For most of us, getting a good night’s sleep comes down to simply making the right choices and setting sleep as a high priority in our lives. For a large number of adults in the U.S., though (an estimated 50-70 million to be exact), the poor quality of their sleep stems from a sleep disorder beyond their control.

It's an unfortunate fact that so many of those with a disorder go without a diagnosis because they don’t realize that they have a problem, or they simply believe that there’s no treatment for their particular issue. Some disorders can have a very substantial impact on the amount of sleep that someone is able to get (and thus on their health overall), so it is extremely important that they catch the disorder early on and begin treatment.

These are just a few of the most common sleep disorders that are good for everyone to recognize, along with some possible treatments that may be recommended (but remember: there’s no replacement for a good old trip to the doctor):

Insomnia: defined as not being able to fall asleep despite giving yourself an adequate opportunity to sleep.

  • Causes:
  • Medical conditions such as nasal/sinus allergies, arthritis, asthma, or chronic pain
  • Psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety
  • Possible Treatment:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: working with a therapist to combine a personalized regimen of good sleep hygiene with positive thinking in relation to sleep
  • Prescription sleep aids

Narcolepsy: a neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis (waking up from sleep without the ability to talk or move), and cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control).

  • Causes:
  • An autoimmune problem causing the lack of a hormone that helps regulate sleep
  • Some factors that may increase the risk of developing narcolepsy or an autoimmune problem are inherited genetics, a hormonal change such as in puberty or menopause, or major psychological stress
  • Possible Treatment:
  • Prescription medication
  • Practicing good sleep hygiene
  • Taking the precaution of scheduling naps, work, and activities

Sleep apnea: a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, accompanied usually by loud snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep.

  • Causes:
  • There are several risk factors for sleep apnea including excess weight, cigarette smoking, and nasal congestion
  • Possible Treatment:
  • For milder cases of sleep apnea, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes
  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep

Restless leg syndrome: characterized by a nearly irresistible urge to move the legs, typically in the evenings.

  • Causes:
  • Underlying conditions such as an iron deficiency, pregnancy, or habitual use of caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine
  • Possible Treatment:
  • Iron supplements
  • Prescription anti-seizure medication


If you or someone you know believes they may have a sleep disorder, we want to make sure you know how vital it is that you visit (or encourage your friend to visit) a medical professional. It is important that you talk with a doctor about the reasons you believe you may have a sleep disorder (no matter how odd or insignificant those reasons may seem to you).

The negative impacts of sleep loss on your body and mind are much too serious—both in the short- and long-term—to ignore the symptoms of a sleep disorder or to accept them as something you cannot fix. As we like to say, treating your sleep with care and making it a high priority will pay you back with interest thanks to sleep’s diligent maintenance of your health and the improvements it makes to the quality of your daily life. 

If you or someone you know is is concerned that you may have a sleep disorder, check out the American Academy of Sleep Medicine site to find the closest sleep testing center near you.