Symptoms of Sleep Disorders

It’s not always easy to tell if someone has a sleep disorder, and some symptoms present themselves while a person is sleeping. However, there are some symptoms that occur when a person is awake that can facilitate diagnosis as well.

Are You Suffering From a Sleep Disorder?

If you’re suffering from an inability to sleep for long stretches through the night, naturally you begin to suspect that you’re suffering from a sleep disorder. But there are a number of other signs that can also point to a sleep disorder, some of them more elusive than others.

Whether it’s routine headaches or difficulty focusing during the workday, a sleep disorder can manifest itself in a number of surprising ways. Take some time to review this list and see if you can identify signs that your sleep behavior needs some examination.

Morning Headaches

As you wake up, parts of your brain also become more active and responsive to changes in your body position, touch and sound. As a result, you’re more sensitive to external stimuli when you wake up.

In addition, the region of the brain known as the hypothalamus regulates your natural circadian rhythms and sleep during the night. If the hypothalamus is disrupted during the night, it can impact your ability to tolerate pain while you sleep; as a result, while you may not have felt pain overnight, you may feel it more intensely in the morning in the form of regular headaches.


This is fairly simple and straightforward: if you don’t get enough sleep overnight, you’ll likely suffer from hypersomnia, or persistent daytime sleepiness. However, this drowsiness can be particularly pronounced in people who suffer from a chronic sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea. If the sleep deprivation has been severe and has occurred with enough regularity, the brain has to catch up somehow. This can take the form of small gaps of time – seconds here and there – where the person falls asleep without realizing it while engaged in a relatively routine activity.

The results of this can be serious. People with excessive daytime drowsiness are at greater risk of motor vehicle accidents and work-related safety incidents, and have poorer health than other adults of the same age, gender and overall body type.

Dry Mouth

Many individuals suffering from a sleep disorder end up breathing mostly through their mouths during the night. As a result, they find themselves waking up frequently during the night needing a drink of water, or because they feel they can’t breathe because their mouth has dried out. This can lead to secondary effects as well, particularly in terms of dental hygiene. Many individuals end up with bad breath throughout the day. In addition, saliva helps to reduce the levels of acid and bacteria in the mouth, meaning dry mouth can result in increased tooth decay and gum disease down the road.


It has long been known that there is a link between sleep deprivation and overall mood. Researchers may know part of the reason why. One deep region of the brain known as the amygdala is believed to play a key role in the regulation of emotions and anxiety levels. A recent study showed that individuals who had experienced severe sleep deprivation had a more active amygdala-driven response than individuals who had gotten restful sleep. In addition, portions of the brain that help to regulate the amygdala also appeared to be weaker. In short, people who experience sleep deprivation may have increased difficulty controlling their emotions.

Dental Changes and/or Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common occurrence while sleeping. It generally takes place in the early, pre-REM stages of sleep, and can occur across several cycles. Bruxism can easily disrupt sleep patterns by delaying REM sleep, or causing you to awake before beginning your deep sleep cycle.

Obesity and Diabetes

Sleep deprivation has a number of side effects that can dramatically raise your chances of developing diabetes:

  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased hunger
  • Higher likelihood of eating junk foods high in sugar and carbohydrates

Heartburn and GERD

While it’s not entirely clear which is the symptom and the cause, there is a high correlation between sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter remains open and stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Insufficient Sleep Syndrome

Insufficient sleep syndrome is the inability to get the required amount of sleep. This is one of the long-term dangers associated with a chronic sleep disorder: live with sleep deprivation for long enough, and eventually you could lose the ability to get the right amount of sleep even if the disorder is resolved.

Reduced Cognitive Function

It’s long been known that sleep deprivation is closely correlated with reduced cognitive function. This presents a few different ways:

  • Increased difficulty focusing on work, particularly on tasks requiring logical reasoning or complex thought processes. If you’ve gone a while without decent sleep, your alertness and concentration levels are reduced, making it harder to focus and pay attention and becoming more easily confused and distracted.
  • Impaired memory. In part this is due to the diminished ability to focus: if information can’t make it into your short-term memory, it’s not going to go to your long-term memory either. But there’s more to it than that. Researchers have found that the nerve connections that help us form memories are strengthened when we sleep, and that different phases of sleep help consolidate new information into memories. When those cycles are disrupted through insufficient or interrupted sleep, your memory is impaired as a result.
  • Reduced ability to learn. If you can’t focus, you’re not going to be able to buckle down and study as effectively. And if your memory is reduced as well, you’re not going to be able to retain information as well. This can be particularly concerning for children and adolescents as they go through school.

Reduced Libido

Sleep disorders can lead to other challenges in the bedroom. Sleep deprivation has been linked with reduced sexual desire and arousal in women, and also to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

Contact Us

If you’re concerned that you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, contact Dr. Krish today to learn about getting a sleep test.