulty in falling or staying asleep at night.
  • immense daytime fatigue due to lack of REM sleep.
  • tendency to take naps in the day to compensate for lack of sleep.
  • unusual urges, movements and breathing patterns during sleep.
  • anxiety and lack of concentration.
  • depression and stress eating.

How are Sleep Disorders Diagnosed?

Your physician will assess your concerns and suggest one or more of the following tests as per the underlying symptoms.

  • Polysomnography (PSG): This is a sleep study which will evaluate your body’s oxygen levels, movements, and brain responsiveness to determine your sleep pattern. This is a proven test to diagnose sleep apnea.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test will assess the neuro-electrical activities in your brain to identify any potential problems.
  • Multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT): This is a daytime napping study, which is used alongside a PSG test at night to help diagnose narcolepsy.

The results from these tests are vital inputs in determining the proper course of treatment for the patient. Based on the findings lifestyle changes will be suggested to help revive the circadian rhythm of the body. Such as:

  • A vitamin and nutrient-rich balanced diet
  • Reducing sugar and increasing fish intake
  • Drinking less water before bed
  • Limiting intake of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Proper exercise to reduce stress and increase the oxygen flow in the body.
  • Switching to low-carb dinner options
  • Timely sleep cycle

Apart from this, the doctor might prescribe medicines like sleeping pills, melatonin supplements, allergy & cold medication, dental guard (teeth grinding), breathing device(sleep apnea), and any other medication as the specialists deem fit. Please note: never opt for medication unless expressly advised by the doctors for any sleep disorder.


The impact of sleep disorders can be disruptive. There will be a point where you will seek immediate relief. But that will only be possible for short-term cases, as old persisting cases take time to heal. But whenever sleeplessness starts interfering in your everyday life it is imperative to seek medical intervention. In case you are facing a similar concern do not hesitate to walk in or call us at (number) to book an appointment with a sleep specialist. You might just be solving a much bigger problem by opting for prompt diagnosis at the CK Birla Hospital. Book an appointment with leading Pulmonologist Now.


What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Sometimes the cause cannot be determined properly. However, most sleep disorders are caused by:

  • Stress and anxiety-related concerns due to our erratic lifestyle schedule.
  • Allergies and respiratory problems that prevent proper sleep.
  • Nocturia, or frequent urination, especially in cases of diabetes or UTIs.
  • Underlying psychological problems which have been so far suppressed.
  • Physiological pain, and/or
  • Other causes like arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?

The three most popularly found sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia (currently about 50% of the world’s adult population is affected by it).
  • Sleep apnea (the most critical sleep disorder linked to life-threatening diseases like Parkinson’s disease).
  • Parasomnia (sleepwalking and sleeptalking are more common than you think).

Can Sleep Disorders Be Cured?

There can be different treatment approaches, but ultimately these conditions are curable with a little discipline.

  • Counselling: Cognitive behaviour therapy helps you recognise the problem that leads to overthinking and sleeplessness.
  • Medications and/or supplements help rewire our circadian rhythm.
  • Proper exercise, and sleep hygiene such as minimal noise and light in a conducive temperature, etc.

What are Some Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?

Make your oasis to rest and recuperate.

  • A comfortable room at the optimum temperature and proper bed.
  • Dim the lights and use “white noise” to help induce a lull.
  • Think positive and leave out your problems for tomorrow.
  • Avoid screen time with television, work, or use computers in your bedroom.
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