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Help With Sleep Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Sleep disorders involve problems with the quality, timing and amount of sleep, which cause problems with functioning and distress during the daytime. There are a number of different types of sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most common. Other sleep disorders are narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep difficulties are linked to both physical and emotional problems. Sleep problems can both contribute to or exacerbate mental health conditions and be a symptom of other mental health conditions. Sleep problems affect quality of sleep, timing of sleep and amount of sleep.

In primary care, 10-20 percent of people complain of significant sleep problems. About one-third of adults report insomnia symptoms and 6-10 percent meet the criteria for insomnia disorder.1

Read more on symptoms & treatment

  • Nov 26, 2019
Is Social Jet Lag Dragging You Down?

Social jet lag refers to the mismatch between a person’s internal clock and their daily schedules. For most people that means the difference in sleep schedules between weekdays (school or workdays) and weekends (non-workdays).

  • May 14, 2019
Men, Women, and Differing Responses to Stress

Stress affects people in several ways—it activates adrenaline and other hormones, the nervous system and immune system. While not all stress is harmful, and some can even be beneficial, chronic or toxic stress can contribute to health problems. “Men and women react differently to toxic stress because their brains are wired differently,” notes Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., of The Rockefeller University, * “and therefore they may be at risk for different stress-related illnesses.” For example, as a result of chronic stress, women may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression while men may be more likely to develop problems with substance use. 

  • Feb 22, 2019
Are there Mental Health Benefits to Being a Morning Person?

Many of us identify ourselves as either a morning person or a night owl, and these preferences are at least partly the result of our genes. New research finds associations between the timing of your sleep/wake preferences and your mental health.The study from researchers at the University of Exeter and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that being genetically programmed to rise early may lead to greater well-being and a lower risk of depression and schizophrenia.

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I’m considering talking with my doctor about medication to help me sleep, but I’m concerned about becoming dependent on medication. Is it safe to take over-the-counter sleep medications?

Learn more about lifestyle choices that will promote and not harm sleep, (See Treatment and Self Help) rather than taking medication for sleep. Over-the-counter medications for sleep generally contain antihistamines. These may leave you feeling drowsy and may interfere with memory and attention. More

Is there a specialist that I should see about sleep problems?

Sleep disorder specialists should be consulted in cases of significant daytime sleepiness, persistent insomnia and disturbed behavior during sleep. Referral to a sleep disorder specialist is also appropriate for evaluation of breathing-related sleep disorders. More

I generally sleep eight to eight-and-a-half hours each night, but I’m still very sleepy during the day. How can I figure out what is going on?

Persistent daytime sleepiness can be debilitating or even dangerous. Daytime sleepiness can be caused by a number of issues, including self-medication with either stimulants or depressants; inadequate sleep at night; breathing-related sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy or cataplexy; or psychiatric illnesses like depression. Excessive daytime sleepiness should be evaluated by a sleep disorders specialist. More

A friend often has a glass or two of wine to help her get to sleep, is there any concern with doing that?

Wine and other alcoholic beverages may enable someone to fall asleep more quickly, but as the alcohol is metabolized, the sleeper may experience rebound insomnia during the middle of the night. Also, if the sleeper has sleep apnea or a tendency to sleep apnea, the use of alcohol and other depressants may worsen this condition. More

I have an infant and a toddler and my sleep is often interrupted. Is there anything I can do to get the best sleep possible, given the circumstances?

Pediatric sleep specialists have developed techniques that parents of infants and toddlers can use to promote better sleep and sleep habits in their children, thereby enabling tired parents themselves to have a better chance at restorative sleep. See infant sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. More

Charles Reynolds

About the Expert:

Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D.
UPMC Endowed Professor in Geriatric Psychiatry
Director of the Aging Institute of UPMC and University of Pittsburgh

Warren’s Story

Warren, a 30-year-old graduate student, saw a doctor to discuss his problems staying asleep. The trouble began four months prior when he started to wake up at 3 a.m. every morning, no matter when he went to bed, and he was unable to fall back to sleep. As a result he felt “out of it” during the day. This led him to feel more worried about how he was going to finish his thesis when he was unable to focus due to extreme fatigue.

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JULY 9, 2020
Optimistic people sleep better and live longer
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Optimists live longer than pessimists and have a lower risk of chronic disease - this has been scientifically validated on multiple occasions. A reason for optimists having longer and healthier lives could be that they sleep better: this is the central finding of a recent study led by Jakob Weitzer and Eva Schernhammer from the Medical University of Vienna's Division of Epidemiology, which has now been published in the "Journal of Sleep Research"..

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Sleep Neurologists Call It ‘COVID-Somnia’—Increased Sleep Disturbances Linked to the Pandemic

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JULY 7, 2020

Are These Uncertain Times Keeping You Up? The Solution Might Be Personal.  
Northeastern

Giving general advice is oddly difficult, she says, because there isn’t a single, all-encompassing remedy to help everyone relax and get a good night’s sleep. “A yoga practitioner might say that the best way to control anxieties is through yoga and meditation,” Ye says. “For someone who loves reading, it might be quiet reading time.” Each person should address their own circumstances, and accept that there are certain kinds of anxieties that will be harder to address, she says..