Types of Insomnia

There are three types of insomnia:

1. Problems falling asleep

  • Sleep-Onset Insomnia: Lying in bed for a half an hour or more before falling asleep.

2. Waking up and lying awake at night or early morning

  • Sleep-Maintenance Insomnia:waking during the night and lying awake for an average of thirty minutes or more.

3. Poor quality of sleep

Further, insomnia can be classified in three ways:

1. Transient Insomnia (short term)

  • Insomnia lasting from a single night to a few weeks.

2. Intermittent Insomnia(on and off)

  • When episodes of transient insomnia occur from time to time.

3. Chronic Insomnia, Acute Insomnia, or Hyper Insomnia (constant)

  • Occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more.

Idiopathic Insomnia

Idiopathic insomnia, or primary insomnia, is a rare form of chronic insomnia that doesn't relate to a cause. The person that suffers from this disorder usually has had it their entire life (since birth). One theory thinks the cause may be from an underactive sleep system, or an overactive awakening system, but there is no positive cause.

Secondary Insomnia

Unlike primary insomnia, secondary insomnia results from underlying biological disorders or psychiatric disorders. These may include systemic illnesses, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, or substance abuse problems. Secondary insomnia is best treated by treating the underlying causes of insomnia before treating the symptoms of insomnia.

Sleep Onset Insomnia

A disorder in which you have trouble getting to sleep at bedtime, regardless of the time on the clock.

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fatal Familial Insomnia is a rare type of gentic insomnia that runs in families. The area of the brain (the thalamus) that controls sleep is affected, eventually causing the person to not be able to sleep. Severe sleep deprivation such as this causes coma, and eventually death.

Psychophysiological Insomnia

Psychophysicological insomina is a learned behavior insomnia, and is the most common type of insomnia there is. For example, if a person decides that they won't be able to fall asleep in their bed because they've had trouble in the past, every time they get in their bed, they have trouble sleeping.

Rebound Insomnia

The inability to fall asleep, or stay asleep, after discontinuing taking your sleeping medication is called rebound insomnia.

Conditioned Insomnia

Without resolution of acute insomnia, it can become conditioned insomnia, a condition when the thought of going to bed triggers enough anxiety to actually keep you from falling asleep.

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Sources and Recommended Reading:

Jacobs, Gregg D., PH.D. Say Good Night To Insomnia. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1999.

Swanson, Jennifer. Sleep Disorders Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1999.