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Sleep disorders involves wide array of sleep problems, including difficulty getting to sleep, staying to sleep, sleeping at inappropriate times, sleeping too much or too little, and having unusual behaviour during sleep. There are about a hundred different sleep disorders identified by doctors and specialists in sleep problems.

The types of sleep problems are identified as coming from four different categories. The first is insomnia, which is the difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each day. There is excessive daytime sleepiness, which is problems staying awake during the day. There are problems with sleep rhythm, which is a problem finding a regular sleep schedule. Finally, there are sleep disruptive behaviour, which involves doing strange things while sleeping.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and occurs in people of all ages. You can have problems getting to sleep, problems staying asleep and problems with early morning wakening or waking and sleeping off and on during the night. The symptoms can last as little as two weeks in time or can be a chronic condition. The common causes include an underlying physical disorder, anxiety, stress, depression, poor sleeping environment, taking too much caffeine, using drugs or alcohol, using certain medications that interfere with sleep, smoking heavily, being in physical discomfort, napping too much during the day, and going to bed too early or spending too much time doing things while awake in bed.

You can have psycho-physiological insomnia, in which stress and anxiety contribute to sleep deprivation. You can also have a delayed sleep phase syndrome, in which your internal clock is not in synch with normal and expected sleep time hours, hypnotic-dependent sleep problems, in which you are dependent on medication to help you sleep and cannot sleep without them and stimulant dependent sleep problems, in which you become dependent on stimulants and cannot sleep as a result.

If there are problems staying awake, it can be termed a hypersomnia or "too much sleep". This can be completely idiopathic and have no known cause; narcolepsy, in which the person falls asleep suddenly and without warning; obstructive sleep apnea, with breathing problems during the night which make the individual sleepy during the day; periodic limb disorder, in which the limbs move during sleep and interfere with sleep, making it tiring during the day; and restless legs disorder, in which the legs are jumpy at night and the person doesn't get enough nighttime sleep.

You can have problems sticking to a regular sleep schedule. This involves an inability to be consistent with when you are tired and when you awaken. It is a problem of nighttime workers primarily.

Problems include jet lag syndrome, irregular sleep-wake cycle, natural short sleeper syndrome and paradoxical insomnia (when a person sleeps more or less than they believe they do), and shift work difficulties in sleeping.

Sleep disruptive disorders include having abnormal behaviour during sleep. These are also known as parasomnias and are more common in children than in adults. The problems can include sleep walking behaviour, sleep terrors and REM sleep behaviour disorder, in which dreams are acted out when the patient is actually sleeping.

The symptoms of the various sleep disorder depend on the type of disorder you have. All of the symptoms are related to sleep with the exception of things like depression, stress and anxiety, which make a difference in how well you sleep.

The diagnosis of sleep disorders is usually a thorough history, along with a physical examination. Some patients will undergo a sleep study, called a polysomnography exam, which can define what the sleep problem really is.

The treatment varies with the type of sleep disorder you have. Getting at the underlying cause of the sleep disorder is important. Medications can be used in some cases and having good sleep behaviour can change the way you sleep dramatically. Diseases like insomnia can be treated with medications or with good sleep habits. Diseases like narcolepsy can be treated with stimulants to keep the person awake during the day.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Sleep Disorder solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Sleep Disorder solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here