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Types of sleeping disorders

Types of sleeping disorders

Are you struggling to get your full 7 hours each night? Or perhaps you’re experiencing some unusual symptoms during your sleep?

You may have a sleeping disorder.

Our guide covers the most common sleeping disorders, as well as ones you may not have heard of, and ways to help fight feelings of fatigue.

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What is a sleeping disorder?

A sleeping disorder is defined as experiencing problems with the quality, timing and amount of sleep, which can result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning.1

Sleep disorders can be linked with both physical and mental health problems due to the consistent disruption they can cause to our sleep.

Insomnia is considered the most common, as it’s thought to affect one in three people in the UK,2 but there are other conditions like sleepwalking, sleep apnoea and narcolepsy.

However, there are several lesser-known sleeping disorders to consider, too, such as hypersomnia, sleeping beauty syndrome and shift work sleep disorder.

5 most common sleeping disorders

Insomnia

Possibly one of the most well-known sleeping disorders; insomnia refers to having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

This means you may have trouble getting to sleep when your head hits the pillow, or you may wake up during the night and struggle to get back to sleep.

Insomnia can have many symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, difficulty paying attention, and depression and/or anxiety.

Some of the most common causes of insomnia are around lifestyle and your sleeping routine – for example if you experience jet lag frequently; mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety; or if you have an on-going medical condition.

Read our ultimate guide to insomnia to learn more about treatment options, including vitamins and supplements, home remedies and tips.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Also known as ‘twitchy legs’ or tired legs syndrome, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that gives you the irresistible urge to move your lower limbs and feet.

This is especially common at bedtime, which can cause people to lose sleep or have interrupted sleep because of this.

In some cases, this can affect your arms, chest and face, too.3

RLS is generally more common in women who are pregnant, people who are suffering from iron deficiency, those with RLS running in the family, and those with long-term health conditions that could affect sleep.

Restless legs syndrome treatment is usually a combination of lifestyle changes and medication or supplements, but you should always speak to your GP first.

For more information, our informative guide on restless legs syndrome has you covered.

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder that causes frequent interruptions in a person’s breathing as they sleep.

This means your breathing will stop and start again, sometimes multiple times, while you are asleep.

There are three different types of sleep apnoea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – this is where your breathing is stopped by a blockage restricting the air flow.
  • Central sleep apnoea – this is where the brain fails to send the signal to inhale, causing you to miss a breath, or multiple breaths.
  • Mixed sleep apnoea – this is a combination of the two.

Learn more about sleep apnoea, including treatment options and causes, from our detailed guide.

Narcolepsy

You may know of narcolepsy due to its unfortunate symptoms of falling asleep at inappropriate times and places.

However, a medical definition of narcolepsy is that it’s a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles.4

Narcolepsy can be not only inconvenient but also dangerous, as people suffering from narcolepsy could be impacted while they are eating, exercising, or even driving.

Although usually developed in childhood, narcolepsy can affect anyone of any age or gender at any point in their life.

It can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, cataplexy (the sudden loss of muscle tone, which is often triggered by strong emotions, such as laughter) and sleep paralysis.

12 other sleep disorders that may be keeping you awake

Bedwetting

Teeth grinding

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders

Hypersomnia

Sleeping beauty syndrome

Hypersomnolence Disorder

Nightmare disorder

Night Terrors

Sleepwalking

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Sleep Paralysis

The final say

Sleep disorders can cause both physical and emotional problems due to the disruption they cause to your sleep cycles.

The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and sleep apnoea.

Some of the lesser-known sleep disorders include sleeping beauty syndrome, period limb movement disorder and hypersomnolence disorder.

If you believe you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, contact your GP for professional medical advice and treatment options.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 16 January 2023