The Four Types of Sleep Disorders That Make Life Challenging

The Four Types of Sleep Disorders That Make Life Challenging

Sufficient sleep is not a luxury – it is a necessity – and should be thought of as a vital sign of good health.”

~ Wayne H. Giles, MD, MS, Director, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

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It’s not uncommon for my clients to have trouble sleeping from time to time. Perhaps there is a major life event occurring, or things have been very stressful at work. In these cases, my client’s challenges with falling or staying asleep are short-term, situational, and dependent on external life circumstances. Acute sleep difficulties such as these are vastly different from the chronic and consequential problems of a sleep disorder, which are ongoing and much more problematic.

If you’re have trouble sleeping you are not alone. Sleep disorders affect approximately 70 million Americans today (Cleveland Clinic). Sleep disorders are defined as difficulties falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at the wrong times, sleeping too much, or abnormal behaviors during sleep (University of Maryland Medical Center).

There are approximately 80-100 different types of sleep disorders that fall into the following four main categories (University of Maryland Medical Center):

  • Insomnia: Problems falling and staying asleep, insomnia can be short-term (lasting 3 weeks or less) or chronic and long lasting, often plaguing a client for months or years.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Problems staying awake, excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by the sleep disorder Narcolepsy. It can also be caused by medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, low thyroid function, or viral illnesses such as mononucleosis.
  • Sleep Rhythm Problems: Problems following a regular sleep schedule, sleep rhythm problems are often caused by irregular sleep-wake syndrome, paradoxical insomnia, or shift work sleep disorder. A minor cause of this that has an acute effect on millions of people is jet lag.
  • Sleep-Disruptive Behaviors: Unusual behaviors during sleep, sleep-disruptive behaviors include restless leg syndrome, sleep terrors, sleepwalking, and REM sleep-behavior disorder, which causes an individual to move and potentially act out dreams during REM sleep.

Charles R. Freeman, Ph.D.  | Sleep, Pain, Behavioral Medicine Psychologist & Addictionologist  |  Available online (Skype) and in-person in San Diego and Encinitas, CA.

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