Sleep Disorders

There are many disorders that are known to impair sleep, contributing to daytime tiredness and other daytime problems. It is possible to have more than one sleep disorder affecting your health.


Snoring occurs when the muscles of the airway relax too much during sleep and vibrate (creating noise) when air passes in and out of the airway. Most people will snore at some time, however loud or chronic snoring can disrupt sleep-quality and disturb others. It is often associated with other sleep-related breathing disorders.


Narcolepsy is a condition where the sleep-wake regulators in the brain do not function correctly, causing patients to be excessively sleepy and to have unusual manifestations of REM (dream) sleep. Narcolepsy is often associated with cataplexy, a loss of muscle strength elicited by emotional factors such as laughter, anger or surprise

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) experience repetitive periods of partial or complete occlusion of their airway during sleep. Symptoms include snoring, waking unrefreshed, daytime tiredness and sometimes waking during the night choking or gasping for air. When untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition which causes sensations of restlessness in the legs (and sometimes in the arms) during relaxation in the evening or when trying to get to sleep. Patients with the condition often describe the symptoms as being uncomfortable, irritating, or a “creepy-crawly” feeling, and find it essential to move their limbs to obtain relief.


Bruxism refers to grinding of the teeth during sleep (and sometimes during the day). In addition to being detrimental to dental health, the noise from bruxism can be disturbing for others. Bruxism can lead to headaches, jaw pain and daytime tiredness.

Central sleep apnoea

This type of sleep apnoea is most commonly seen in patients with heart failure. Respiratory effort and resultant breathing is periodically compromised due to a complex combination of changes in the cardiovascular system and breathing control centres.

Chronic sleep-deprivation

Humans generally need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Symptoms of chronic sleep-deprivation manifest when an individual regularly does not achieve enough sleep.

Circadian rhythm disorders

This condition is seen in patients who have irregular sleep-patterns (such as people who shift-work), when mechanisms that regulate sleep are unbalanced.

Epilepsy and seizures

Epilepsy is a neurological condition caused abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This activity can cause seizures, particularly in the early morning. Patients with nocturnal epilepsy may be unaware that they have the condition.

Idiopathic hypersomnolence

Patients with this condition are excessively sleepy throughout the day, regardless of how much time is spent asleep. This condition may be diagnosed after all other causes of daytime sleepiness have been excluded.


Insomnia occurs when an individual experiences difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep. Most people will experience insomnia at some time; however, chronic insomnia can be detrimental to physical and emotional health.


The term parasomnia covers a variety of unusual events that can occur during sleep, including abnormal movements, behaviours, dreams/nightmares, sleepwalking and sleep talking. Most parasomnias are intermittent and benign, however some can pose a significant problem to health and safety.

Periodic limb movement disorder

Patients with this condition (often unknowingly) kick or jerk their legs regularly during sleep. These abnormal leg movements may cause sleep-fragmentation and can lead to excessive daytime tiredness and disturbing others.

REM-sleep behaviour disorder

Patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder experience abnormal movements during REM (dream) sleep, such as “acting out dreams”. This is a rare condition caused by abnormalities in the brain’s behaviour when shifting between dream and non-dream states.

Sleep disorders in children

Sleep problems can affect children as well as adults. Children with a sleep disorder may suffer from snoring, waking unrefreshed, daytime sleepiness, hyperactivity and problems with memory, learning and concentration or have behavioural issues.

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