What are the Most Common Sleep Problems?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

The most common types of sleep problems involve difficulty falling asleep or waking while trying to stay asleep. If a sleep problem occurs and is a lasting issue, help from a doctor should be sought. Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), restless legs syndrome (RLS), insomnia and sleep apnea are some common sleep problems.

A man with using a BiPAP breathing mask to manage sleep apnea.
A man with using a BiPAP breathing mask to manage sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea requires treatment by a doctor, as a person who has it may stop breathing hundreds of times during sleep. Obstructive and central are the two kinds of sleep apnea and the obstructive type is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea results from blockage in the airway and it occurs in intervals during sleep. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain's failure to send the proper message to the respiratory system to create steady breathing. It's possible for a person with obstructive sleep apnea to also have the central type.

Sleep apnea is one of the common kinds of sleep problems that a person may not know he or she has, but a bed partner is likely to notice. The main symptoms of sleep apnea are gasping for breath or making snorting sounds. Because the airway is blocked, shallow rather than deep breathing as well as snoring occurs. A person with sleep apnea may feel drowsy and fatigued during the day.

Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and it's one of the most common sleep problems, as nearly everyone will experience it at some time in his or her life. If insomnia becomes chronic, or long lasting, it's important to seek medical help and not rely on sleeping pills. While sleeping pills, or medication taken to help a person fall asleep, may help insomnia on a short-term basis, the drugs may easily become addictive, so extreme care must be taken. Natural approaches to inducing sleep are often best. Limiting caffeine and alcohol in the evenings may help, as well as relaxing before bed or taking warm baths.

An individual with sleep apnea may feel drowsy during the day.
An individual with sleep apnea may feel drowsy during the day.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that is thought to have a genetic cause. The legs move during sleep and a person with the disorder may wake up several times during the night due to twitching leg muscles or an urge to get up and walk around. Keeping to a regular sleep schedule may help reduce the sleep problems caused by RLS as well as those of periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Leg cramps as well as tingling or crawling sensations may occur in both RLS and PLMD sleep disorders. PLMD may also affect the hands and arms and these limbs may tingle or move during sleep.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder.

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    • A man with using a BiPAP breathing mask to manage sleep apnea.
      A man with using a BiPAP breathing mask to manage sleep apnea.
    • Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
      Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
    • An individual with sleep apnea may feel drowsy during the day.
      An individual with sleep apnea may feel drowsy during the day.
    • Insomnia is a common sleep disorder.
      Insomnia is a common sleep disorder.
    • High doses of caffeine may cause insomnia.
      High doses of caffeine may cause insomnia.
    • Not getting enough sleep at night may result in daytime drowsiness.
      Not getting enough sleep at night may result in daytime drowsiness.
    • Use of sleeping pills should be limited to avoid dependency.
      Use of sleeping pills should be limited to avoid dependency.
    • A person may be unaware that she has REM sleep behavior disorder until being informed by housemates.
      A person may be unaware that she has REM sleep behavior disorder until being informed by housemates.
    • Disorders such as restless leg syndrome can cause sleep problems.
      Disorders such as restless leg syndrome can cause sleep problems.