How Sleep Disorders are Classified by Doctors

Last updated: April 19, 2019

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

There are many sleep disorders. Each with distinct characteristics that distinguish them from one another. However, there are some characteristics that sleep disorders share. Most sleep disorders have one of the following symptoms:

There are currently three systems available to classify sleep disorders. In the United States, doctors use either one of two of the said systems.

ICSD-3

The first one that sleep specialists use is The International Classification of Sleep Disorders – Third Edition (ICSD-3). ICSD-3 is an authoritative clinical text when diagnosing sleep disorders. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is the one responsible for this system of classification. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published this classification in association with the European Sleep Research Society, the Latin American Sleep Society, and the Japanese Society of Sleep Research. This edition last received an update in 2014.

According to ICSD-3, there are currently 6 major categories of sleep disorders. These are:

DSM-V

The second system of classification is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. This is a system of classification published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013.

The difference between this publication and that of ICSD-3 is the number of classifications or groups of conditions. While ICSD-3 used 6 major categories, DSM-V listed 10 “Sleep-Wake Disorders”. These are conditions wherein a patient has disturbed sleep. As a result, patients with these conditions suffer from distress and impaired functioning during the daytime.

Under DSM-V, these 10 groups are:

  • Insomnia disorder
  • Hypersomnolence disorder
  • Narcolepsy
  • Breathing-related sleep disorders
  • Circadian Rhythm sleep disorders
  • Non-REM (NREM) sleep arousal disorders
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Nightmare disorder
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Substance-or-medication-induced sleep disorder

There are different ways of classifying sleep disorders. This doesn’t mean, though, that one classification is better than another. It also doesn’t mean that the same sleep disorder gets different treatments. Different classifications also don’t mean that the definition of a sleep disorder or its symptoms changes. The diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments are the same, whatever system of classification a doctor uses.

Whatever classification system a doctor or a sleep specialist uses, the end goal is always the same. Helping the patient get relief. When a patient sees a doctor for a sleep disorder, whether the said doctor uses ICSD-3 or DSM-V, a doctor will still do his best to help the patient get a normal, restful, and restorative sleep pattern.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

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