What are the most common types of sleep problems?

There are many different types of sleep problems. In this video Dr Giselle Withers (clinical psychologist) interviews Dr David Cunnington (sleep physician) about the most common types of sleep disorders seen in the sleep clinic.

Dr David Cunnington is a sleep physician and a director of the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre. For more information on all things sleep, take a look at his website, Sleephub.

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Video Transcript

Giselle: So, David, in your work as a sleep physician at Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre, you see a range of different sleep problems. Can you describe a few of those and some of the common problems people present you with?

David: People come for a range of different reasons and in terms of symptoms, it often breaks down to:

  • I’m having trouble sleeping, getting to sleep, staying asleep
  • I’m feeling tired so I’m feeling that sleep is not working for me, or
  • Strange things are happening during sleep and that’s often sort of a patient level of what the symptoms are clustered to

When we try and think of it about what the sleep disorders are or the different styles of sleep disorders, we really group them into one group called hypersomnia and that’s really excessive sleepiness conditions where people are feeling more tired than they expect to and it’s not because of something else.

Then there’s the insomnias where people have trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep and another form of insomnia can be just feeling like sleep is not as restorative as what it could be or feeling that sleep is close to the surface. There are circadian rhythm disorders which are body clock disorders so people can’t get to sleep at the right time or can’t wake up at the right time.

Then there’s what we call parasomnias. Think of those as funny things that happen at night and movements that happen at night. So while people who are asleep, they may be sleepwalking or sleep-talking or twitching legs or yelling out. It’s actually surprisingly common but often people don’t talk about it much and then the other group of disorders we see is people who just feel like they’re not sleeping well in conjunction with other sleep problems or health problems, be it physical health and mental health, so depression and not sleeping well or arthritis and pain and not sleeping well.

Then there’s a separate group again of sleep breathing disorders. They include snoring and sleep apnoea. Sometimes people just get a sense that I’m snoring or my partner said I stop breathing at night and I feel like I’m not sleeping well.

Giselle: Great, thank you.