sleep apnea what are the other sleep disorders

What are the other sleep disorders?

Having difficulty sleeping or feeling irritable doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is just one of many possible sleep disorders that can deprive you of a normal night’s sleep. Amongst 85 possible sleep disorders, the most familiar are insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, narcolepsy and Circadian Rhythm sleep disorders.


  • Sleep apnea: a sleep disorder with abnormal pauses in breathing. It may involve instances of abnormally shallow breathing during sleep, due to an obstruction in the upper airway.
  • Insomnia: the most common sleep disorder. People have difficulty falling asleep. Failing to obtain an adequate amount of sleep causes tiredness during the day.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease: a person has an irresistible urge to move his/her legs or arms due to uncomfortable sensations.
  • Narcolepsy: excessive sleepiness during the day. The brain doesn’t control the sleeping and waking cycles normally.
  • Circadian Rhythm sleep disorders: caused by a disruption of the biological clock, such as jet lag, shift-based work, etc.


Other sleep breathing disorders may seem like sleep apnea, such as Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome, Overlap Syndrome or Cheyne-Stokes Respiration.



Excessive weight makes it harder to take a deep breath and to breathe quickly enough. Hence, obese people might suffer from Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome.

How does it work? Beyond this mechanical breathing problem, a defect in the brain's control over breathing, often combined with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, leads to hypoventilation: the blood contains too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen. OHS is increasingly recognized as a significant public health issue(1), particularly in the context of the obesity epidemic affecting many countries. Despite its major impact on health, this disorder is under-recognized.

The severe respiratory and cardio-metabolic consequences increase health-related costs and the risk of hospitalization and death(1).

Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) is the recognized treatment in terms of reducing mortality which, like CPAP, is delivered through a mask. NIV provides high inspiratory pressures in order to assist ventilation(1).

Weight loss is an effective treatment, but often difficult to achieve without additional intervention such as bariatric surgery(1).




other sleep disorders sleep apnea

Overlap Syndrome is the combination of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea).

Overlap Syndrome occurs in 10 to 15% of COPD patients(2). The disease is associated with a reduction of blood oxygen during sleep, which induces extreme fatigue and other health problems.

There is no cure for Overlap Syndrome but there are treatments for its symptoms such as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which also improves lung function(2).


Think you might have a sleep disorder, but not sure which one? A doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.



    (1) Sleep breathing disorders – European Respiratory Society WhiteBook (chapter 23)
    (2) COPD and difficulty breathing, Sleep disorders problems, National Sleep Foundation
    (3) Cheyne-Stokes and abnormal patterns of respiration,, viewed on 04/02/2016

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