What exactly is a sleep disorder and what are the main symptoms?

You may think you’re getting enough sleep, but around 25% of us routinely suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind. Sleep disorders can be anything from insomnia and sleep apnea (difficulty breathing while asleep) to excessive snoring and restless leg syndrome.

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and can be caused by many things. Alcohol, caffeine, the wrong types of food – or simply too much stress can all be contributing factors. Shift work and jet lag can also play havoc with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Apnea is the inability to breathe properly while asleep. Apnea sufferers are not getting enough oxygen and also suffer from loud snoring. Apnea is commonly caused by an obstruction in the throat and symptoms include waking up and gasping for air, waking up sweating or with a headache.

If you have ever had restless leg syndrome – you will know how irritating it is and how it can prevent you from sleeping. The main symptom is an uncontrollable urge to move the legs or arms – usually when you’re in a confined space. A variation is Periodic Limb Movement, in which limbs suddenly move during sleep – usually causing the sufferer to wake.

Narcolepsy, which is hereditary, affects a small number of people and can potentially be a serious problem. People with narcolepsy can fall asleep while driving, walking and these sleep attacks can last for up to thirty minutes.