Causes of Sleep Disorders

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While insomnia is the most well-known sleep disorder, there are many other types of this condition that affects the manner in which people sleep and how rested they feel when they awake. A sleep disorder is defined as anything that can affect one’s sleep and includes:

  • insomnia
  • sleep apnea
  • narcolepsy
  • night terrors

This article will discuss each of these disorders by taking a look at what each one is, the symptoms, the causes and the treatment.


Insomnia refers to the inability to get to sleep or once one does falls asleep, he/she does not remain sleeping for a very long time. Once one wakes, it is difficult to return to sleep with the result that this person is often sleepy during the day.

Some of the causes of insomnia are:

  • distractions in the area that keep you awake
  • extreme hot or cold temperatures
  • uncomfortable mattress
  • worry and anxiety over a problem
  • medication designed to keep you awake
  • feeling hungry
  • heartburn

The treatment for insomnia depends on the cause. In many cases it could simply mean turning on a fan or the air-conditioning or putting an extra blanket on the bed. In extreme cases where the insomnia continues for quite some time, medication may be needed to help regulate the sleep pattern.


Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing temporarily during sleep. You are not aware that this is happening but a person in the room with you will certainly notice that you stop breathing and then start gasping for breath. Loud snoring typically accompanies this sleep disorder. It can lead to serious medical conditions such as hypertension and heart problems.

Sleep apnea results from an obstruction in the throat that blocks the airways when the muscles at the back of the throat relax during sleep. This expansion of the muscles causes them to fill the airways blocking the air coming into the lungs.

This sleep disorder is commonly treated with a device called a CPAP. This device is worn over the nose at night and is attached to an air supply that keeps that air flowing through the airways. There is also a surgical treatment for this disorder in which the surgeon removes some of the excess tissue at the back of the throat. Since sleep apnea is also associated with being overweight, losing some of the extra pounds can reduce the effects of the condition and allow you to sleep peacefully without the need for a CPAP machine.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder in which a person is sleepy during the daytime even after having a full night’s sleep. With this disorder you can fall asleep at any time, even when driving. A short nap may help you feel rested, but the feeling lasts for only a short period of time.

The causes of narcolepsy are unknown. Medication to establish a regular sleep routine are most often prescribed and further tests conducted to determine if the narcolepsy is related to sleep apnea.


Night terrors occur when you seemingly wake up feeling extremely frightened. You may sit upright in the bed and have your eyes open but are not fully conscious of your activity. You may be screaming or sweating profusely and have a rapid heartbeat.

Extreme tiredness or going through a traumatic event in your life can bring on this sleep disorder. It can also be linked to hypoglycaemia, which is why you should consult a doctor if you have night terrors on a regular basis.


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