Sleep disorders are problems related to sleep. They are a set of alterations that occur in the different phases of sleep, preventing you from enjoying a proper, continuous and restful sleep. There are many different types of sleep disorders and these can be grouped into four main categories:
- Problems falling asleep and staying asleep
- Problems staying awake
- Problems maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Unusual behaviour during sleep
Some of the general symptoms of sleep disorders are:
- Physical exhaustion
- Low performance
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty complying with professional, family or social obligations
On the other hand, there are specific symptoms that can occur, depending on the type of sleep disorder. Some are:
- Sleepwalking – a state in which the person gets up and acts semi-consciously during sleep, without realising what they are doing, or remembering what they did whilst sleepwalking.
- Night terrors – episodes of agitation due to fear that can be accompanied by sleepwalking.
- Nightmares – unpleasant and frightening dreams that provoke a sudden awakening, both in children and adults.
Common sleep disorders include:
- Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep)
- Narcolepsy (a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness)
- Sleep apnoea (disruptions and pauses in breathing during sleep)
- Restless legs syndrome (unpleasant sensations in the legs, with an uncontrollable urge to move them)
- Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Parasomnias (sleep disorders that cause arousals from REM sleep, e.g. nightmares and sleepwalking)