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Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea a disorder in which an individual's breathing starts and stops, up to several hundred times per night while sleeping. This interruption in an individual's breathing pattern can be caused by a partial or complete obstruction in the air passage. During interrupted breathing patterns, blood pressure rises, while blood oxygen levels fall. These changes can create a significant strain on the heart, with long-term effects.

A majority of those suffering with sleep apnea are unaware that they have the condition. Many times, a person's bed partner notices the symptoms first. This can include loud snoring, pauses in breathing, restlessness, and excessive movement. Another sign of sleep apnea is excessive day-time drowsiness. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea may experience mood swings, morning headaches, forgetfulness, and chronic fatigue.

Typically affects men who are over the age of 40, who are overweight, and who snore. However, sleep apnea can affect slender individuals, as well as women and children.

Sleep apnea can be effectively treated once it has been diagnosed. Most individuals prefer a non-surgical approach to correct sleep apnea. These may include alterations in sleep habits and body positioning. Other treatments include: weight loss and use of mechanical devices, which assist in maintaining open breathing passages during sleep.

Did you know you can retrain your body to sleep in a different position and it may improve your sleep? Learn more about body positioning and sleep.

Still have questions? Learn more about sleep apnea.


People with this disorder are often excessively sleepy. Taking a short nap may help alleviate the sleepiness for a short while, but often the sleepiness returns after two - three hours.

Sometimes people can have sleep attacks, meaning they can fall asleep while walking, eating, talking, and driving. They may experience muscle weakness during times of strong emotions. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Feeling of not being able to move (paralysis) when falling asleep or waking
  • Seeing things that are not there or feeling like someone is in the room with you (if alone)
  • Frequently waking up and difficulty falling back to sleep
  • Memory problems



Problems with Insomnia may occur in different ways, such as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, or decreased sleep quality. Everyone at some point may experience some of these sleep problems, but when these problems happen frequently, then it is time to think more about your sleep. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Excessive tiredness during the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Worry or anxiousness about sleeping
  • Falling asleep during work or unexpectedly
  • Feeling tense

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - A strong urge to move the legs, resisting the urge to move the legs is very difficult and is only alleviated by moving the legs. Feelings of pain, crawling sensations, prickling, or tingling deep inside the legs are common. Sitting or laying still is difficult. The symptoms may be relieved by walking or rubbing the legs, but often only provides temporary relief. The urge to move the legs increases at night and may make it difficult to fall asleep. Sometimes the person may be unaware that the movement of the legs continues during sleep causing frequent interruptions. This condition of leg movements in sleep is called Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS). Anyone can have problems of leg movements for a short while. Short term occurrences are often caused by being inactive for a long time or by unusually strenuous activities. However, frequent problems with moving the legs during sleep can cause daytime sleepiness leading to less energy. Some conditions associated with RLS or PLMS include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney disease
  • Iron deficiency (or conditions creating low iron levels)
  • Disease of the nervous system
  • Medications

Problems with RLS or PLMS often increase with age. Symptoms of either RLS or PLMS first start to appear more often between the ages of 40-65. After eliminating the condition or treating the underlying problems that may cause RLS or PLMS, the problem may continue. In situations where RLS or PLMS continue, treatment with medications may be effective.