Common Sleeping Problems: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

by Bolatito Elegbede

To start a good day, you must have had a tranquil sleep. Lack of sleep has a great impact on your day-to-day activities. Sleeping disorders could occur as a result of some lifestyle habits. Sleeping disorders could be short-term or occur for a long time. Nevertheless, sleeping disorders are detrimental to health in general.

Sleeping problems are commonly reported all over the world. It was discovered that 40% of Nigerians have sleeping problems. We all must have experienced a common sleep disorder known as insomnia. This is the inability to sleep.

You must have experienced sleepless nights for various reasons like stress, relationship problems, health issues, etc.

Having a good rest is important for your general well-being. Sleeping well helps you mentally. It helps your skin glow and makes you look healthy. How much sleep or rest is enough?

Sleep time varies with age. Research has shown that an estimated 7 to 8 hours is enough for adults. You can decide to sleep more, but you should try to sleep for at least 8 hours. Infants can sleep for 16 hours while children (age 1 to12) and teenagers should sleep within 12 and 9 hours respectively.

Decision-making becomes difficult for people who are deprived of quality sleep. Sleep disorders lead to learning disabilities in children, memory impairment in people of all ages and depression.

Sleeping problems are not hereditary, it is caused by certain things we do not think could be causes. It is left to you to decide what causes it for you and discover how to treat it.

Common Causes of Sleep Disorders

There are various causes of sleep disorders depending on the type. Some common causes include 

  • Aging

Your sleeping pattern tend to change as you age. Many people have discovered that aging can cause difficulty in sleeping. Older people wake up often in the night and earlier in the morning. This is often caused by some processes such as chronic medical illness, stress, medications effect, poor sleep habits and so on.

  • Stress

Frequently being in a heightened state of alertness can delay the onset of sleep and cause rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night. It will cause inadequate sleep and do damages to the body.

  • Medications (some drugs cause sleep disorders)

Studies have found that taking antidepressant drugs can make you stay awake at night thereby giving you sleeping problems. Example of drugs that can cause sleep disorder are; Theophylline (an asthma drug),depression medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil). There are a lot of medications that have sleeping problems as their side effect. ake sure you ask a medical practicioner before using a drug.

  • Depression

Almost everyone who is depressed have sleeping problems. Depression and sleep disorder have a relationship. If you are depressed, you are likely to have sleep issue and having slepping issues makes one depressed.

According to Sleep Foundation, it is believed that about 75% of adult patients with depression have insomnia. Being depessed and having sleep issues is a bad combination.

Lifestyle Habits Causing Sleeping Disorders

  • Frequent Urination

Frequent urination at night can disrupt your sleep, you would have to wake up frequently to use the bathroom. The frequent urination is often caused by hormonal imbalance of the urinary tract. If it is not checked by the doctor, it will give you sleeping problems.

  • Alcohol consumption

Excessive alcohol intake causes sleeping problems because it causes the brain activity to slow down. When the alcohol comes in contact with the bloodstream, this makes the body weaker and allows the drinker to fall into deep sleep. While the drinker is sleeping, there would be an imbalance between rapid eye movement sleep and slow-wave sleep.

The eye movement will restart after falling asleep for 90 minutes, then the breathing and heart rate will quicken, which will instill fear, anxiety and confusion in the drinker’s mind. This decrease sleep quality and lead to severe sleeping problems.

  • Inadequate exercise

Lack of exercise causes sleeping problems. When you exercise regularly, you would tire out and fall asleep faster. But, inadequate exercise is a predictor of inability to sleep. Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and it interrupts sleeping.

Studies have found out that people who exercise fall asleep without any problem but non-exercisers find it difficult to sleep at night. Being inactive blocks you from having a good night rest.

  • Consumption of caffeine and nicotine 

People, especially Nigerian students, consume products with caffeine to stay up at night to study. They take them excessively, which leads to difficulty in sleeping. There are a lot of “energy drinks” that can affect one’s physical activities, the caffeinated products can cause a person to be anxious and stressed.

5 Types Of Sleeping Disorders

There are various types of sleeping problems/disorders, about 38 of them, but we have 5 major types, which we will be looking into in-depth.

  1. Insomnia

This simply means the inability to sleep. Many people experience sleeping problems once in a while. Using myself as a case study. When I was younger, I found it hard to sleep every night before school resumed due to the excitement of returning to school.

Did it affect me the next day? Yes, even though I tried to blend in with my classmates. I felt stress in my brain. Insomnia occurs with some mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder.

You could have experienced short-term insomnia without realising, mine was due to excitement, and yours could have been due to a relationship problem or stress. There are two types of insomnia. Short-term and chronic insomnia

  • Short-term insomnia

This is also known as transient disorder. This sleep disorder occurs as a result of stressful life occurrences. For example, relationship issues (very common among ladies, sleepless nights because of their man), losing a loved one, poor sleeping schedule, etc. Stress is the major trigger of short-term insomnia.

  • Chronic insomnia

This is a serious type of insomnia that lasts for at least a month or more in worse scenarios. This goes along with depression. It is hard to sleep when you have this type of sleep disorder.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Sleep disorder symptoms vary depending on the type of disorder you are diagnosed with. When you experience changes in your sleep pattern, you might have insomnia.

  • Inability to fall asleep even when you’re tired.
  • Difficulty in having a good night’s rest without feeling weak.
  • Inability to get adequate sleep to feel re-energised.

Note: Your risk of having insomnia is high if you are a woman. Cases of hormonal shifts in menopause and the menstrual cycle greatly disrupt your sleep as a woman.

As a woman, you might experience night sweats and hot flashes during menopause, which often disrupt your sleep. Insomnia also occurs with pregnancy.

Read Also: 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Optimize Your Lifestyle

  1. Sleep apnea

This is also known as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, and it is common. Your airways become blocked, and you stop breathing.

This makes you feel choked, or you snore loudly because the body and brain are deprived of oxygen, which disturbs your sleep. In severe cases, you might experience it multiple times a night.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Waking up in the night with a sore throat.
  • Snoring loudly.
  • Gasping for air from time to time.
  • Feeling tired and irritable.
  1. Narcolepsy

This is the inability to control your sleep-wake cycle. You fall asleep anywhere or anytime. For example, falling asleep while eating. You don’t know when you want to sleep; you find yourself sleeping.

Research has shown that the main cause of narcolepsy is the lack of a chemical called hypocretin. It is an immune problem that can be described as confusion when the antibodies attack healthy cells. This attack produces the chemical in the barin thereby making it difficult for a person to sleep.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Feeling very tired during the day.
  • Falling asleep without warning.
  • Temporary loss of muscle control that makes you feel weak. It is also known as cataplexy.
  • Hallucinating.
  1. Restless legs syndrome( RLS)

It is also called Willis-Ekbom disease, it is a sleep disorder that causes an uncontrollable desire to manoeuvre the leg while resting results in aching, burning and tingling sensations.

It occurs mostly in the evening and the uncomfortable movement in the legs stops you from sleeping. You won’t feel comfortable. 

Symptoms of RLS

  • Strong urge to move your legs.
  • Feeling of crawling sensations in the leg.
  • Symptoms get worse when you are inactive.
  • Symptoms get worse at night.
  1. REM sleep behaviour disorder

One is diagnosed with REM( Rapid Eye Movement) sleep behaviour disorder when you are physically active while sleeping. For example, talking or walking while sleeping.

Being physically active when sleeping can endanger you, you can do things you shouldn’t be doing. Your eyes are closed but you’re doing physical activities.

becomes serious when it endangers people around you.

Symptoms of REM Sleep Disorder

  • Moving your hands or legs while sleeping.
  • Shouting, talking or hitting when asleep.

Sleep is essential for your mental and physical health. If you deprive yourself of adequate sleep, it will take a toll on you. You will feel weak, irritable, tired and dull. So just as you care about what you consume, you should ensure you sleep well. 

Read Also: How to Sleep Well and Sleep Enough in Nigeria

Sleeping Problem Solutions

Most sleep disorders have similar treatment types, such as avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, avoiding large meals and beverages before bedtime, and so on. Surgery is required for severe cases.

  • Insomnia treatments

  • Prescription of medications
  • Keeping bedtime and wake time consistent.
  • Limit naps
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable for sleep.
  • Always check your medications to know whether they cause insomnia or contribute to it.
  • Hypnosis, sleep restriction and cognitive behaviour methods are also used to treat insomnia.

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  • Sleep apnea treatments 

  • Continuous positive airway pressure therapy(CPAP) involves using a machine to keep the airways open as one sleeps. The machine uses mild air pressure and is attached to a mask that fits in your nose.
  • You could wear dental or oral appliances, but to use these, you must meet a physician to guide you on the usage because there could be a disadvantage. Only a doctor can give you the best advice concerning it.
  • Attend weight management programs. Your weight could be a cause of sleep apnea.
  • Surgery: This is the last option if your case is severe and other treatments have proven void.
  • Narcolepsy treatments

This is most times treated with medications (stimulants, sodium oxybate, tricyclic antidepressants)and scheduled naps. Visit a sleep physician to seek medical advice.

  • Restless legs syndrome(RLS) treatment

It is treated with medications and behavioural therapy. You can get regular exercise, such as walking or riding a bike. Reduce the intake of caffeinated products and inculcate good sleep habits.

  • Rapid eye movement disorder treatment

This is treated with injury prevention methods such as physical safeguard. You can do this by removing sharp objects in the bedroom, placing barriers by the side of the bed, remove furniture beside the bed and sleeping when you feel sleepy.

There are medications that can also help such as Melatonin and Clonazepam (Klonopin) – they are often used to treat anxiety but can also reduce the symptoms.

Read Also: 7 Habitual Lifestyle Mistakes to Avoid as a Nigerian

Sleep Study (Polysomnography)

The sleep study, also known as polysomnography, is a complete test to diagnose sleep disorders. It also helps to manage your treatment plan. Suppose you have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, polysomnography monitors your sleep levels and cycles to determine why and when your sleep habits are disrupted.

Studies have discovered that polysomnography is a gold standard for diagnosing sleep disorders.


The first step to determining if you have a sleep problem is to pay adequate attention to your sleep habits. Sleeping disorders are very uncomfortable and health-threatening.

Most importantly, you should inculcate good sleeping habits and always seek medical advice before taking drugs. Health is wealth!

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About Author

Avatar of Bolatito Elegbede
Bolatito Elegbede
I'm currently a microbiology student at a Nigerian university. In addition, I'm a content writer and freelance writer. I love to make my write-ups captivating and helpful to my readers.

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