Sleep Disorders: Types & Causes

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  • 0:01 Sleep Disorders
  • 0:56 Narcolepsy & Insomnia
  • 2:33 Sleep Apnea & SIDS
  • 4:07 Sleep Disruptions
  • 6:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Sleep is essential for mental and physical health. But what happens when there's a problem with your sleep? In this lesson, we'll examine some common sleep disorders, including insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and parasomnia.

Sleep Disorders

Naomi is having trouble sleeping. She stays up half of the night, tossing and turning because she just can't get to sleep. It's been this way for months, and she's tired of it! She just wants to get to sleep!

Jim, meanwhile, has no trouble getting to sleep. But his wife complains that he snores all night long, and when he wakes up in the morning, it feels like he didn't sleep at all.

Finally, Carrie has her own issues. She can sleep through most things, but sometimes she wakes up somewhere other than her own bed, like on her couch. She sometimes has bruises that she doesn't know how she got.

Naomi, Jim, and Carrie are all suffering from sleep disorders, or issues with sleep. There are many, many types of sleep disorders, and they can affect many different types of people. Let's look closer at some of the common sleep disorders.

Narcolepsy & Insomnia

Remember that Naomi has trouble falling asleep. She can lie in bed for hours at a time and not fall asleep. It's driving her crazy!

Naomi is suffering from insomnia, which involves disruptions in sleep patterns. The word 'insomnia' comes from the Latin for 'no sleep,' and that's just what happens with insomnia patients: they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. For example, Naomi has trouble falling asleep at night, but some people have no issues falling asleep. The problem is that they wake up during the night, so they can't get a full night's sleep.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in Americans. It can come in two varieties: acute insomnia lasts only a short period of time, like one night or a few nights. But remember that Naomi has been having issues for months. When insomnia lasts for more than a few nights, it is known as chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia can go on for weeks, months, or even years.

Some people think that narcolepsy, a condition where the brain can't regulate sleep-wake patterns, is the opposite of insomnia. This is because when people think about narcolepsy, they think of people who fall asleep suddenly, at any time and in any place.

Sudden sleep attacks are one symptom of narcolepsy, but they aren't the only one. In fact, many people might be surprised to know that insomnia is another symptom. The same thing that can make a narcoleptic fall asleep in the middle of a conversation can also keep them up at night; that is, they aren't able to control when they sleep.

Sleep Apnea & SIDS

Remember Jim? He snores, which drives his wife crazy, and even though he doesn't have insomnia, he doesn't feel refreshed when he wakes up. It's like he hasn't gotten any sleep, even though he has been in bed for a full nine hours.

Jim has sleep apnea, a condition involving pauses in breathing during sleep that last at least ten seconds. In other words, as he sleeps, Jim stops breathing over and over. That's scary and can be life threatening!

Snoring is a major symptom of sleep apnea, as is feeling unrefreshed after sleep and waking up during the night. Jim will want to see a doctor, who might prescribe a machine to help him breathe regularly while sleeping.

What could cause sleep apnea? Doctors aren't really sure of the causes, but there are some risk factors. These include having a large tongue, being overweight, having an overbite, smoking or drinking, and being over 40. Jim, for example, is overweight and in his 50s, so he has two risk factors.

Another life-threatening disorder that can strike while asleep is sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which is the leading cause of death in infants aged one month to one year. As the name implies, doctors don't know what causes otherwise healthy babies to suddenly die, but it usually happens when the babies are asleep. To prevent SIDS, doctors recommend that babies are always placed on their back to sleep, not on their stomach.

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