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What Are Common Sleep Disorders?

There are more than 50 sleep disorders classified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). A sleep disorder can severely impact a person's daily life.

More common sleep disorders include:

Symptoms of Sleep Disorders

Patients with sleep disorders can have common complaints that can include the following:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • chronic daytime fatigue not explained by any other medical condition
  • difficulty waking up on time
  • disruptive sleep (snoring, gasping, or holding your breath)
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia)
  • falling asleep too early
  • having unwanted behaviors as you're waking up

Evaluating Your Sleep

A sleep specialist can connect each of these symptoms to a particular disorder.

This is why a sleep specialist may want to have you sleep overnight in a sleep evaluation facility or may give you equipment to test yourself at home. 

Common Questions

How would I know if I have a sleep problem?
How is a sleep disorder evaluated? 
What type of treatments are involved?
What is NCPAP?
What is snoring, and why would it affect my sleep?

How would I know if I have a sleep problem?

The best way to decide if you might have a sleep disorder is if you have one or more of these common sleep disorder symptoms:

  • Loud or irregular breathing during sleep
  • Episodes where you hold your breath during sleep (called apneas)
  • Gasping for air that causes you to wake up during sleep
  • Sleep that doesn’t make you feel refreshed
  • Drowsy driving
  • Sleepiness at work
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability and/or apathy
  • Memory difficulties
  • Uncomfortable leg sensations when trying to sleep
  • Leg kicking during sleep
  • Yelling or screaming during sleep
  • Violent activity during sleep

If you have one or more symptoms, you may want to make an appointment with a sleep specialist.

How does my doctor diagnose a sleep disorder? 

After meeting with a sleep specialist, you will discuss your symptoms, medical history, and answer any other questions your specialist may have. Then, you may be given any of the following diagnostic tests:  

  • Overnight home oxygen recordings,
  • overnight portable home sleeping testing,
  • overnight sleep recording (polysomnography) in the Sleep Wake Center,
  • or daytime nap recordings (multiple sleep latency test).

If your sleep specialist diagnoses a sleeping disorder, your specialist will work with you to decide what treatments are best.

What type of treatments are involved?

The treatment for your sleep disorder may involve any of the following:

  • Air pressure and oxygen assistance to help you breathe better during sleep,
  • behavioral intervention for managing psychophysiological insomnia and delayed sleep phase syndrome,
  • medications for restless leg syndrome,
  • or medications for narcolepsy and other related neurologic disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness.

The sleep specialists at University Health Care are experienced and very conscious of patients’ needs. They will work hard to help you find the treatment that is best for you.

What is NCPAP?

NCPAP is an acronym that stands for Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. An NCPAP is a method used to treat a partial or complete airway collapse, which could happen for many different reasons, but is usually prescribed for sleep apnea.

A person who uses NCPAP typically wears a small mask over his/her nose during the night. This mask is connected to a machine that gently delivers a positive pressure to the individual's airway at the back of the throat and can be adjusted for each individual. This pressure "splints" or holds open the airway, allowing normal airflow in and out when you breathe.

What is snoring, and why would it affect my sleep?

Snoring is the sound that happens when air flow is partially blocked in the back of your throat. Because your airway is partially blocked, the air has to speed up to move through this blockage. This fast moving air causes your tongue, soft palate, and uvula to vibrate against each other and causes a snoring sound.

In addition to disturbing your own sleep patterns, snoring can disturb the sleep patterns of bed partners. Snoring can also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition known as obstructed sleep apnea (OSA).

Snoring may be caused by these factors:  

  • Jaw and throat anatomy,
  • body weight,
  • family history,
  • alcohol,
  • heart or lung conditions,
  • sleep position,
  • or nasal problems.

To prevent occasional or mild snoring, you can try any of these methods:

  • Lose weight,
  • don’t drink alcohol before bedtime,
  • sleep on your side,
  • or tilt the head of your bed up about four inches.

You may need medical care if you have heavy or chronic snoring. You should be evaluated by a specially trained specialist. A sleep specialist will work with you to find a customized treatment.