Sleep Disorders: List of the Different Types of Common Sleep Problems

Have you been having trouble sleeping or relaxing at night?

Does it seem like no matter how hard you try you still have trouble getting to sleep at night?

If so, you are not alone. Around 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep issuesand disorders and about 20 million people in the US suffer from occasional sleeping issues and problems.

The reason why sleep disorders are so rampant in this country is that there are so many different kinds of sleep disorders. People mostly associate sleep disorders with insomnia, stress, or even narcolepsy, but there are so many other sleep orders out there that are affecting millions of people, every year.

Different Types of Sleep Disorders

Here are some overviews of the most common sleep disorders and how they affect you.


Insomnia is the most common and widely known sleep disorder that affects millions of people every year, and it is characterized by the inability to sleep, restlessness at night, or habitual sleeplessness. Insomnia can come about from a variety of things that can range from your biology to certain medical conditions, bad sleep habits, and specific drugs or substances.

Here are some examples of medical conditions that can cause insomnia:

  • Sinuses and nasal allergies
  • Stomach problems and acid reflux
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Neurological conditions
  • Different kinds of chronic pain or joint pain
  • Low back pain which can cause restlessness​

There are also some medications that can cause insomnia including medications including sinus infections, colds, high blood pressure, birth control pills, heart problems, and even medication that can help you with depression.

Insomnia is so difficult to deal with because it can be caused by so many things including stress or anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed, feeling overworked or overly mentally stimulated, and even when you take a simple nap during the day.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a condition that is simply caused by not getting enough sleep. This can either be a chronic or acute condition that will eventually lead to general fatigue, sleepiness during the day, clumsiness, trouble making everyday decisions, weight loss, or weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation can take a major toll on your productivity at work, your social life, and your mental health and well-being.

Sleep deprivation can be caused by a few factors including:

  • Overworking
  • Stress
  • Nervousness or anxiousness
  • Overstimulation of the brain or the inability to relax in the evenings
  • Shifts in your work schedule, your job, or family obligations
  • Staying up late because you don’t want to miss out on social events
  • A newborn that is keeping you up at night.​

As you can see, these are very common occurrences which could lead to you becoming sleep deprived. Some common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Being moody
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Being irritable
  • Sadness or depression
  • Forgetfulness or trouble retaining information
  • A slow in your rate of learning new information
  • Increased cravings for sugary foods and carbs
  • Lowered sex drive​

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious, medically diagnosed sleep disorder where a person stops breathing or breathing is interrupted during sleep. The dangerous thing about sleep apnea is that cessations in breathing like that can occur dozens of times every night, which limits oxygen flow to the brain and the rest of the body and can cause damage to your brain and your organs.

There are two different kinds of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Where soft tissue in the back of your throat causes a blockage of your airway which causes you to stop breathing temporarily
  2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): With central sleep apnea your throat is not directly blocked as in like obstructive sleep apnea. With CSA, your brain begins to fail at signaling your muscles to make you breathe. This is typically caused by a failure in communication from your brain to your respiratory control center.​


Snoring is a noisy breathing that can occur during sleep. The frustrating aspect of snoring is that it can wake either you or your partner up in the middle of sleep, depending on the volume of the snoring. Snoring is a condition that chronically or temporarily affects over 90 million adults. What’s interesting is that approximately one-half of the people that snore loudly are usually suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, and may not realize it.

The biggest downside of snoring is the disruptiveness that it can cause to your sleep schedule. It is common that those who snore also suffer from frequently interrupted sleep schedules which can lead to a reduced daytime functionality, poor decision making, sleepiness, mood swings, irritability and depression. If you frequently have nights where you are interrupted from snoring that can eventually lead to sleep deprivation, which as we know can cause short term and long term health problems and hinder your productivity.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders occur when your sleep schedule gets out of alignment. This can be caused by something as simple as a change in your work schedule, having trouble falling asleep one night during the week, and even jet lag from a trip that you just took or are taking.

Some of the types of circadian rhythm sleep disorders include:

  • A circadian rhythm that gets put on a delay of two or more hours, causing the person to go to bed 2 or more hours later than normal, and making them sleep 2+ hours later than normal
  • A rhythm that causes you to fall asleep several hours before a normal bedtime, and also causes you to wake up at inordinate hours of the night
  • No clear sleep circadian rhythm within a 24 hour period​

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

This is a sleep disorder that commonly affects people who have alternating or fluctuating work shifts, and it can also happen with people who work the night shift when most other people are sleeping. Light cues your body to stay awake, and the night or darkness tells your body it is time to sleep and recover. So, when you have a sleep schedule or work schedule that goes against your biological hardwiring as a person, you can have a hard time sleeping or getting enough quality sleep.

If your doctor suspects that you have shift work sleep disorder, he may ask you to keep a sleep journal to track when you are sleeping. Taking notes on the quality of sleep that you are getting, how many times you are getting up in the night, etc. makes it easier to diagnose your sleep disorder.

Jet Lag

Jet lag is another very common sleep disorder for those who travel frequently. If you either travel for work or work as an airline pilot or a flight attendant, you may have noticed that it is hard to get into a consistent sleep schedule, especially if you are consistently making international flights across vastly different time zones. It may sound funny to think that jet lag is an actual sleep disorder, but it really is.

When traveling across different time zones and experiencing the sun rising and setting at different times than what you’re used to, your biological clock will typically have problems adjusting. Unfortunately, our circadian rhythms can be much slower to adjust to a time zone than we are, and recovering from or adjusting to jet lag can take several days.

Hypersomnia: Excessive daytime sleepiness

Hypersomnia is what you experience if you are having trouble staying awake throughout the day, and is exhibited by excessive sleepiness or drowsiness throughout the daylight hours. The key characteristic of spotting hypersomnia is if you are sleeping plenty or excessively during the night and you are still utterly exhausted during the day. This condition can be commonly caused by narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and certain medications.


Narcolepsy is exhibited primarily by excessive sleepiness, but can eventually cause things like sleep paralysis and even hallucinations. Often with narcolepsy, the lines between sleeping and being awake can become blurry, and people with narcolepsy can involuntarily fall asleep during normal daily activities like working.


This particular sleep disorder refers to abnormal things that might happen to you when you are sleeping. Typically, these things are probably going to occur when someone is falling asleep or pretty much anytime during the entire sleep cycle. If it does occur while you are already sleeping, the chances are that you may experience some hallucinations or even sleep paralysis where you will not be able to move for a couple of minutes. In addition to those particular symptoms, you may also experience abnormal movements, emotions, behavior and perceptions.

When it comes to finding out what might cause the parasomnias, it’s important to understand that it can run in the family so it’s possible that genetics might be a factor. As it stands now, only about 10% of Americans are affected by parasomnias, and it affects people of all ages, but is most common in children.​

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

As you can figure out from the second name of this particular sleep disorder given above, this is a sleep disorder in which you will frequently grind, gnash or clench your teeth. It’s possible that this type of disorder can affect you at all times throughout the day but it is most commonly going to occur at the end of the day and towards the night. If you or someone else grinds their teeth during sleep, the chances are good that they are also going to have other sleep disorders like snoring or sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, if you only grind your teeth during your sleep, then you might not know that you are doing it which will make it difficult to try and seek treatment for this particular disorder. Because of this, you should try and be fully aware of the symptoms so that you can seek treatment before any serious problems begin to show. The symptoms include:

  • Flattened or chipped teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Tight jaw muscles
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Indentations on your tongue​

Exploding Head Syndrome

Despite having a name that is pretty terrifying and makes it seem like one of the worst possible sleep disorders, this particular disorder deals with benign conditions where a person hears and imagines loud noises such as bomb explosions or gunshots. Typically, these ‘sounds’ happen right when you are falling asleep or when you are waking up. They are usually very short but they will often jar the individual awake after it has happened.

Concerning the symptoms of exploding head syndrome, it’s a little bit hard to pinpoint what they are. Obviously, if you feel loud noises are waking you, that would be one of the most obvious symptoms but there are other things to look for as well. Some report distress, fear, confusion, sweating and other physical symptoms including feeling as if they had to make an effort to breathe again.

Unfortunately, it is hard to determine a treatment because most individuals are embarrassed even to bring it up to their doctor.

Sleep Walking

Sleepwalking is another sleep disorder that you’ve probably heard of. This most commonly occurs when you are in a slow wave of your sleep stage and you begin to perform tasks and activities as if you are fully conscious and awake. Typically, you will only perform easy and simple tasks when you are sleep walking, but there are some cases reported in which more complex tasks are performed while sleepwalking.

The cause of sleepwalking is pretty much unknown, although there are several theories for what might cause sleepwalking. Genetics is one of the most common possible reasons for sleepwalking as 45% of children who sleepwalk have a parent that sleepwalked when they were younger as well. While the cause is unknown, the same goes for the treatment of sleep walking. There have been clinical trials that show what type of intervention would be effective in helping prevent sleepwalking.

Sleep Talking

This is another common sleep disorder that you will find and it’s probably one that you’ve heard about and are pretty familiar with. Sleep talking can vary in a lot of different ways because you never really know how serious it is. You might just randomly say a few things in your sleep or you may try and engage in a full conversation while saying full sentences and long structured thoughts. The good thing about sleep talking is that it is not considered to be a medical problem.

Typically a sleep talker will only talk for about 30 seconds but it’s possible that a person will have multiple episodes in a single night. Additionally, the content they are talking about is often harmless but can turn graphic or vulgar depending on the circumstances. This particular disorder is most common in kids 3 years old to 10 years old as half of the kids in that age range talk in their sleep. While a smaller percentage, some adults will also talk in their sleep.

Sleep Terror

Sleep terrors are easily one of the most frightening sleep disorders that you’re going to find because it typically will include episodes of intense fear, screaming and flailing while still asleep. These night terrors are often going to be accompanied by sleepwalking and will occur within the first hours of stage three NREM sleep.

This is another type of sleeping disorder that can be traced back to genetics as one of the leading causes. Individuals that suffer from this particular disorder have found that there are family members in the past that have suffered from night terrors. In addition to the genetic aspect, other possible causes help to increase the chance of night terrors. Those include nocturnal asthma, medication for your central nervous system as well as gastroesophageal reflux.


This is one that we know for sure you are familiar with and we would be willing to bet that just about everybody who will read this particular post has probably had a nightmare at some point. According to its actual definition, nightmares are incredibly realistic and disturbing dreams that will quickly wake you up from a deep sleep. Typically, these nightmares are going to occur when you are in REM sleep and since the REM sleep gets longer as the day goes on, you’ll find that there are more nightmares towards the morning than at the end of your sleeping.

If you’re looking for a reason for nightmares or you’re hoping to find an answer to know exactly what causes them, then you’re going to be a little disappointed. Typically nightmares are going to be pretty spontaneous and the exact cause of them can be tough to figure out. An increase in medication can be a possible cause of it as well as have a snack late at night because it increases the melatonin in your brain.


As the name would suggest and as you probably already know, bedwetting refers to the act of unintentionally urinating in your bed while you are sleeping. Typically, this is going to occur almost exclusively in children and if it does occur in adults, then there is probably a serious medical condition that needs to be addressed. With kids, it is typically going to be seen as nothing since it is a relatively common occurrence.

When it comes to trying to find a treatment for bedwetting, it’s important to understand that one of the only treatments you’re going to find is time and patience. You need to know that it is not an intentional act and they probably dislike it just as much as you do. If the problem persists and you don’t know what else you can do, then you might find that some medications can help you.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a particularly terrifying sleep disorder because it is a phenomenon in which a person that is in the process of falling asleep or waking up finds that they are unable to move, react or speak at all. It is often combined with terrifying hallucinations, which can become even worse throughout the paralyzed period. One way to correctly diagnose sleep paralysis is the elimination of other disorders that could cause a feeling of paralysis.

To help and try to treat sleep paralysis, you’ll find that the treatment begins with educating individuals about the different sleep stages you will experience as well as how you are unable to move any muscles during REM sleep. If the symptoms continue to persist past this, the individual will usually be evaluated for narcolepsy.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RSBD)

This particular sleep disorder is the idea that there are individuals that rather than just experiencing their dreams, they act them out. They move their limbs and they may even get up and engage in activities that would usually only be completed when they are sleeping. For example, you may find some individuals that will participate in sleep talking, shouting, screaming, punching or even hitting.

Unfortunately, this sleep disorder is typically only going to be noticed once it causes danger to the person that is sleeping, their sleeping partner, or somebody that they might encounter when they are acting out their dreams. Unfortunately, there are a lot of side effects that you need to worry about with this such as injury to yourself or to the person you are sleeping with. On the plus side, this can usually be treated successfully.

Catathrenia – Nocturnal Groaning

This would be one of the rarest sleep disorders out of the majority of the ones in this list but it is still worth mentioning. It is the condition in which a person will groan very loudly during their sleep. It can occur for an extended period and in just about any cycle of sleep for the individual. Restless sleep is when this would be uncommon. So if you are tossing and turning in your bed, the chances are low that you are going to experience this disorder.

While snoring is common during sleep, nocturnal groaning is the complete opposite of it. Snoring takes place during inhalation but the groaning occurs during exhalation and it is possible that one groan can last all the way up to 30 seconds in length. The groans typically end with some snort or sigh. Much like snoring, it will come and go throughout the night in different stretches. Some of the stretches could even last as long as an hour.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome, as you would probably already assume, is a disorder that occurs because you have an urge to move your legs. Typically, this is going to occur during sleep which is why it is labeled as a sleeping disorder. Anybody who has experienced this disorder before may have their ideas of what happened but the majority of people who suffer from it say that they often have uncomfortable sensations in their legs and they get an urge to move their leg to help relieve the sensation they are feeling.

These sensations are at their worst when you are laying down or just resting and you find an uncomfortable pain that feels as if there are pins and needles in your legs. This disorder can range in severity and some individuals suffer from it severely that negatively impacts their sleep. Unfortunately, the majority of doctors are unaware of what might cause restless legs syndrome but many doctors agree that it probably has something to do with genetics.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorders

When it comes to this particular disorder, you’re going to find that the word periodic is important in understanding what you’re experiencing. The disorder as a whole refers to repeated jerking and cramping of your legs while you are sleeping. Periodic means that it is going to happen repeatedly and in a rhythm and it will probably occur every 20 to 40 second depending on the situation at hand.

This particular sleeping disorder can commonly happen with other sleeping disorders and can often be linked with restless legs syndrome as 80% of individuals that have restless legs syndrome also suffer from this disorder but the reverse is not true. An underlying medical condition can often cause Periodic Limb Movement that you might not be aware of and it is also possible that you can have this disorder at any age since it does not focus on a particular age group.​

Nocturnal Emission (Wet Dreams)

Nocturnal emission is more commonly and informally known as a wet dream and it is when you experience a spontaneous orgasm during sleep that will include ejaculation if you are a male or wetness if you are a female. Typically, these are going to occur mostly during adolescence and in the young adult years but it is possible that it will occur after puberty as well. Sometimes you might wake up for it but other times you may find that you sleep right through it. When it comes to the frequency of such occurrences, there is no set amount of occasions that it will happen as it can vary so much from person to person. There was a detailed study that found 8% of all dreams from both men and women contain sexual-related activity. From that, four percent of those dreams resulted in an orgasm, which is classified as a nocturnal emission, or wet dream.​


In summation, sleep disorders aren’t that uncommon, and in fact, they affect millions of people every year. If you suspect that you may have some kind of sleep disorder, set up an appointment with your doctor or physician and let them know about the signs and symptoms that you are experiencing.​