What Are The Most Common Sleep Disorders?

According to the most recent edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are approximately 81 distinct sleep disorders. However, only a handful are seen on a daily basis in sleep centers. The following article briefly describes the most common sleep disorders encountered in sleep centers.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Of all the sleep disorders, obstructive sleep apnea (commonly referred to as Sleep Apnea) is certainly the most talked about. Sleep Apnea affects between 4-20% of adult men. As sleep disorders go, this is a very high prevalence. Sleep apnea occurs when a personís upper airway collapses leading to snoring, breathing pauses while sleeping, and daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is one of the most serious sleep disorders, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, motor vehicle accidents, and strained relationships. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed with a sleep study and there are effective treatment options such as CPAP, surgery, oral appliance therapy, and medical management.


This is one of the most common sleep disorders. Most people experience insomnia at least once in their lives, and as many as 9% to 15% of the general population reports chronic symptoms that cause significant daytime impairments. Not only can it affect daytime functioning, but it has also been implicated in mood disorders and work related accidents. Insomnia is often treated with a combination of sedative hypnotics (sleeping pills) and a behavioral program call cognitive behavioral therapy.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) has probably received the most media attention of all the sleep disorders. In 2005, the first FDA approved medication for RLS was released, and seemingly overnight many patients were being diagnosed. Sleep disorders clinics were suddenly filled with RLS patients, even though it has been known about for centuries. Restless Legs Syndrome occurs in approximately 5% to 10% of the population. Oftentimes it can be related to low iron levels or to substances like caffeine or Benadryl, but frequently it is actually a genetic disorder that requires a medication. Fortunately, we now have a number of medication options for treating RLS.


Of all the sleep disorders, Narcolepsy is probably the most "famous". It has been made fun of in popular television and is part of our popular cultures vernacular, but few understand that this is probably one of the most devastating sleep disorders. It causes frequent uncontrollable bouts of sleepiness throughout the day, and can be accompanied by episodes of paralysis caused by emotional triggers. Narcolepsy remains on of the most difficult to treat sleep disorders, although new medications like Xyrem and Nuvigil offer hope.

These are the most common sleep disorders that we run into on a daily basis in our sleep center, but many more sleep disorders exist including sleep walking, shift work sleep disorder, delayed sleep phase disorder, idiopathic hypersomnia, and periodic limb movement disorder to name a few. If you feel that you might have a sleep disorder, the best thing to do is call a sleep center and make an appointment for evaluation.

Disclaimer: As with all the content on this site, this article is to be viewed as educational only. In no way should this be construed as medical advice. If you are concerned that you might have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with a sleep physician for proper advice.