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What’s Keeping You Awake? A Guide to Sleep Disorders

Many adults do not get the minimum amount of sleep required to feel well-rested and to stay healthy. While reasons for a lack of sleep like having young children, stress at work, or a poorly made mattress are common, some causes for a lack of sleep can be medical. Sleep disorders can prevent you from getting a full night of rest, which can have a negative effect on your overall health. Some of the most common sleep disorders often go undiagnosed but can be successfully treated if patients seek the help they need so they can get good, restful sleep and have a more productive day.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects both children and adults. There can be several causes for sleep apnea, including being overweight or having swollen tonsils that block airways. While you’re sleeping, the airways can become blocked or even collapse. This causes you to suddenly take fast, shallow breaths, which interrupt the sleep cycle. Once your body reacts to the lack of air, your sleep goes from restful to light, causing you to feel tired and sluggish in the morning. Most cases of sleep apnea must be diagnosed by going to a sleep clinic so doctors can monitor your breathing and sleep patterns. A CPAP machine, also known as a continuous positive air pressure device, can help keep air passages clear by pumping air into your airway as you rest. The machine is attached to a mask that is worn over your face while sleeping. If sleep apnea goes untreated, patients can suffer from chronic fatigue due to the lack of getting a full night of REM sleep. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.


For those who rarely get a good night’s sleep, insomnia could be the culprit. This sleep disorder is accompanied by the inability to fall or stay asleep, feeling extremely tired the next day, and waking up in the middle of the night without being able to return to sleep. Causes for insomnia can vary widely, from undergoing extreme stress to taking certain medications that can keep you awake. Bouts of insomnia are often temporary, but for those who experience this sleep disorder on a regular basis, it can have serious health implications. Depression or chronic stress can cause insomnia, and it cannot be fixed until the underlying causes are corrected. Patients should talk to their doctor if they’re experiencing a large number of sleepless nights. Medication is often prescribed to help people get a good night’s sleep, but it should be used with caution and the directions should be followed exactly as prescribed. Other treatment options can include psychotherapy, counseling, and breathing and relaxation techniques.

Sleep disorder insomnia: 1 in 3 people have at least mild Insomnia

1 in 3 people have at least mild Insomnia


Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes people to become extremely sleepy at any time, interrupting the body’s natural sleep cycle. Patients can fall asleep suddenly and without warning even during the day, yet experience restless or infrequent sleep at night. While a person suffering from narcolepsy may get the same amount of sleep or more than someone without it, sleep can occur at random times and for short periods. This creates an inability to get enough hours of restful REM sleep, resulting in extreme fatigue or even falling asleep behind the wheel of a car while driving. Patients should keep a sleep diary to give to their doctor, who will refer them to a sleep center for further evaluation. While there is no definitive cure for narcolepsy, scheduling naps and training the brain to sleep during set periods can help adjust the frequency and time periods of sleep. Sleep-inducing medications or stimulants may be prescribed to help those dealing with narcolepsy stay asleep at night and awake during the day.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a nervous system disorder that causes the legs to move uncontrollably. Because this movement can interrupt sleep, it is also considered to be a sleep disorder. Uncomfortable, itchy, and even painful feelings in the legs can cause patients to become restless and want to move their legs in order to relieve the discomfort. The symptoms tend to worsen when people are sitting or lying down, which in turn makes sleep difficult. Certain medications can worsen the problem, so patients should talk to their doctor about any medicine they’re currently taking to determine if it is contributing to the issue. Treatments for restless leg syndrome can include anything from prescription medication to leg massages and hot baths or ice packs. While there is no known cure, treatments can help relieve leg pain and irritation so that patients are able to get a full night of restful sleep.

RLS affects 2-3% of adults, many times preventing sleep

RLS affects 2-3% of adults, many times preventing sleep

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About Author

Derek Hales

Derek Hales

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Derek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sleepopolis. Derek has tested over 80 of the most popular online mattresses, and scores of other bedding accessories. His testing approach is grounded in objective criteria and personalized in-depth research. Derek lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Samatha and dog Tibbers.

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