Modern Migraine MD

Understanding the Different Types of Sleep Disorders

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Understanding the Different Types of Sleep Disorders
Most people have trouble sleeping from time to time. But for about one-third of Americans, problems sleeping become chronic and could stem from a sleep disorder. Keep reading to learn what you need to know.

Many people have trouble sleeping from time to time. When something interrupts your normal routine, like travel, stress, illness, or a new puppy or baby, getting a good night’s rest is a challenge. 

But for about one-third of American adults, not getting enough sleep has become a chronic problem. If you’re experiencing ongoing trouble with sleep, you could have a sleep disorder. Many types of sleep disorders exist, stemming from a wide variety of causes. 

Board-certified neurologist Risa Ravitz, MD, and the team at Modern Migraine MD in Manhattan, Toms River, New Jersey, and Aventura, Florida, and seeing patients through virtual visits in 13 states specialize in diagnosing and treating neurological sleep disorders. 

Keep reading to learn more about sleep disorders and how we can help you catch high-quality Zzzs again.

Understanding sleep disorders

More than one hundred disorders exist, and they all have different underlying causes. Any one of them can affect your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or the quality of your sleep. 

The effects of sleep disorders vary depending on the disorder affecting you. Some people experience moderately frustrating effects, like feeling groggy or having trouble concentrating. 

For others, the effects may be life-threatening. As such, it’s essential to seek professional help if you’re worried about a sleep disorder. 

The causes of sleep disorders also vary. Keep in mind that for many people, lifestyle factors, like the foods you eat, unhealthy stress management, and your bedtime habits, play a large role in your sleep. 

Other times, a physical condition or underlying health concern triggers a sleep disorder. And for some people, a neurological condition or issue may be the cause. 

At Modern Migraine MD your provider uses neurological tests and exams to confirm or rule out a neurological cause of your sleep trouble.

A closer look at neurological sleep disorders

Your brain plays an essential role in controlling your sleep and helping you stay awake. A number of neurological conditions can affect how well your brain and body communicate, resulting in disordered or abnormal sleep. Here’s a look at some of the most common neurological sleep disorders:

Central sleep apnea

You develop central sleep apnea when your brain doesn’t send the right breathing signals to your throat muscles and you stop breathing for short periods while asleep. Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea, which doesn’t involve your brain. 

Central nervous system hypersomnia

If you’re experiencing extreme daytime sleepiness—even though you’re getting enough sleep at night—you could have a central nervous system hypersomnia. Different types of central nervous system hypersomnia exist, including idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy. 

Circadian rhythm disorders

Wake-sleep disorders, or circadian rhythm disorders, develop when there’s a problem with your body’s internal clock. As a result, your body is out of sync with the natural environment and you struggle to sleep and wake up at the right time.


Parasomnias are sleep-related disorders that cause actions that disrupt your sleep. If you have a parasomnia, you might talk, move, express strong emotions while sleeping—but other people may think you’re awake.

Some examples of these disorders include:

  • Sleep terrors
  • Talking in your sleep
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep paralysis

Some parasomnias also trigger sleep-related eating disorders.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder

During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, people don’t usually move. With an REM sleep behavior disorder, you act out your dreams. You may talk or make vocal sounds, and you might have violent arm and leg movements during this normally still period of sleep.

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI)

This rare genetic sleep disorder causes insomnia. Because FFI is a degenerative condition, it gets worse over time. Insomnia typically starts during middle age, but people with FFI may have insomnia that begins earlier or later in life. 

FFI is a serious medical condition. The chronic lack of sleep causes physical and mental deterioration. Ultimately, FFI progresses to coma and death.

Treating neurological sleep disorders

Dr. Ravitz at Modern Migraine MD first arrives at an accurate diagnosis of your sleep condition. During your comprehensive sleep disorder workup, she evaluates your medical history, sleep history, and may refer you to a sleep center for a sleep study. 

Dr. Ravitz can also review an existing sleep study to confirm or rule out a neurological cause of your disordered sleep. And if you have a known sleep disorder, she can work with you to better manage your symptoms. 

With a diagnosis in hand, Dr. Ravitz creates a personalized treatment plan. For patients who can't make it to our office or prefer virtual visits, we offer a virtual telehealth clinic with HIPAA-compliant telehealth appointments.

Learn more about the different types of sleep disorders by scheduling an in-person or virtual appointment with Dr. Ravitz at Modern Migraine MD today.