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Sleeplessness and other Sleep Disorders
Sleep is needed for the body to perform and function at its greatest capacity. The amount of sleep needed is different for every individual.

Tips to help you get a good night's sleep:

  • Cut back on items that contain caffeine (coffee and soda), especially in the evening.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, especially late in the evening.
  • Exercise regularly, but not close to bedtime.
  • Don't use the bedroom for other activities such as work or watching TV.
  • If you are unable to sleep within half an hour, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy.
  • Take a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Avoid long, late afternoon naps, if they interfere with sleeping.
  • Avoid eating large meals just before going to bed.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet and dark.
  • Get a firm, comfortable mattress.
  • Establish a bedtime routine.

The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.

Insomnia is the inability to sleep or to sleep satisfactorily.

Common causes of insomnia:

  • Stress, depression, anxiety.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Leg cramps.
  • Too much caffeine.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Changes in work shifts.
  • Pain from medical problems, such as arthritis.  


Narcolepsy results in sudden sleep attacks in the middle of being awake, even after a normal night's sleep. These attacks can last from several seconds to 30 minutes. Narcolepsy is usually hereditary, but is sometimes associated with head injury or neurological disease. People with narcolepsy can experience:

  • Cataplexy - loss of muscle control during emotional situations
  • Hallucinations
  • Disturbed nighttime sleep
  • Temporary paralysis upon awakening

Drugs, such as stimulants and antidepressants can control narcolepsy symptoms and naps can help control daytime sleepiness.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a hereditary disorder that causes unpleasant crawling, prinking or tingling sensations in the legs and feet, resulting in an urge to move them for relief. Some drug therapies are available to treat RLS, which is common among the elderly.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is the interruption of breathing during sleep, linked to obesity and decreased muscle tone due to aging. Sleep apnea can deprive people of oxygen, which can lead to:

  • Morning headaches
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Decline in mental functioning
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Sudden death, due to respiratory arrest

Mild sleep apnea can often be overcome through weight loss. Special devices or surgery can also correct obstructions causing sleep apnea. Those with sleep apnea should not sleep on their backs and should never take sedatives or sleeping pills because they may not wake up enough to breathe.

Sleeping pills should be avoided whenever possible. If lifestyle changes do not help with your sleep difficulties, seek help from your health care provider or counselor. Sleep disturbances may be a sign that you are ill or depressed. If you are concerned about these issues, contact Student Health Services for more information.

Resource Links:

  • Medline Plus ( )
  • Sleep Foundation ( )
  • ( )
  • The Sleep Site ( )
  • Help Guide ( )
  • Sleep in College Life ( )

UND Student Health Services
McCannel Hall, Room 100
Box 9038
Grand Forks, ND 58202
Tel: 701.777.4500