Due to rapidly increasing knowledge about sleep in the 20th century, including the discovery of REM sleep in the 1950s and circadian rhythm disorders in the 70s and 80s, the medical importance of sleep was recognized. The medical community began paying more attention than previously to primary sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, as well as the role and quality of sleep in other conditions. By the 1970s in the US, clinics and laboratories devoted to the study of sleep and sleep disorders had been founded, and a need for standards arose.
In addressing sleep disorders and possible solutions, there is often a lot of buzz surrounding melatonin. Research suggests that melatonin is useful in helping people to fall asleep faster (decreased sleep latency), to stay asleep longer, and to experience improved sleep quality. In order to test this, a study was conducted that compared subjects that had taken Melatonin to subjects that had taken a placebo pill in subjects with primary sleep disorders. Researchers assessed sleep onset latency, total minutes slept, and overall sleep quality in the Melatonin and placebo groups to note the differences. In the end, researchers found that melatonin decreased sleep onset latency, increased total sleep time, and improved quality of sleep significantly more than the placebo group.
Primary sleep disorders are most common in men and women over the age of 65. About half of the people claim to have some sleep problem at one point. It is most common in the elderly because of multiple factors. Factors include increased medication use, age-related changes in circadian rhythms, environmental and lifestyle changes  and pre diagnosed physiological problems and stress. The risk of developing sleep disorders in the elderly is especially increased for sleep disordered breathing, periodic limb movements, lestless legs syndrome, REM sleep behavior disorders, insomnia and circadian rhythm disturbances.
A systematic review states 7.6% of the general population experiences sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. Its prevalence among men is 15.9% while 18.9% of women experience it. When considering specific populations, 28.3% of students and 31.9% of psychiatric patients have experienced this phenomenon at least once in their lifetime. Of those psychiatric patients, 34.6% have panic disorder. Sleep paralysis in students is slightly more prevalent for those of Asian descent (39.9%) than other ethnicities (Hispanic: 34.5%, African descent: 31.4%, Caucasian 30.8%).
Chronic sleep disorders in childhood, which affect some 70% of children with developmental or psychological disorders, are under-reported and under-treated. Sleep-phase disruption is also common among adolescents, whose school schedules are often incompatible with their natural circadian rhythm. Effective treatment begins with careful diagnosis using sleep diaries and perhaps sleep studies. Modifications in sleep hygiene may resolve the problem, but medical treatment is often warranted.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that causes an almost irresistible urge to move your legs (or arms) at night. The urge to move occurs when you’re resting or lying down and is usually due to uncomfortable, tingly, aching, or creeping sensations. There are plenty of ways to help manage and relieve symptoms, though, including self-help remedies you can use at home.
A systematic review found that traumatic childhood experiences (such as family conflict or sexual trauma) significantly increases the risk for a number of sleep disorders in adulthood, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia. It is currently unclear whether or not moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects around 4% of men and 2% of women in the United States. In general, this disorder is more prevalent among men. However, this difference tends to diminish with age. Women experience the highest risk for OSA during pregnancy. Also, they tend to report experiencing depression and insomnia in conjunction with obstructive sleep apnea. In a meta-analysis of the various Asian countries, India and China present the highest prevalence of the disorder. Specifically, about 13.7% of the Indian population and 7% of Hong-Kong's population is estimated to have OSA. The two groups experience daytime OSA symptoms such as difficulties concentrating, mood swings, or high blood pressure, at similar rates (prevalence of 3.5% and 3.57%, respectively).
Waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom is such a common problem it has a name: nocturia . As we get older, our bodies' ability to hold fluids for long periods decreases, thanks to a decline in antidiuretic hormones. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of older adults have sleep deprivation resulting from waking up frequently to use the bathroom.