Understanding Sleep Problems -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on November 25, 2021
2 min read


Insomnia is both a type of sleep disorder and can be a symptom of medical ,psychiatric and other sleep disorders. Typical patterns of insomnia include the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, waking up earlier than usual, and daytime fatigue.

Sleep Apnea

The main symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness. Some people will deny sleepiness but feel fatigued. Loud snoring, snorting, and gasping sounds during sleep -- are often first noticed by a sleeping partner. Restless or unrefreshing sleep is also typical, as are headaches in the morning.


Excessive sleepiness during the day, temporarily alleviated by naps, can be a symptom of narcolepsy.  People with narcolepsy can have “sleep attacks” where they fall asleep suddenly and at unexpected times. Dreaming during naps and experiencing dream-like hallucinations as you fall asleep are also warning signs. Loss of muscle control (called cataplexy) that occurs with emotion, such as laughing or anger, and the inability to move as you're going to sleep or waking up (called sleep paralysis) are also symptoms.

Restless Legs Syndrome

The primary symptoms are due to unpleasant sensations in the lower extremities. The sensations of discomfort can vary and are sometimes described as crawling, creeping, burning, itching, pulling and twitching noted deep in the legs. Symptoms occur at rest especially after sitting or lying down for extended periods of time and are worse at night. If you move your legs or get up and walk around, these symptoms may go away temporarily. It usually feels better if you get up to walk around or rub your legs. 


  • Your sleep does not improve with self-help techniques, such as establishing good sleep hygiene, cutting down on caffeine, exercising, and using relaxation techniques
  • You think your sleep problems may be related to an underlying condition, such as depression or heart failure
  • You snore loudly or make snorting or gasping noises while you sleep -- or your partner observes these things while you're asleep
  • You fall asleep doing normal activities, such as talking or driving
  • You regularly feel unrefreshed on awakening and are constantly fatigued; sleep disorders are among the many possible causes for fatigue.
  • You suspect your medication is causing sleep problems