What Are Sleep Disorders?Insomnia – An estimated 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have insomnia . It can include difficulty falling asleep, waking up often, waking up and not falling back asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. A number of factors can cause insomnia: a too-hot bedroom, the wrong mattress, stress, anxiety, caffeine or sugar  before bedtime, anger, grief, too much excitement or stimulation (i.e. scary movies) before bedtime, daytime napping—or just plain worrying about not getting enough sleep. If you can’t figure out the cause, you may want to get checked for hyperthyroidism or see if your asthma is the culprit. Also check to see if insomnia could be a side effect of any of your prescriptions.
Sleep Apnea - Sleep apnea  is a serious condition where you stop breathing while sleeping, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. This can happen either because your airway is blocked (those with apnea are often heavy snorers) or because the brain simply forgets to tell the body to breathe. As a result, your sleep becomes extremely fragmented, even if you don’t realize you are waking up every time you stop breathing. The American Sleep Apnea Association  warns that, left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and other natural side effects of poor sleep. You may not even realize you have sleep apnea, so read up to find out if it’s a possibility.
Narcolepsy – If you’re having sleep attacks in broad daylight (especially scary while driving), you may be having irregular sleep patterns during your deep sleep phase. Narcolepsy is diagnosed through sleep labs, so few people who have it are diagnosed. It can help to fill out the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Form and take it in to your doctor.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders - circadian rhythm sleep disorders describe a category of sleep issues including sleep phase disorders (going to be and waking too early or too late), jet lag, and shift work disorder. These disorders are usually best treated by bright light therapy or taking melatonin; it is especially helpful for night-shift workers to make sure to work in bright lighting if possible and to sleep in a very dark bedroom. Go to bed at the same time every night to regulate your rhythms, and avoid irregular napping.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) – Occurring most often in middle-aged or older adults, RLS  is characterized by an irresistible urge to move your legs, due to unpleasant sensations. While the cause is generally unknown, it is said to be common in those with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, iron deficiency, Parkinson’s, pregnancy, or certain medications. The condition can be relieved somewhat by reducing stress and helping the muscles relax by stretching, massage, and warm baths. John Hopkins Center also recommends reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Sleep Walking - People have been known to engage in some bizarre activities while sleeping, and this can be downright scary. Sleep-related eating disorders can be especially difficult to treat; try locking the cupboards and the fridge at night!
Parasomnia - Nightmares or night terrors (waking up terrified and confused) can be especially exhausting—especially for parents, since night terrors occur mostly in children between 4 and 12. Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings can be unnerving when you wake up a bit disoriented, but night terrors can also be caused by fatigue, stress, anxiety, or fever. Most kids outgrow the night terrors, but lay off the scary movies (and illegal drugs) if the problem persists into adulthood.
The best cure for general sleepiness is to set a regular and reasonable bedtime and follow an otherwise healthy lifestyle. If you think you’re having a major problem, see your doc.