Dyssomnia – the Sleep Problem Nobody Talks About

A range of certain types of sleep disorders that cause complications with sleeping or lead to an inability to sleep is known as dyssomnia. Dyssomnia are categorized either into hypersomnolence, which is a condition that causes daytime sleepiness or prolonged sleeping in the night, or insomnia, which is an inability to sleep. An inability to sleep, sleeplessness, wakefulness, insomnia, persistent and chronic difficulty in either waking up early or falling asleep or even in remaining asleep during the night, are all conditions that are covered under dyssomnia. If you are wondering why you have never heard about this condition, then you are not alone. In fact, dyssomnia is the sleep problem that nobody talks about. Let’s take a closer look at this condition, what are the causes, and how can it be treated.

Dyssomnia - the Sleep Problem Nobody Talks About

What is Dyssomnia?

Dyssomnia is a term used to refer to a collection of sleep disorders that lead to either some type of complications with sleeping or they can also cause an inability to sleep. Dyssomnia can be categorized by the following.

  • Insomnia – which is an inability to sleep
  • Hypersomnolence – a condition marked by prolonged night sleep or daytime sleepiness

There are several categories of dyssomnia, all of which has some kind of an effect on sleep patterns. These three categories include.

  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
  • Extrinsic sleep disorders
  • Intrinsic sleep disorders

In order to understand how sleep disorders work, though, it is important that you have a basic understanding of how the body clock works. Let’s take a look.

How Does Our Body Clock Work?

When the light first hits our eyes in the morning, it causes our blood pressure and body temperature to slowly begin to rise. Our heart rate also increases and the body releases melatonin in a slightly delayed manner which helps in waking us up. Then throughout the rest of the day, our natural circadian rhythm increases. It even undergoes a dip during the day and you will notice that at a specific time of the day you start feeling drowsy. The circadian rhythm then decreases at night as the bodily functions slow down. The body then releases melatonin again to help us go to sleep once more.

Typically in most people, the body clock is programmed to start feeling sleepy around 10 p.m. and to wake up at approximately 6 to 7 a.m. There is some variation for each person, but this is typically seen to be the norm. On a general level, a majority of people are sleepiest between 2 to 4 a.m. and then again in the afternoons between 2 to 3 p.m. Late afternoons and early mornings are observed to be periods of high alertness in most people.

However, some people have a circadian rhythm that are just not the same as others and their body responds to different times that may seem irregular to others. This may be due to their work schedules or study schedules that fall outside of the normal times. Conflict happens when a person’s circadian rhythm does not match with the majority.

When an individual’s circadian rhythm gets disrupted due to some circumstances or some external factors, or even that their biological clock becomes offset from everyone else’s, sleep disorders begin to develop. If sleep disorders are not treated, then they can eventually lead to bigger problems such as exhaustion, confusion, and even medical conditions such as depression, dementia, obesity, and diabetes.

Now we take a look at the various categories of dyssomnia.

Categories Of Dyssomnia

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are related to either environmental changes or lifestyle changes that have an impact on the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are what help in determining our sleep patterns. For example, when in the winters it starts to get dark earlier than usual, you may start to feel sleepy by 6 p.m. itself, even though your usual bedtime is around 8 p.m. This happens simply because it is dark outside.

There are other causes of circadian rhythm sleep disorders as well, apart from environmental and lifestyle changes. These include.

  • Irregular waking times
  • Changes in the time zone
  • Shift work sleep disorder
  • Sleep phase disruption

Extrinsic Sleep Disorders

Extrinsic sleep disorders are caused by conditions or problems that are outside of the body. These may include environmental factors, certain habits, or even allergies. Some factors are detailed below.

  1. Sleep Hygiene. Poor sleep hygiene can also cause sleep disorders. Sleep hygiene refers to the practice of having an established routine before your sleeping time. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are also required for having a good night’s sleep. Factors such as turning off the television at least an hour before your sleep time, avoiding beverages that contain caffeine towards late evening, switching off your mobile before you lie down, and other similar practices all fall under good sleeping hygiene and will help you have a good night’s sleep.
  2. Food Allergy and Altitude Insomnia. Insomnia is not always a psychological problem, Sometimes insomnia can also be caused by certain changes taking place in your body that are caused by a particular food or even due to altitude changes. A change in altitude or a certain food you ate can also have an impact on your ability to fall asleep and remain asleep. If you suffer from food-related or altitude-related insomnia, then it is recommended that you identify the triggers that bring on the bouts of insomnia and avoid these triggers to prevent insomnia.
  3. Nocturnal Eating Syndrome. People who suffer from nocturnal eating syndrome end up consuming more than a half of their daily nutrition after already having their dinner. Such people have an increased appetite just before they go to sleep. Eating right before going to bed is going to make it difficult for you to fall asleep as there is a sudden increase in caloric and sugar intake.

Intrinsic Sleep Disorders

Intrinsic sleep disorder is sleeping disorders that are caused by sleep-related medical conditions or have a link with the body’s internal sleep mechanisms. Some of the types of these sleep disorders are discussed below.

  • Narcolepsy. Not being able to control when you fall asleep is a condition known as narcolepsy. Narcolepsy affects the ability of the body to control its sleep and wake cycles, meaning that there is no guarantee whether you will sleep well during the night. However, you will nevertheless, frequently feel sleepy in the daytime and may even fall asleep at the most inconvenient of times. There is no cure for this condition and the symptoms are managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is a common sleep disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the upper airway while you sleep. This disorder can lead to frequent pauses in one’s breathing, causing interrupted sleep patterns as well as snoring in many people. Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes such as sleeping on your side rather than on your back. Some doctors also recommend that you use a continuous positive airway pressure device that will prevent the pauses in breathing while you sleep.
  • Psychophysiological Insomnia. Insomnia is perhaps one of the most common sleep disorders. People who experience insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Psychophysiological insomnia happens when the mind makes certain associations that stop you from sleeping. This could mean that you will keep worrying and work up anxiety about not being able to sleep. This will further increase your stress about not sleeping, thus worsening the overall cycle of sleeplessness. Insomnia is treated with a combination of therapy, lifestyle changes, and medications.

Other Intrinsic Sleep Disorders. Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many other sleep disorders that fall under this category. These include.

  • Hypersomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome
  • Periodic limb movement disorder


Suffering from any type of sleep disorder can wreak havoc on your daily life. Dyssomnia refers to a category of sleep disorders that have an impact on not only how you fall asleep but also on whether you stay asleep throughout the night or not. If you feel sleepy during the day, are unable to fall asleep during the night, or you experience any kind of inability to stay asleep, then it is necessary to consult a doctor before the situation worsens. Your doctor will help you get a diagnosis on whether or not you are actually suffering from a sleep disorder or if you are unable to fall asleep due to high levels of stress. Managing your stress levels and following a healthy lifestyle can help a great extent in managing your sleeping patterns.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 26, 2019

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