12 Conditions Which Can Cause Sleep Problems

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List of conditions that can cause sleep problems

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More about sleep problems and OSA

Unfortunately, millions of individuals cannot obtain proper nightly rest. Not only can this lead to tiredness and lethargy throughout the day, but a chronic lack of sleep may cause more severe issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and even heart disease. 

While obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a severe medical condition which requires professional intervention, it is just as important to mention that there can be many other reasons why individuals are incapable of sleeping. Let us look at nine conditions that can play essential roles in appreciating the big picture.


Although allergies are standard, their impact on sleeping can be significant. Some individuals are susceptible to airborne particles, including pollen, dust, mould, and certain chemicals. Such substances can cause issues, including itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat. Thus, it is often difficult to enjoy a restful evening because they are more prone to wake up. 

Those who might already be suffering from OSA will have an even more difficult time breathing due to a narrowing of the airways.


Sixty per cent of those diagnosed with this condition may also suffer from a variant known as “nocturnal asthma”. Such a scenario is defined by coughing, wheezing and feeling out of breath. It stands to reason that sleeping will become more complex. Another issue is that certain drugs intended to combat the effects of asthma (such as standard inhalers) can cause further sleep problems. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

An excessive amount of acid production within the stomach causes GERD. Commonly referred to as heartburn, research has highlighted that as many as three out of four people will experience problems when falling asleep at least once every week. The acid produced within the stomach tends to enter the oesophagus when lying down in a prone position. 

Therefore, it is best to eat smaller meals later in the evening and abstain from alcohol. Also, those who suffer from GERD may find relief by placing their head six inches higher than their body (such as by using a firm pillow). 

An Enlarged Prostate

The medical term for this condition is known as benign prostate hyperplasia. An enlarged prostate gland will cause males to urinate on a more frequent basis when compared to normal individuals. Thus, they are more likely to wake up overnight to use the bathroom. 

One out of every three men is estimated to be diagnosed with an enlarged prostate eventually. However, it is essential to note that several medications can help to treat this condition. 

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is associated with an inability of the heart to pump blood throughout the body adequately. Another symptom of this condition involves the periodic shaking of limbs while asleep. It also needs to be mentioned that congestive heart failure will exacerbate the symptoms of OSA for those previously diagnosed. Speaking with a medical professional to learn about the options at your disposal is essential.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Sometimes referred to as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affects 1.2 million individuals across the United Kingdom. COPD refers to various disorders such as emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis. 

The main takeaway point here is that COPD often leads to chest pain, difficulty breathing and coughing during the overnight hours. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of those who suffer from COPD will report sleeping issues regularly. An additional 15 per cent might also be suffering from OSA. Another confounding factor is that medications used to treat COPD (such as Prednisone and Albuterol) might further disrupt a sleeping schedule. 

Mood Disorders

The majority of us suffer from periods of anxiety and “the blues” from time to time. However, those prone to chronic anxiety or diagnosed with clinical depression are at a much higher risk of developing sleeping problems. 

It is, therefore, critical to get to the root of these issues. Reducing perceived levels of stress as well as finding coping mechanisms, can help to improve your quality of life and to restore a good night of rest. The treatments could involve therapeutic intervention, the use of medications or a combination of both. It is wise to speak with a doctor if you suspect you may suffer from depression or anxiety. 


People with diabetes are likewise at a higher risk of developing sleeping issues. As the body tends to excrete excessive glucose levels into the urine, it is common to awake throughout the night to go to the bathroom. Furthermore, many individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes are overweight. 

Note: Diabetes increases the risk of developing OSA.

Night Sweats

Sweating during the night is normal if the room or your bedding is making you too hot. There might be simple reasons for sweating too much, but if you sweat so much, your night clothes and bedding are soaking wet, even though where you’re sleeping is cool. You might help.

If you have night sweats, you will not usually need treatment, but the GP will want to check if you have any other symptoms. If you’re taking medicine and the GP thinks it might be causing night sweats, they may prescribe a different one.

Common causes of night sweats include:

  • Menopause symptoms (hot flushes)
  • Anxiety
  • Antidepressants, steroids and painkillers
  • Low blood sugar
  • alcohol or drug use

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is damage throughout the limbs, leading to pain and discomfort. In the UK, almost 1 in 10 people aged 55 or over are affected by peripheral neuropathy.

It’s recommended that people with the highest risk of peripheral neuropathy, such as those with diabetes, have regular check-ups.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can include the following:

  • numbness and tingling in the feet or hands
  • burning, stabbing or shooting pain in affected areas
  • loss of balance and coordination
  • muscle weakness, especially in the feet

Alzheimer’s Disease

Those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (particularly anyone who is in the later stages) will often be found sleeping during the day. When this habit is combined with insomnia during overnight hours, it is clear to see why anyone with this condition should pay particular care to their sleeping habits. The good news is that several medications can help these individuals obtain an excellent night of rest.

Stress and Anxiety

While we all experience anxiety from time to time, there is no doubt that current events can stir up more stress. A handful of steps can help you attain the night’s rest that is required to remain healthy.

First and foremost, try to maintain the same schedule every night. This will help your body adjust to its natural circadian rhythm. As many of us are now confined to our homes without a definitive work routine, this piece of advice is particularly relevant.

Exercise is another critical component of developing healthy sleeping habits. There are several reasons behind this observation. Not only will physical activity enable your body to produce stress-busting hormones, but the resulting state of exhaustion is an excellent way to rest once your head finally hits the pillow. It is wise to consult with a doctor or a personal trainer before adopting such a regimen in order to obtain professional advice.

It is just as important to avoid napping during the day. This habit can confuse your body, making it much more difficult to fall asleep at the appropriate hour. If you feel tired or lethargic at home, there are several activities which can provide you with a much-needed energy boost, such as:

  • Stretching
  • Deep-breathing exercises
  • Dancing

Free-movement dancing — just moving to music — is an excellent way to fire up a little energy. Remember your younger days, and just move it!

We should also mention that these very same activities can help to alleviate feelings of worry, stress and anxiety.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

We have mentioned obstructive Sleep Apnoea several times throughout this article. A narrowing of the airways causes OSA during the overnight hours. This makes it more difficult for the body to obtain the required amount of oxygen and arises because it can often be seen concurrently alongside a host of other conditions. 

As a result, those who suffer from OSA will typically present a handful of symptoms, including:

  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Choking and coughing
  • Extremely loud snoring (often noticed by a partner)
  • Tiredness throughout the day

The main problem here is that these conditions will only improve with intervention. It is crucial to obtain an at-home sleep test for an accurate diagnosis.

If you are concerned that you have Sleep Apnoea, you can start with our FREE OSA risk assessment or purchase our In-Home Sleep Test.

Article by Intus Healthcare


About author: Helen Clarkson is a Sleep Specialist at Baywater Healthcare. Ms. Clarkson has worked with Baywater since 2008, working closely with patients in delivering sleep/bi-level services including sleep and respiratory, both in the home and clinic setting. This includes therapy initiation and troubleshooting support. Ms. Clarkson is responsible for delivering the Baywater Healthcare patient adherence management programme to ensure continuing patient therapy compliance. works in conjunction with NHS clinicians and procurement to deliver excellence in home and clinic-based services. She provides training on all aspects of sleep including devices and interfaces. Previously, Ms. Clarkson served as Respiratory Physiologist at Pontefract General Infirmary. Her position was Senior MTO for lung function/sleep department, and she was responsible for performing simple and complex sleep studies, sleep study analysis, CPAP initiation, therapy adherence and troubleshooting/service clinics, spirometry, lung volumes and transfer factor, reversibility, CPET, hyperventilation testing, EIA testing, skin prick testing, 6 min walk tests. She has also held roles as Respiratory Physiologist and Respiratory Technician, working closely with patients with respiratory disorders -- including ex-miners. Ms. Clarkson has a BSc (Honors) in Applied biology from University of Staffordshire. She also studied Developments in Sleep Medicine (advanced course) at St. Thomas’ Hospital, and took the Edinburgh Sleep Medicine course. She completed the BSS: Advanced sleep course and the ARTP NIV Course.
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