Types of Insomnia — Causes and Treatments

Types of Insomnia — Causes and Treatments

Did you know that insomnia is the most common sleep disorder? Namely, one in three adults worldwide experience insomnia symptoms, whereas 10% of the adult population meets the criteria for insomnia disorder.

The disorder itself is characterized by the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and/or fall back to sleep after waking. It comes together with some potentially serious and wide-ranging effects and can impact both mental and physical health. All in all, insomnia remarkably decreases overall quality of life.

So, if you want to finally get a good night’s sleep, you have to understand the different types of insomnia, as well as the causes and treatments. To learn more, continue reading below.

Types of Insomnia

  1. Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia is characterized by having sleep difficulty that lasts three months or less. It typically resolves on its own without treatment and it’s mainly caused by short-term illness, grief, anxiety, medication side effects, or jet lag.

  1. Chronic Insomnia

Contrary to acute insomnia, chronic insomnia is a persistent issue. People with chronic insomnia usually face sleeping issues three or more nights a week for longer than three months. It is commonly triggered by a conditioned negative response to sleep, head injuries, some medical conditions, hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system, etc.

  1. Adjustment Insomnia

Experiencing insomnia symptoms caused by a major life event, such as a new job or school, moving house, marriage or divorce, having a child, etc., accompanied by stress, anxiety, or lack of familiarity. It is quite similar to acute insomnia and the symptoms go away once you become adjusted to the situation.

  1. Drug or Substance-Induced Insomnia

Insomnia symptoms may also be caused by medication or recreational drug use. Common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, cold medications, ADHD treatments, opioids, and cannabis. These can either lead to disrupted sleep or other disorders like sleep-eating, parasomnias, nightmare disorder, restless leg syndrome, or REM sleep behavior disorder.

  1. Comorbid Insomnia

This type of insomnia occurs along with an illness or another disorder. The most common conditions linked to comorbid insomnia include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Apart from these psychiatric issues, it can also be caused by pain-related conditions like arthritis, shingles, cancer, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, etc.

  1. Onset Insomnia

Onset insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep, i.e. having trouble with sleep onset which results in a delay in sleep for more than half an hour. The main causes include stress, alcohol or caffeine, or poor sleep hygiene.

  1. Middle Insomnia

Also referred to as maintenance insomnia, middle insomnia is characterized by the inability to stay asleep. It causes frequent awakenings and sufferers are often unable to get back to sleep. It is typically triggered by alcohol, chronic pain, or babies who wake up for night feedings.

  1. Late Insomnia

People with late insomnia, also known as sleep offset or terminal insomnia, wake up too early in the morning between 3 and 5 am and are unable to fall back to sleep. Causes of this type of insomnia include depression, emotional stress, allergies, low blood sugar, hunger, room temperature changes, noise, or light.

  1. Sleep Hygiene Insomnia

Finally, this type of insomnia is caused by poor sleep hygiene habits such as screen time before bed, caffeine or alcohol consumption in the evening, inconsistent sleep schedule, poor bedtime routine, etc. This is the most common type of insomnia, and luckily, one of the most easily treatable.

Insomnia Treatments

Now that you know the most common types of insomnia, let’s quickly go through the main three categories of treatments for insomnia: sleep hygiene, therapy, and medication.

Sleep hygiene refers to practicing healthy habits and routines such as following a regular sleep schedule, exercising regularly, avoiding screen time before bedtime, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals in the evening, and creating a healthy sleep environment.

When it comes to therapy, one of the most effective has proven to be Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) which includes sleep restriction, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and stimulus control training. Another therapy option worth considering is paradoxical intention which involves lying passively awake without worrying about or trying to sleep.

Last but not least, medication can also be used for treating insomnia, but only for a brief time under a doctor’s care. Several classes of medications are effective for treating insomnia such as antihistamines, antidepressants, hypnotics, and sedatives.