Insomnia is actually best thought of as a symptom and not necessarily as a disorder. This is because there is always an underlying reason for sleep loss.
In other words, your sleep loss can usually be traced back to a cause, which is a good thing: it allows us to attempt to remove that cause and therefore remove or vastly improve the effect it’s having on your nightly sleep routine.
The causes or types of insomnia described here are not listed in order of how common or uncommon they are. After describing each of the causes or types, we’ll talk about how to determine which cause or causes are most likely affecting you.
This cause of insomnia is usually first noticed in early childhood. It is characterized by a lifelong inability or difficulty to sleep in a normal way. It’s usually caused by an underlying abnormality in the brain’s control of the sleep-wake system, resulting in erratic sleeping times and tiredness levels at any given point in the day.
Sleep Onset Insomnia
This type of insomnia is characterized either by an inability to fall asleep easily at night or wake up at the right time in the morning—or both. It sounds like the most general type of insomnia because it pretty much is. Along with the type of insomnia that follows this one, Sleep Onset Insomnia is the most likely type of sleep loss you are suffering from. At the very least, it’s the type worth concentrating on first when attempting to improve your sleep.
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
This type of insomnia is characterized by an inability to stay asleep once you’ve nodded off at night. Suffering from Sleep Maintenance Insomnia doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t fall asleep a short time after getting into bed or wake up at the right time in the morning—it purely represents the problem of waking up at different times in the night for no obvious reason. It’s quite common for sufferers of insomnia to have both Sleep Onset Insomnia and Sleep Maintenance Insomnia. That is, they struggle to go to sleep and stay asleep and wake up at the right time.
Otherwise known as Learned Insomnia, this kind of sleep loss occurs due to excessive worrying by the sufferer and the anxiety that the continued worrying causes in them. People with Psychophysiological Insomnia typically exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Frequent periods of worrying specifically about the problem of not being able to get to sleep at night and the effects insomnia could have on them
- A profound difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep – we recommend using a sleep mask or trying melatonin
- A feeling of increased nervousness and tension as evening draws on and bedtime approaches
- No other causes of insomnia present—including medications, poor sleep hygiene or underlying neurological abnormalities.
It’s quite possible for one type of existing insomnia, such as Sleep Onset Insomnia, to eventually lead to some level of Psychophysiological Insomnia, which effectively compounds the problem the sufferer has sleeping properly.
The initial problem of insomnia arises and, after some time, anxiety and annoyance grows in their mind, which stresses them out and makes it harder for them to relax and enter stage one of sleep each night – if this sounds like you try some guided meditations tonight before bed.