Sleep disorders can be defined as serious disturbances in sleep patterns that interfere with daytime functioning. Around 36% of Americans will suffer from one at some point during their lifetime1.

They can be separated into three categories, which I shall deal with in turn.


All disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep. Some examples are the following:

  1. Insomnia. (Inability to sleep.) This can often be traced to stressful life events, and can often be treated with sleep aids.
  2. Sleep apnea. Here the sleeper stops breathing many times a night; they wake up, gulp in air and drift back to sleep. The condition is most common in males, the overweight and the elderly.


All disorders of excessive sleep or sleepiness, for example:

  1. Narcolepsy, which is characterised by repeated, brief (10-15 minute) sleep attacks. These will be characteristically inappropriate, occuring for example in the middle of a conversation or, more dangerously, while driving. It can be treated with stimulants.
  2. Cataplexy. This is a loss of muscletone while the sufferer is awake, often triggered by strong emotions; they appear to simply collapse.


Mainly disorders related to REM sleep dysfunction.

  1. Sleepwalking
  2. Night terrors
  3. Sleep paralysis
  4. REM sleep arousal disorder, in which a dreaming person makes the movements he or she is making in their dream.

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