Sleep Disorders


The four most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy. Additional sleep problems include chronic insufficient sleep, circadian rhythm abnormalities, and “parasomnias” such as sleep walking, sleep paralysis, and night terrors.

African Americans are more likely to have the deadly sleep disorder, obstructive sleep disorder, than Caucasians. Their partners are more likely to tolerate the irregular breathing and snoring that accompany the disorder; consequently, African Americans fail to seek treatment for this disorder that can lead to more serious health problems.

The 2010 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed significant differences in the sleep habits and attitudes of Blacks:

• Blacks reported getting the least amount of sleep on workdays/weekdays (6 hours and 14 minutes). Interestingly, they also say that they need only 7 hours and 5 minutes of sleep each night to perform at their best during the day, which is significantly less sleep than Asians and Hispanics (7 hours and 29 minutes each).

• Blacks are the most likely to report performing activities in the hour before going to bed every night or almost every night, specifically watching TV (75%) and/or praying or doing another religious practice (71%).

• Whether on weekdays/workdays or non-workdays/weekends, Blacks spend much more time in bed without sleeping than the other ethnic groups (54 minutes on weekdays/workdays and 71 minutes on non-workdays/weekends).

• Blacks (10% each) are ten times more likely to report having sex every night than Asians (1%) and 2.5 times more likely than Whites (4%).

• Blacks/African-Americans (17%) are more likely than Whites to report doing job-related work in the hour before bed, among those employed.

• Blacks report losing sleep every night over personal financial concerns (12%) and employment concerns (10%) at a higher rate than Whites (6% and 7%).


Sleepiness can be due to the body’s natural daily sleep-wake cycles, inadequate sleep, sleep disorders, or certain drugs.


You may have a sleep disorder and should see your doctor if your sleep diary reveals any of the following:

•    Consistently do not get enough sleep, or get poor quality sleep;
•    Fall asleep while driving;
•    Struggle to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading;
•    Have difficulty paying attention or concen- trating at work, school, or home;
•    Have performance problems at work or school;
•    Are often told by others that you are sleepy;
•    Have difficulty remembering;
•    Have slowed responses;
•    Have difficulty controlling your emotions; or
•    Must take naps on most days.

Exams and Tests

Tests vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder.


Treatments vary and depend on the specific sleep disorder.

Possible Complications

Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your health care provider if you think you have a sleep problem or a sleep disorder.


Good sleep habits can help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips:

•    Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.

•    Try to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can make you wake up later in the night.

•    Get regular exercise. Try not to exercise close to bedtime because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising for 3 hours before the time you go to sleep.

•    Don’t eat a big meal late in the day, although a light snack before bedtime may help you sleep.

•    Make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.