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Sleep disorders

What are sleep disorders and how to treat them?

Definition of sleep disorders

Sleep disorders are dysfunctions of sleep cycles. There are three main types :

  • Dyssomnias: these are disorders that disturb the quality or duration of sleep. These can include sleep deficiency (insomnia), excess sleep (hypersomnia, such as narcolepsy), and circadian rhythm disorders (waking/sleeping).


  • Parasomnias: these are abnormal behaviours during sleep that do not cause impairment of alertness during the day. Parasomnias include night terrors, sleepwalking, nocturnal bruxism …


  • Sleep disorders of psychiatric, neurological origin or linked to other diseases (such as depression, for example): In France, insomnia is the most frequent sleep disorder. It affects around 30% of the adult population.


The causes of sleep disorders

The causes of sleep disorders can be diverse. The consumption of substances (coffee, alcohol, medicines), the psychological condition (anxiety, stress …), and the lifestyle (work hours, intense professional rhythm) can disturb the rhythm of sleep. Finally, certain pathologies such as asthma, hyperthyroidism and allergies can generate episodes of insomnia.
Generalized anxiety, or that generated by anxiety disorders such as phobias, are very common sources of sleep disorders. It is estimated that anxiety is the cause of the majority of insomnia cases.

The figures to remember about sleep disorders

It is estimated that one in three French people suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia is the most common type of disorder and affects, to varying degrees, 30% of the adult population. Within the population concerned, it is estimated that 15 to 20% of cases are moderate insomnia, and that 9 to 10% are severe insomnia.
Finally, it is estimated that almost 10% of the French population regularly consume an anxiolytic or a hypnotic to facilitate falling asleep or improving the quality of sleep. Women on average are twice as affected by insomnia as men.

What to do in the event of sleep disturbances?

Insomnia, if it is repeated and affects the subject’s quality of life, must alert and lead to medical consultation.


In case of difficulty sleeping for an extended period (more than twenty minutes), it is recommended not to lie still in bed. Any activity should be started, to try to go to bed later when sleep begins.

A patient prone to sleeplessness should avoid exceeding 20 minutes of nap during the day.

Some tips to benefit from a calmer sleep:

  • avoid consuming stimulants (coca-cola, coffee, tea, vitamin C), especially in the afternoon

  • avoid large meals and alcohol consumption during the evening

  • avoid sports activities at the end of the day

  • chose a calm activity before bedtime, without exposure to screens (reading, relaxation, stretching…)

  • go to bed at the first signs of fatigue: yawning, itchy eyes…

  • sleep in a room at a temperature between 18 and 20 ° C.

What treatments for sleep disorders ?

There are no systematic treatments for sleep disorders. The first step is therefore to establish a personalized diagnosis to determine the causes of these disorders.

In the case of sleep disorders caused by another disorder or a pathology, the treatments and support offered will aim to treat them.