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Article Reviewed by Licensed Medical Personnel - sleep disordesUnderstanding Sleep Disorders

We've all heard of the term "sleep disorder," but what exactly does it mean?  Sleep disorders involve much more than having trouble falling asleep.  As a matter of fact, sleep disorders can have serious medical ramifications. The medical term for sleep disorder is "somnipathy," which literally means a disorder in ones patterns of sleep. This happens to both humans and animals.

sleep disordersAre you getting proper rest? 

SleepCheck is a safe, easy-to-use, and reliable screen that uses a saliva sample to measure the level of melatonin in your body. Although melatonin plays a role in many other areas of your body, such as cardiovascular function, female reproductive hormones, and as an antioxidant, melatonin's primary contribution is to your body's ability for quality sleep and the regulation of your circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle of sleeping and waking our body experiences based on the patterns of light and dark. Without proper melatonin secretion, your circadian rhythm is off-balance, affecting your night's sleep.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are more that 70 million Americans that are affected by some type of sleep disorder. This figure includes adults and children. Sleep disorders affect all races, genders and ethnicities.

The Primary Categories of Sleep Disorders

While there aree over 100 medically-recognized sleep disorders, they essentially fall into four categories:

  1. Problems with falling and staying alseep
  2. Problems with staying awak
  3. Problems with having a normal sleep schedule
  4. Sleep-disruption behaviours

Sleep Disorder Category #1 - Problems with Falling and Staying Asleep

Insomnia is the most known sleep disorder that involves falling asleep - and then staying asleep. This problem can also include intermittent wakefulness and waking very early in the morning. These episodes can be short-term, transient or chronic. Causes may include depression, stress or anxiety, caffeine, drugs/alcohol, medications, smoking heavily, pain, or napping in the daytime.

Sleep Disorder Category #2 - Problems with Staying Awake

If you sleep too much, you may have a condition known as "hypersomnia." Forms of hypersomnia include:

Sleep Apnea - Sleep apnea generally affects obese people but it can also affect those individuals with a small jaw or short neck. The danger of this disorder is that it stops people from breathing intermittently during sleep, causing the person to awake over and over again throughout the night and not receive adequate rest.  As a result, the person suffers from extreme sleepiness during the day.  (See the related article, CPAP and Sleep Disorders.) 

Narcolepsy - Narcolepsy is characterized by attacks throughout the daytime hours and features sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations.  This condition occurs despite adequate sleep.

Resltess Leg Syndrome - Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that affects a person's the legs, generally at night.  Uncomfortable and sometimes painful sensations are reported when a person is relaxed.  Moving the legs can make the pain diminish.  This condition causes insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Disorder Category #3 - Problems With Having a Normal Sleep Schedule 

Sleep disorders may occur as the result of a disruption of normal waking and sleeping patters.  A common cause of this sleep disorder is rotating shifts, where workers work the night shift, and then are rotated to the day shift.  Another example is when a person travels between time zones.

Sleep Disorder Category #4 - Sleep-Disruption Behaviours

Persons suffering sleep-disturbing behaviors experience abnormal behaviors while sleeping.  Medically, these people are referred to as "parasomnias."

Sleep disruptive behaviour is more common in children, who may exhibit Sleep Terror Disorder, Sleepwalking, and REM Behavior (psychosis secondary to lack of REM sleep and lack of dreaming).

Sleep Terror Disorder involves an abrupt awakening in which sweating, fear, tachycardia, and confusion is exhibited.

Sleepwalking most commonly affects children 2 to 12 years old. In adults, sleepwalking may also be caused by an organic brain syndrome, reactions to drugs, psychological disorders, and certain medical conditions.


If you suspect that you are affected by a sleep disorder, consult your physician.  Lack of proper sleep can cause health problems in the future.