Sleep Disorder Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is a Sleep Disorder?

Sleeping is a key function of life. Especially since, we spend about a third of our life in bed. It plays a crucial role in a person’s physical health and emotional well being. A person is considered to have a sleep disorder (somnipathy) when they have trouble with their sleep patterns. There are a multiple variations of sleep disorders and there are even more causes that help create a sleep disorder. There are three categories of sleep disorders. One category is intrinsic, which occurs from within the body, the second is extrinsic, which is caused by environmental elements or pathological circumstances, and the third category is disturbances of circadian rhythm, which is a person’s internal body clock. Some of the more common sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep terror
  • Tooth-grinding (Bruxism)
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleep sex (sexsomnia)

The people struggling with these disorders have trouble falling asleep and remaining asleep. A sleep disorder can be caused by uncontrollable body movements (teeth grinding, leg movements), mental disorders (anxiety, depression), and alcohol and substance abuse. In some cases, certain sleep disorders will cause the sufferer to sleep too much or suddenly fall asleep (narcolepsy, sleep apnea). Regardless of the cause, a person is considered to have a sleep disorder when they have had difficulties with their sleep patterns for approximately one month. However, help is available in learning how to manage a sleep disorder. Assistance can be found through loved ones and professional care such as a sleep disorder treatment center.

Statistics on Sleep Disorders

A Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey determined that, among 74,571 adult respondents in 12 states, 35.3% reported <7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period, 48.0% reported snoring, 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month, and 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month [1]. Other statistics follow:

  • Five million Europeans suffering from sleep apnea syndrome can fall asleep while driving [2].
  • In many cases, a disturbance of sleep is one of the symptoms of another disorder, either mental or physical. Even when a specific sleep disorder appears to be clinically independent, a number of associated psychiatric and/or physical factors may contribute to its occurrence [3].
  • Lack of sleep is creating a major public safety problem as well—drowsy driving. The 2009 poll finds that more than one-half of adults (54%) – potentially 110 million licensed drivers– have driven when drowsy at least once in the past year. Nearly one-third of drivers polled (28%) say that they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle [4].

Causes of Sleep Disorder

There is no single element that causes a sleep disorder. However, a sleep disorder can be generated by alcohol and substance abuse, or it can be developed by a mood or mental disorder. A physical or environmental factor such as jet lag or working late shifts may be catalyst for creating a sleep disorder. These various causes aid in the difficulty of analyzing and treating sleep disorders. Due to the complexities of sleep disorder causes, the treatments can be just as complicated.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Disorder

Dealing with a sleep disorder can be extremely frustrating. It can take a heavy toll on the sufferer’s health and mental acuity. The most obvious sign of a sleep disorder is realizing that a person has trouble going to sleep and maintaining sleep. However, there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate a sleep disorder. Some of these indications include:

  • Having trouble falling asleep for four weeks
  • Fear of falling asleep
  • Difficulty remaining asleep for four weeks
  • Snoring
  • Stop breathing throughout the night

Sleep Disorder Effects

The effects of a sleep disorder can present some grueling consequences. People spend a substantial portion of their lives sleeping. Sleeping is a key element in maintaining one’s health, it is crucial to a body’s healing, and it is important to sustaining a person’s mental health. A sleep disorder can have a serious impact on someone’s life. Some of the emotional results include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Irritable
  • Frustrated

Some of the physical results are:

  • Bodily injuries
  • Death
  • Dependency on sleeping pills
  • Declining health
  • Continuously tired
  • Lack of energy

A few of the social consequences are:

  • Loss of career
  • Strained family relations
  • Drain on resources
  • Become reclusive

Sleep Disorder Treatment

Treatment for a sleep disorder is as unique as the individual that is suffering from one. There is no general cure for overcoming a sleep disorder. Relief may be as simple as changing the habits of one’s sleep routine, or as complicated as working through personal trauma, drug addiction, and a mental disorder. The treatment depends on the circumstances of the person medical history, the diagnosis, expertise of the counselor, the patient’s presences, and their psychiatric history. Once all of the factors are understood and evaluated, a sleep disorder treatment program can be developed.






Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Addiction Info