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What are the 5 Types of Insomnia?

Types of Insomnia


Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, plagues millions of people suffer from this worldwide. It can have many serious consequences on mental and physical health. Researchers have identified 5 types of insomnia, each has different types of triggers and symptoms. Understanding these types can help to find the best treatment for your sleep disorder.

In this article, we will explore the following five types of insomnia:

  • Acute Insomnia
  • Chronic Insomnia
  • Onset Insomnia
  • Maintenance Insomnia
  • Comorbid Insomnia

Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia is also known as short-term insomnia. This happens when a person feels difficulty in their sleep or staying asleep for a brief period or less than a month.

This type of insomnia is usually caused by temporary factors such as significant life events, stress, or environmental changes. Some common causes include:

  • Difficult life transitions or changes (e.g., job loss, relationship issues)
  • Environmental factors (e.g., noisy surroundings, uncomfortable bedding)
  • Medical conditions or procedures (e.g., surgery, dental treatment)

Addressing the underlying cause and incorporating healthy sleep habits can often resolve acute insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is characterized by ongoing difficulty in falling or staying asleep, occurring at least three nights per week and lasting for three months or longer.

It can result from various factors, including long-term stress, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits. Common causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Prolonged stress (e.g., work-related pressure, financial concerns)
  • Poor sleep hygiene (e.g., irregular sleep schedule, excessive daytime napping)
  • Medicated or substance-induced insomnia (e.g., use of stimulants, certain medications)

Treatment for chronic insomnia often involves a combination of cognitive-behavioural therapies, improving sleep habits, and addressing any underlying medical conditions.

Onset Insomnia

Onset insomnia refers to the difficulty in initially falling asleep at the beginning of the night. This form of insomnia is often linked to anxiety or stress, as the mind races with thoughts and worries when attempting to relax and drift off to sleep. Factors contributing to the onset of insomnia may include:

  • Excessive worrying or anxiety surrounding sleep (e.g., fear of not getting enough sleep)
  • Racing thoughts or overthinking (e.g., preoccupation with work, relationships, or other concerns)
  • Stimulus control issues (e.g., associating the bedroom with wakefulness or activities unrelated to sleep)

Treatment for onset insomnia typically focuses on relaxation techniques, creating a sleep-conducive environment, and addressing underlying anxiety concerns.

Maintenance Insomnia

Maintenance insomnia is characterized by the inability to stay asleep throughout the night, with frequent awakenings or long periods spent awake. Various factors can contribute to the maintenance of insomnia, such as:

  • Sleep apnea or other sleep-related breathing disorders
  • Restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder
  • External disturbances (e.g., noise, light, temperature fluctuations)

Treatment for maintenance insomnia often involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause, such as obtaining treatment for sleep apnea or improving the bedroom environment to minimize disturbances.

Comorbid Insomnia

Comorbid insomnia, also known as secondary insomnia, occurs when sleep issues are associated with, or caused by other medical or psychiatric conditions. These underlying conditions often result in sleep disturbances, impacting the individual’s sleep quality and duration.

Some common comorbid conditions include:

  • Mental health disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Chronic pain or other ongoing health issues (e.g., fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines)
  • Sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome)
  • Abusing substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs, and some medications)

Treatment for comorbid insomnia generally requires addressing the concurrent condition(s) through appropriate medical and/or psychological interventions. In some cases, insomnia-specific treatments may also be necessary to improve sleep quality.


Understanding the various types of insomnia and their root causes is essential for obtaining appropriate treatment and regaining restful sleep. By addressing underlying factors and practising good sleep hygiene, overcoming insomnia is a possibility for many individuals.

Consider speaking with a healthcare professional about your symptoms if you think you may be experiencing one of these types of insomnia. They can offer you a unique treatment plan and assist you in regaining a restful night’s sleep. Remember, there are a number of resources and treatments available to help improve your sleep quality.

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