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Help With Sleep Disorders

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Topic Information

Sleep disorders (or sleep-wake disorders) involve problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, which result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning. Sleep-wake disorders often occur along with medical conditions or other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or cognitive disorders. There are several different types of sleep-wake disorders, of which insomnia is the most common. Other sleep-wake disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, parasomnias, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep Problems
  • Quality of sleep
  • Timing of sleep
  • Amount of sleep

Sleep difficulties are linked to both physical and emotional problems. Sleep problems can both contribute to or exacerbate mental health conditions and can be a symptom of other mental health conditions. About one-third of adults report insomnia symptoms and 6-10 percent meet the criteria for insomnia disorder.

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  • Jan 05, 2021
Light, Sleep and Mental Health

Light, both natural and artificial, can affect our health and mental health in several different ways. Depending on the time of day, light exposure can promote or disrupt sleep. A persistently disrupted sleep cycle can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity and mental health disorders. Research is also beginning to clarify non-circadian effects of light – light can have a direct impact on the sleep and mood centers in the brain. 

  • 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. 

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.
Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

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 JAN 18, 2021

Are sleep trackers accurate and can they help?

Independent

We care more than ever about getting enough sleep, so it’s no wonder many are turning to sleep trackers, but do they work, and are they helpful? An estimated one in three people report regular sleep complaints. So it’s hardly surprising people are more concerned than ever about getting enough sleep. This blossoming interest has seen an explosion of sleep trackers which measure how many hours of sleep you get each night. But these devices may not be as accurate or useful as they claim. 

JAN 17, 2021

Researchers Discover How the Brain Paralyzes You While You Sleep

SciTech Daily

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan have discovered a group of neurons in the mouse brainstem that suppress unwanted movement during rapid eye movement sleep. Narcolepsy, cataplexy, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder are all serious sleep-related illnesses. Researchers at the University of Tsukuba led by Professor Takeshi Sakurai have found neurons in the brain that link all three disorders and could provide a target for treatments.

JAN 14, 2021

What Is Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Very Well Health

Mild obstructive sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is the least-advanced type of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder that causes apneic events where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. OSA is considered a potentially serious disorder that can lead to adverse health effects. People with mild OSA have sleep apnea that isn’t as interrupted as moderate to severe OSA. But because the condition is mild, it might be hard to know if you have it or for your doctor to diagnose you with the condition..