If you’re finding that you’re routinely struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. Not only can a sleep disorder wreak havoc on your work, your schooling and your relationships, but it could also increase your risk for different health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, as well as obesity and depression. And in Alabama, it’s clear that we are sleep deprived. In 2014, the CDC reported that only 39 percent of adults reported getting the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep.

The Cleveland Clinic defines sleep disorders as “conditions that impair your sleep or prevent you from getting restful sleep and, as a result, can cause daytime sleepiness and other symptoms.” While anyone could experience trouble with sleep on occasion, it becomes a greater concern if sleeplessness occurs regularly, and you’re struggling to perform your regular activities at work, school and/or home because you feel tired all the time. If those statements ring true, it’s time to talk to a doctor. You could be among the 70 million adults in the US experiencing chronic sleep problems. Below, you’ll find descriptions of some of the common sleep disorders.


People who have insomnia have trouble falling asleep, having trouble staying asleep throughout the night or unintentionally waking up early. According to the Mayo Clinic, that could result in a host of unpleasant feelings, including irritability, depression and anxiety. Insomnia could make you feel tired during the day, and lead to mistakes at work or even accidents. Some people with insomnia fall into a cycle: they worry that they won’t be able to sleep, and that concern in turn makes it more challenging to fall asleep. If you find that tiredness is regularly impacting how you function during the day, talk to your doctor.

Sleep apnea

If you’ve been told you snore, you could have sleep apnea, a disorder that impacts nearly 30 million adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. What’s alarming with sleep apnea is it’s a sneaky condition: around 23.5 million of those 30 million cases are undiagnosed. Untreated, sleep apnea can have some considerable health ramifications. That’s because people who have the disorder stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night—sometimes several hundred times—when their airway becomes blocked, disrupting the flow of oxygen to the lungs and the brain. AASM lists five warning signs of sleep apnea: snoring, choking or gasping while sleeping, sleepiness or fatigue during the day, obesity (the risk of sleep apnea increases with a person’s excess weight) and high blood pressure. Sleep apnea can be treated with  continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, directs air through a mask or nose piece and helps you breathe while you slumber. In getting treatment, you may also lower your risk for a number of complications associated with sleep apnea, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and problems with your liver. Plus, if you share your bed, your partner may thank you for getting help. If you think you may have sleep apnea, or if your partner is concerned you do, talk to your doctor.

Restless leg syndrome

It might come as a surprise that Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is actually considered a sleep disorder. The name for this disorder comes from the almost overwhelming urge to move your legs, usually when lying down or sitting for extensive periods of time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, RLS affects nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population. Cleveland Clinic goes on to report that some people are genetically predisposed to get RLS, while others may develop it in association with health conditions such as depression, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and during pregnancy. It’s considered a sleep disorder because of its tendency to disrupt sleep and result in tiredness. If you think that you might have RLS, and you’re finding that the inability to sleep is impacting your productivity and your relationships, talk to your health care provider.


If you’re having trouble finding a boundary between being awake and being asleep, you could have a neurological disorder called narcolepsy. The CDC describes narcolepsy as “excessive daytime sleepiness (including episodes of irresistible sleepiness) combined with sudden muscle weakness.” People with narcolepsy may fall asleep suddenly, without intention, while doing ordinary tasks, such as walking to the store, or attending a work meeting; they also may experience something called “cataplexy,” where they briefly collapse because they lose their muscle tone or strength. Hallucinations, excessive daytime sleepiness and something called sleep paralysis, which describes the inability to move or talk before falling asleep or after waking up, are some of the other symptoms, according to Cleveland Clinic. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have narcolepsy. He or she may be able to discuss medications, lifestyle changes and therapy that could help.