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The most anticipated activity at the end of a long, tiring day is falling asleep. However, as blissful as it sounds to most of us, a significant percentage of Americans struggle to do so. From gradually drifting off into a deep slumber to managing to stay asleep throughout the night – the struggle is real. Most sleep disorders persist due to underlying physiological conditions that influence the sleep pattern at night and throughout the day.

For instance, pulmonary and sleep go hand in hand in depriving a person of a good night’s sleep

Types of sleep disorders:

sleep disorders type

Many people assume insomnia to be the only sleep irregularity. However, there is a group of conditions that frequently influence the sleep pattern and are characterized as various sleep disorders. Moreover, it might be startling to know, but over 50 million Americans suffer from one or other sleep-related issues.

From snoring to narcolepsy – sleep disorders plague one-third of adults in the country. Apart from insomnia, other conditions include:

Sleep apnea:

The condition is defined as an interruption in breathing during sleep. It manifests as snoring, choking, or not waking up fully rested. There are two types of apnea; obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA), caused by pulmonological and neurological factors respectively.


It includes excessive diurnal drowsiness that reduces productivity and also caused sleep paralysis right after waking up.


Includes sudden and transient phases of muscle weakness, that is triggered by emotions such as happiness or grief.

REM sleep behavior disorder:

Includes dominant arm and leg movement during REM sleep accompanied by the vivid physical reaction to an unpleasant dream.

Restless leg syndrome:

A tingling or prickling sensation in the leg that leads to the constant urge to move them.

Other conditions include hypersomnia – excessive sleepiness due to an underlying disease or lifestyle factors such as fatigue.


The respiratory system plays a significant role in promoting an uninterrupted sleep routine. Breathing-related sleep disorders vary over a spectrum of conditions that range from snoring to sleep apnea to obesity hypoventilation syndrome. Obesity, old age, and snoring significantly contributed to the onset of sleep-disordered breathing. In each sleep disorder, regardless of its severity, the respiratory system plays a crucial role in its manifestation.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and is caused by partial to complete blockage of the upper airway. The obstruction compels the diaphragm and chest muscles to exert more in order to pull the air into the lungs. This results in shallow to no breathing at night. When untreated, sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular and neurobehavioral disorders. On the other hand, in children, lack of growth is also observed.

OSA is more dominant in males during middle age and in women during menopause or pregnancy. It may also occur in children and requires medical intervention to maintain sleep and overall health. Other disorders include obesity hypoventilation syndrome, which, true to its name, leads to suppressed breathing in overweight individuals. OHS is characterized by increased carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the blood which can be fatal if not managed on time.

Pulmonologist vs Sleep Doctor; Which One Should You Go To?

pulmonologist vs sleep

Sleep medicine is a medical discipline that is not limited to one type of specialist physician. It has established itself as a dynamic and multidisciplinary field where physicians, of different backgrounds, can help a patient. However, the first priority of every patient struggling with sleep visits is a primary care practitioner, who refers them to a sleep doctor. The latter, being specialized in sleep medicine, runs different assessments and conducts sleep studies to diagnose and treat the disorder.

Since various sleep disorders exist due to underlying respiratory conditions, a pulmonologist may also be of some help. A somnologist works together with a pulmonologist at a pulmonary and sleep clinic to provide all-inclusive care for your sleep health. The lung and sleep center acts as a one-stop solution to cater to patients who need consultation from different specialists. Different treatment strategies such as CPAP titration occur under the supervision of both sleep and lung specialist.

Treatment Strategies:

Whether you visit a sleep doctor, a pulmonologist, or both of them, their management strategy prioritizes lifestyle modification. The treatment approach focuses on a better sleep routine, less sleep deprivation, avoiding alcohol and medications, and supine positions. However, the physicians may also prescribe a dental appliance or positive airway to facilitate breathing during sleep.  In some cases, invasive strategy is opted to enlarge or bypass the upper airway.

good sleep


Despite the profound number of people that struggle with sleep, significantly less talk to their physicians about it. To improve the morbidity and mortality of breathing-related and other sleep disorders, patient awareness is of key importance. People should be aware of how chronic snoring or interrupted breathing during sleep are symptoms of sleep disorders. Furthermore, awareness regarding diurnal drowsiness and its link with pulmonary and sleep factors would help masses improve their sleep health.

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