Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders glossary

Quality sleep is so important to mental and physical development in children and adults the like, which is why sleep disorders and problems can be immensely disruptive in both the short and long term.

If you’re experiencing persistent sleep problems, we strong advise you make an appointment with your GP to get the treatment you need. The vast majority of common sleep disorders can be treated with the right help and guidance.

At Silentnight, we understand the importance of quality sleep, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common sleep disorders and their definitions. You can also get some top tips for getting a good night’s sleep from our resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina.


People who suffer from insomnia frequently find it difficult getting to sleep or remaining asleep through the night.

The effects of insomnia can have a detrimental impact on the sufferer’s mood, concentration and motivation.

Causes of insomnia can include anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, excessive caffeine consumption and uncomfortable beds. Insomnia can be treated by adjusting your sleeping habits - here are some top tips on improving your quality of sleep from our resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina.

For more information on insomnia and how it can be treated, visit the NHS website here.

Jet lag

Jet lag occurs when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed as you travel between different time zones. If you’re suffering from jet lag, you’ll be most likely feel symptoms of tiredness, difficulty sleeping at natural times and poor concentration/memory.

Unfortunately, there are no treatments for jet lag. However, there are methods you can undertake to help negate the effects of jet lag. For more information, visit the NHS web page on jet lag.


Narcolepsy is one of the rarer sleeping disorders and causes the sufferer to suddenly fall asleep without warning.

Narcolepsy prevents the brain from processing regular sleeping and waking patterns. While narcolepsy isn’t linked to longer-term problems, it can cause great distress and disturbance to the sufferer’s day-to-day life.

There are a number of different approaches to treating narcolepsy, from habitual changes to medication. For more information visit the NHS dedicated web page on narcolepsy.

Night terrors

Night terrors and nightmares often affect children, but can also unsettle those in adulthood too. Night terrors can be terrifying to those who are experiencing them, but in the vast majority of cases no long-term damage has been done.

Night terrors tend to occur during the REM stage of sleep, and often those experiencing the night terror will shout and panic. Night terrors tend to be caused by tiredness, fevers and medication.

For more information on what might causes night terrors, visit the NHS night terrors page here.

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) causes a restlessness and/or unpleasant sensation that gives the sufferer an uncontrollable urge to move their legs.

The degree to which RLS can affect the sufferer varies. For most, they’ll only experience it periodically at night. More severe cases can cause great disruption to the sufferer’s day-to-day life.

Often lifestyle changes can help prevent RLS, such as instilling good sleep habits and regular exercise. The NHS have more information on treating and preventing RLS here.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea affects the throat: narrowing the throat walls during sleep, which then disturbs normal breathing cycles and interrupts the sufferer’s sleep.

Typical symptoms of sleep apnoea are heavy breathing, snoring, gasping and snorting during sleep. The sufferer will also experience restless sleep and potentially disturbed sleeping patterns.

To find out the difference between apnoea and hypopnoea, as well as more information about treatments, visit the NHS website.


Sleepwalking occurs mostly in children – though still sometimes in adults too – and is where the sufferer walks or engages in other activities while they’re still asleep.

The cause of sleepwalking is unknown, though the following habits are thought to be potential triggers: sleep deprivation, stress, alcohol and drug abuse, fevers and certain medications.

For more information about sleepwalking, you can visit the NHS website here.


There are many treatments out there for snoring, which is caused by – in most cases – restrictions to airways in the throat.

Snoring is often linked to lifestyle choices. The NHS recommend that you maintain a healthy diet, sleep on your side, avoid alcohol use before bed, quit smoking and be conscious of any allergies that may be triggering the snoring.

For more advice on snoring and available treatments, visit the NHS website here.

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