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3 Most Common Sleep Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Cope

✎ Written by: Denisa Cerna ✓ Fact-checked by: Kaija Sander, Ph.D.

In an ideal scenario, everyone in the world would be able to sleep through the night with no issues. Unfortunately, that is not the case; around fifty to seventy million people in the USA alone suffer from sleep disturbances, be it sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or some less common problems, such as restless leg syndrome.

Far beyond sleep disorders having a negative impact on the quality or amount of your sleep, they can also cause impaired cognitive functioning during the day. For instance, you may find it harder to make decisions or find yourself forgetting things more often.

Some sleep disorders, like insomnia and narcolepsy, for example, are also referred to as sleep-wake disorders due to their connection to the circadian clock, the body’s 24-hour internal clock.

If you can’t fall asleep or have trouble staying asleep – as is the case with insomnia – your circadian rhythm may be disrupted. The same applies to narcolepsy, wherein you feel excessively tired throughout the day.

But worry not – due to the prevalence of sleep disorders, there’s a plethora of research out there, pointing us in the right direction when it comes to effectively treating sleep disturbances.

Today, we’ll have a look at the three most common sleep disorders and how to handle them:

  1. Sleep Apnea

  2. Narcolepsy

  3. Insomnia

1. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to repeatedly stop and restart. There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Central sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

When your upper airway gets blocked during sleep, it leads to irregular breathing patterns because your airflow becomes restricted. Some symptoms include:

  • Snoring

  • Irritability

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness