Frequent nighttime bathroom visits can
disrupt sleep, but so can many other, much more serious,
A few other minor sleep disorders and conditions affecting sleep are worth
- nocturia or
nycturia, interrupted sleep due to the frequent need to get up to urinate
during the night, particularly common in pregnant women and the
- bed-wetting or
enuresis, uncontrolled urination during sleep, especially
prevalent in young children, which may be caused by an insufficient
supply of the antidiuretic hormone ADH, a small bladder combined with long
sleep periods, or
other physical or emotional problems.
- hypnophobia or
somniphobia, an anxiety disorder manifesting as an abnormal
fear of sleeping or going to bed, a psychological state perpetuated
by self-induced stress and anxiety (also known as negative sleep
- nocturnal dissociative
disorder, a psychiatric disorder of wakefulness ,
superficially similar to sleep-walking, in which a sufferer wanders off or acts
out scenarios while technically awake (although completely unaware
of their actions, and with no subsequent memory of them), usually
as a psychological response to earlier abuse or trauma.
lethargica, an extremely rare viral infection of the sleep-wake cycle
mechanisms in the hypothalamus, causing extreme lethargy, sleep period
inversion, even catatonia or a completely unresponsive coma-like
Many other superficially unconnected medical or psychological
conditions have nevertheless been closely linked with sleep problems. It
is, however, not always clear where the causal relationship lies:
in some cases, the conditions lead to sleep problems; in
other cases, the opposite is true, and long-term sleep disorders
can actually cause the conditions; occasionally, both may occur, in
a spiral of positive reinforcement.
Some or the better-known diseases and conditions that fall into
this category include the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and other kinds of
dementia, which in their early stages may be characterized
by excessive sleeping (hypersomnia), and in their later stages may be marked
by insufficient sleep or
being ultimately replaced by short irregular dozes throughout the
day and night more remniscent of irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder (ISWRD) or
(in dementia patients, the number of neurons in the
becomes substantially reduced, so that circadian rhythms
may be severely disrupted).
- Anxiety (and other related mood disorders), which
typically leads to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
throughout the night.
- Asthma, particularly nocturnal asthma, in which
asthma symptoms worsen at night, so that coughing, wheezing and
breathlessness disrupt sleep.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), whose
incidence and symptoms in children show marked overlaps with those
of sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders in
children are often misdiagnosed as ADHD (and vice versa), and some
recent research has also suggested that sleep‘s role in the
brain’s consolidation of emotional memories in particular may be
linked to ADHD symptoms.
- Autism Spectrum Disorders affect an estimated 1 in
150-160 children, and half to three-quarters of them typically
disorders of some kind. Others appear to be able to function
more or less normally on significantly reduced hours of sleep. Some have
theorized that children with autism produce less melatonin in their
brains, or do not produce it at normal times, possibly due to
genetic mutations (the gene and enzyme ASMT, which is known to be
involved in the production of melatonin, has been specifically flagged in this
respect). Another possible link stems from iron deficiency, a
common problem in autistic children, which may lead to sleep disorders
like restless legs
- Depression, which is often accompanied by insomnia or similar
symptoms (especially waking up too early in the morning), or
sometimes the opposite, hypersomnia-like symptoms. Those suffering from
depression tend to experience REM sleep much earlier in their sleep cycles than
normal, suggesting some disruption in the drive-regulation
means of antidepressant medication, may fix this sleep stage
abnormality, as well as relieving the waking symptoms of
depressives. Depression shares many risk factors and biological
features with various different sleep disorders, and misdiagnosis is common.
- Diabetes, specifically type II diabetes, which
can be precipitated by sleep deprivation-driven changes in the balance of
regulate appetite, leading to overeating, higher glucose levels and
insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for type II
- Multiple sclerosis (MS), which tends to bring with it a
variety of sleep
disorders including insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy,
REM sleep behaviour
disorder, and others.
- Epilepsy, as well as the drugs typically used to treat
it, appear to be inherently implicated in sleep disorders.
In fact, epilepsy disturbs sleep and sleep deprivation aggravates epilepsy, in a two-way
connection. Epilepsy sufferers may or may not have seizures at
night depending on the type of epilepsy (for some people, seizures
may occur exclusively during sleep), and they are also more prone to sleep apnea.
- Obesity, which is a major contributing factor to
like sleep apnea, but
also a common consequence of many sleep disorders, through their effect on metabolism and
- Parkinson’s disease (PD), which has been linked with
disorders, including insomnia, REM sleep behaviour disorder, periodic leg movement
legs syndrome, sleep
apnea, narcolepsy, etc.
- Schizophrenia, for which sleep disorders
are one of the most common indications (affecting some 30%-80% of
patients). An improvement in sleep quality is frequently correlated with an
improvement in negative symptoms in schizophrenics.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as
winter depression, which is triggered by the
desynchronization of circadian rhythms during the shorter days of fall and
Snoring is not a
sleep disorder as
such, but it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns in some extreme cases. An estimated 45%
or people snore
at least occasionally, and 25% snore regularly. The noise of snoring can rise
to as much as 80-90 dB – equivalent to a large truck or motorcycle
passing – and severe snoring can disturb the snorer’s own sleep (as well as
that of their sleeping partner), even if it is not part of another
disorder such as sleep
apnea. See the separate section on Snoring for more details.