Sleep-wake disorders

Sleep-wake disorders include any disorder involving sleep problems and not better diagnosed under a different condition. Essentially, sleep-wake disorders are categorised into ten categories:

  • insomnia disorder,
  • hypersomnolence disorder,
  • substance/medication-induced sleep disorder
  • narcolepsy,
  • circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders,
  • breathing-related sleep disorders,
  • restless legs syndrome,
  • circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders,
  • nightmare disorder,
  • non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep arousal disorders,
  • rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder.

We will take a closer look at insomnia disorder, due to the high prevalence of levels of insomnia in today’s society and the resultant need to separate out “regular” levels of insomnia from insomnia disorder. For example, around thirty-three per cent of people report insomnia symptoms, while around six to ten per cent of people will suffer with insomnia disorder at some point.

Insomnia Disorder

Insomnia of course is the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Insomnia disorder includes a dissatisfaction with quality or quantity of sleep due to problems with getting to sleep, problems staying asleep due to either too frequent awakenings and difficulty falling asleep after these awakenings or due to early morning awakening with the inability to return to sleep.

This of course describes most of us at one time or another. However, in order to diagnose insomnia disorder (or what some might call “serious” insomnia) it also needs to cause significant distress, or significant impairment in at least one important area of functioning (such as occupation, education, social or relationship). The insomnia also needs to be present for at least three nights a week and have been present for at least three months. Insomnia disorder would also not be diagnosed if it is better explained by another diagnosis such as substance use. In this case, the primary issue – here the substance use – would of course need to be addressed.


How do I get help for myself or my loved one?

The first step in getting help is finding out whether you have a problem. A trained clinical psychologist can effectively perform a professional assessment, which will identify whether you have any problem areas, and will recommend the treatment most appropriate for you if necessary.

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