Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Sleep disorders

3-minute read

What is a sleep disorder?

A sleep disorder is a condition that prevents you from getting restful sleep and can cause daytime sleepiness and problems in functioning. Signs you may have a sleep disorder include persistent difficulty going to sleep or staying sleeping, irregular breathing or movement during sleep, and feeling sleepy during the day.

Insomnia

Insomnia is difficulty going to sleep, or difficulty staying asleep. If you have insomnia, it is likely to affect your energy levels, as well as your mood, health and quality of life.

Short-term (acute) insomnia is often caused by a particular circumstance, such as a crisis at work or home. If your life is being affected you may seek professional help such as from a GP who can identify the cause of your insomnia and suggest treatments. The use of any sleeping pills is only very short term and must be reviewed by your doctor regularly as they can be addictive.

If you have longer-term (chronic) insomnia doctors generally recommend making sure you have good sleep habits. They may also recommend non-drug treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which is designed to help you change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours.

Snoring

Snoring is very common. It can be caused by being overweight, drinking alcohol and smoking. Some allergies can also cause you to snore. Either way, if snoring is causing problems in your household, see your doctor.

You can treat snoring by using a special mouthguard that opens your airway, with laser treatment on the roof of your mouth or your throat, or by treating allergies or unblocking your nose. Snoring can be improved in children by removing their tonsils. Sometimes, therapies that encourage you to sleep on your side can be helpful.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea occurs when your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. It is caused by the temporary but repeated collapse of the airway at the back of the mouth. Common symptoms include loud snoring, waking up gasping and struggling to stay awake during the day.

Sleep apnoea has been linked to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In many people, it can be treated using an oral appliance (like a mouthguard) that helps keep your airways open while you sleep. Other people will need nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which pumps air under gentle pressure to help keep your airways open. Some people will benefit from surgery.

Other sleep problems

Other sleep problems include:

  • shift work disorder, which is sleepiness and/or insomnia associated with your work schedule
  • narcolepsy, which is repeatedly falling asleep during waking hours
  • restless legs syndrome, which is an irresistible urge to move the legs while trying to sleep

For more information about sleeping problems, visit the Sleep Health Foundation website.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Sleep: An overview | myVMC

Information about sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders, the science of sleep and how to get a good night's sleep.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Sleep & fatigue | Jean Hailes

Insomnia and not getting a good nights sleep can be frustrating and impact on your day to day living and quality of life. Sleep problems can be caused by changes in your daily routine, times of worry, a new baby, shift work, sleep apnoea but the good new

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Persistent sleep problems: kids & teens | Raising Children Network

Persistent sleep problems affect childrens sleep over a long period. Examples are insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy. Read more. Article available in: Arabic, Dari, Karen, Persian, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Insomnia | ReachOut Australia

Insomnia refers to when people have difficulty falling asleep or experience disrupted sleep. Find out about the different types of insomnia, causes and remedies here.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Sleep disorders in children

Some young children suffer from sleeping problems, such as sleepwalking, insomnia, night terrors and sleep rocking.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Narcolepsy and cataplexy - myDr.com.au

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy can be struck with urges to sleep several times a day and may suffer from cataplexy - a loss of mus

Read more on myDr website

Sleep apnoea: children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

If your child has obstructive sleep apnoea, she might snore, pause or struggle for breath while asleep. If you think your child has sleep apnoea, see a GP.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Obstructive sleep apnoea | HealthEngine Blog

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Dr Linda Schachter talks about causes, risk factors, symptoms, potential dangers and treatment.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA; sleep apnea) | HealthEngine Blog

Obstructive sleep apnoea is characterised by interrupted breathing during sleep. It is associated with obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Narcolepsy

What is narcolepsy? Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder of excessive daytime sleepiness. It may occur with other symptoms such as cataplexy, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. All people with narcolepsy have excessive drowsiness. You may have a lack of energy. Strong urges to nap can happen at any time of

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo