Home > Sleep Patterns > Types of Insomnia

Types of Insomnia

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 23 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Types Insomnia Sleep Problems Nocturnal

If you're persistently having problems sleeping, it's not hard to figure out that something is wrong. Working out what type of insomnia you have is the first step toward doing something about it. Your doctor can help with this, but for the most part you will need to monitor your symptoms at home, so it's important to understand what the different types of insomnia are.

Transient, Short Term and Chronic Insomnia

One of the first things your doctor will ask about your insomnia is how long it has lasted. Sometimes insomnia is transient, lasting for just a few days, in which case there is usually no need to seek treatment. Transient insomnia can, however, return periodically in some people, in which case you should note its occurrence in a diary or on a calendar. This will enable you to keep track of its development if it becomes a more serious problem.

Short term insomnia lasts for two to six weeks and is usually related to other short term problems such as anxiety about a life change (anything from losing a loved one to moving house). Although it often goes away by itself, short term insomnia can wear you out just when you most need to be strong, so it can still be worth seeking help. If it lasts for longer than four weeks, you should consider treatment to stop it turning into a long term problem.

Chronic insomnia is a much longer-lasting variant of the condition, and is often harder to treat. If your insomnia has lasted for more than two months, your doctor should treat it as a chronic condition.

Primary and Secondary Insomnia

Primary insomnia is the name given to insomnia that develops independently of any other medical condition. It is relatively rare and can be difficult to diagnose, especially in its transient and short term forms. It can also be masked by other conditions which develop as a result of the physical and psychological stress caused by sleep loss. This means that, if you have another health problem, it's useful to work out whether it developed before or after your insomnia.

The most common type of insomnia is secondary insomnia, which is caused by another condition. Generally speaking, secondary insomnia will not go away until the underlying condition has been resolved. This does not, however, mean that it can't be successfully treated. People with secondary insomnia often need ongoing treatment to keep their sleep problems at bay.

Insomnia and your Sleep Pattern

Insomnia can also be categorised by sleep pattern. This can help to clarify what type of treatment it is most likely to respond to.

Onset insomnia is one of the most common forms of sleep problem, and means that you have difficulty getting to sleep when you go to ed. It is often caused by pain, stress, or simply an inability to 'switch off' waking thoughts.

Nocturnal awakening insomnia is the appropriate label when you have no particular difficulty getting to sleep but keep waking up during the night. This is often related to chronic health problems and poor hydration or nutrition, or a problematic sleep environment.

Terminal insomnia isn't as drastic as it sounds - it just means that your insomnia affects you toward the end of the night. You may not even think of it as insomnia if you simply wake up early, but if this happens all the time and you simply can't get enough rest as a result, it's a real problem.

Knowing what type of insomnia you have can help you to anticipate and control your problems. It will also put you in a better position to discuss them with your doctor and work out the best approach to treatment.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Ruggero
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Causality here can easily trick our minds. An inverse association between thirst and insomnia is known. This does not necessarily mean…
    28 October 2017
  • Lizzy Lu
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    I suffer from pulmonary aspiration and can only handle about a cup of liquids per day. I have been chronically dehydrated since March,…
    28 July 2017
  • princess baby saedie
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    At night I can't sleep. I look up somuch stuff to help. I just got out of a brace about a week ago from spraining my ankle. I've…
    27 July 2017
  • Joiseyg
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Being dehydrated makes me feel exhausted so I usually drink water when I'm at that point. I drink 40-60 oz a day and have had a hard…
    10 September 2016
  • Insomniacs
    Re: Sleeping Pills - Addiction and Withdrawal
    Mary - Your Question:I was diagnosed with an Auto Immune disease in 2005 and was placed on large doses of…
    7 September 2016
  • Mary
    Re: Sleeping Pills - Addiction and Withdrawal
    I was diagnosed with an Auto Immune disease in 2005 and was placed on large doses of Prednisone, along with other…
    7 September 2016
  • Insomniacs
    Re: Sleeping Pills - Addiction and Withdrawal
    Twisty - Your Question:I have been taking zoplicone for almost. 3 yrs and want to stop how do withdraw from the…
    23 August 2016
  • Twisty
    Re: Sleeping Pills - Addiction and Withdrawal
    I have been taking zoplicone for almost. 3 yrs and want to stop how do withdraw from the pills in a safe and…
    22 August 2016
  • Insomniacs
    Re: A Holistic Approach to Insomnia
    Foggy - Your Question:Hi I need some serious help please. I have not slept now at all in nearly 3 weeks. I realised I had…
    8 August 2016
  • Foggy
    Re: A Holistic Approach to Insomnia
    hi I need some serious help please. I have not slept now at all in nearly 3 weeks. I realised I had sleep problems and so…
    7 August 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the Insomniacs website. Please read our Disclaimer.