A sleep disorder is a medical problem that affects sleep patterns of an individual. These sleep disorders can be severe enough that they can interfere with normal functioning of an individual.

  • Some genes have been proven to increase stress-reactivity. Increase in stress response is more likely to bring about reduced sleep and other sleeping disorders.

Insufficient sleep disrupts normal gene activity. Here are some types of sleep disorders.

1. Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is quite a common sleep disorder. It is divided into two types as follows:

Obstructive sleep apnea

It is a sleep disorder that happens during shut-eye. The tongue or soft palate blocks the airway of an individual partly or completely. This makes the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles to work extra harder to open the obstructed airway.

This disorder may be genetic as one may inherit a craniofacial complex disorder. This disorder is one of the most important heritable conditions of obstructive sleep apnea. The same way family members look alike; they may share a craniofacial complex. Therefore, having obstructive sleep apnea disorder.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or a sore throat on waking up.
  • Night Sweats.

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea

  • Weight loss
  • Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
  • Use nasal sprays to decongest chest

Central sleep apnea

With central sleep apnea, breathing is disrupted on a regular basis during sleep, and it is primarily due to problems with the brain.

The brain stem that controls breathing is affected, and thus signals are not sent for breathing to take place.

Genetically inherited physical traits like one’s face, mouth, skull shape, characteristics of his or her upper airway muscles and body fat play an essential role in determining whether one will suffer from central sleep apnea.

Risk factors for central sleep apnea.

  • Congestive cardiac failure
  • Obesity
  • Neurological diseases
  • Kidney failure.

Symptoms of central sleep apnea

  • Headaches on waking up.
  • Poor memory and difficult concentration
  • Mood swings

Treatment for central sleep apnea

  • Losing weight
  • Use of nasal sprays to keep air flowing in.
  • Avoid using alcohol
  • Use of continuous positive airway pressure. With CPAP, an air blower forces air through the nose and mouth. This causes a negative pressure and thus preventing upper airway tissues from collapsing.

2. Hypersomnia

This refers to excessive sleeping during the day or excessive time spent sleeping. With this condition, an individual experiences difficulty in staying awake during the day.

There are genetic disorders that are associated with hypersomnia. These disorders include:

  • Prader-Will syndrome,
  • Norrie disease,
  • Niemann-Pick disease type C and
  • myotonic dystrophy.

It is important to complete a full evaluation of the above syndromes before a diagnosis is made. This is because hypersomnia n these syndromes may be associated with other secondary causes

Causes of hypersomnia

  • Not getting enough sleep at night.
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Genetics
  • Depression

Treatment of hypersomnia

  • Drugs such as antidepressants and stimulants.
  • Avoid using drugs that make one drowsy

3. Insomnia

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep.There are genes that are likely to increase stress-reactivity. An increase in stress response corresponds to poor sleep and developing insomnia.

It is essential for you to consult relatives if they have problems falling asleep and what remedies they have used.

Symptoms of insomnia

  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up at night and having trouble falling back asleep
  • Feeling exhausted on waking up.
  • Early morning awakening

Types of insomnia

Primary insomnia

This is a type of insomnia that is characterized by a person having sleep problems that are not associated with any health condition or problem.

Secondary insomnia

This is a type of insomnia that is characterized by a person having sleep problems that are associated to a health condition (for example asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer) or pain or a substance they are taking.

Causes of insomnia

  • Significant life stresses
  • Illness
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Pain

Treatment of insomnia

  • For treatment of chronic insomnia, treat the underlying condition or health problem.
  • Behavioral therapy can also be practiced.


These are disruptive sleep disorders that occur during arousals from sleep. This includes nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking and confused arousals.


These are vivid nighttime events that cause feelings of fear, terror, and anxiety. Returning to sleep, in this case, is difficult.

Night terrors

This is whereby one wakes up abruptly from his sleep terrified, confused and unable to communicate.

Sleep walking

This happens when an individual appears to be awake and moving around, but he or she is asleep.

5.Rapid Eye Movement sleep behavior disorder.

In this sleep disorder, the paralysis that usually occurs during the rapid eye movement stage of sleep is absent. This makes the person act out his or her dreams.

This individual might talk in their sleep, shout, box, kick and yell.

This condition is not hereditary. It is affected by the events of the day. One is more likely to have parasomnias if he or she got involved in a traumatic experience. It is therefore not hereditary.

6. Narcolepsy

This is a neurological disorder that affects sleep and wakefulness state of an individual. It is characterized by intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling during the day.

For people with narcolepsy, rapid eye movement sleep occurs immediately in their cycle of sleep.

Cause of narcolepsy

There are genes that are associated with this disorder. These genes are responsible for controlling the production of chemicals in the brain that signal sleep and awake cycles.

Symptoms of narcolepsy

  • Excessive daytime sleeping
  • Cataplexy-this is the sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to feelings of weakness and loss of voluntary muscle control.
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Hallucinations


  • Lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals.
  • Xyrem- this is a drug that helps people with narcolepsy get a good night sleep.

Genetic testing is the only way to know whether one’s genes are responsible for sleeping disorders.

Also chatting with family member helps one determine whether he or she is predisposed sleeping disorders.

Sources and references

  1. Sleeping disorders


  1. Types of sleeping disorders