8 Different Types of Insomnia and Sleeplessness

Having a hard time getting to sleep at night? You’re not alone. Studies, including this one from the American Sleep Foundation, show that roughly half of all Americans report having trouble sleeping once in awhile, and more than one in 5 suffer from chronic insomnia.

Generally speaking, insomnia is a symptom that may result from stress, anxiety, depression, a serious medical condition, pain, or a substance abuse issue. To help you overcome sleeplessness, you need to determine what type of insomnia is affecting you…


1. General Insomnia

The catch-all term for sleeplessness is general insomnia, a classification of sleep disorders involving anyone who has difficulty getting to sleep at night (though it may also include people who wake up in the middle of the night or wake up too early). Overall, insomnia is simply defined as an overall insufficient amount and/or quality of sleep.

If you’re only struggling to sleep occasionally, chances are your doctor will diagnose you with general insomnia. However, if your sleeplessness is the result of something more specific, your treatment may require a different approach.


2. Adjustment Insomnia

As the name suggests, adjustment insomnia is sleeplessness that results from a major adjustment in the life of the patient. Also known as acute insomnia or short-term insomnia, it’s usually the result of stress from a major life event, including relationship breakdown (or divorce), the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the emergence of a serious medical condition, etc.

Adjustment insomnia can be treated with medication, but may also require cognitive behavioral therapy to help the patient work through the stress and return to a normal sleep schedule.


3. Childhood Insomnia

Adults are the only people to suffer with insomnia, kids can also have significant sleep issues that can affect their ability to concentrate at school. Childhood insomnia is a serious issue that can negatively impact the natural development of a child.

Typically, doctors are reluctant to treat childhood insomnia with medication. The preferred approach is to have a conversation with the child to see what might be causing the problem. Often, it’s related to stress or an irregular bedtime schedule.

fatigue child

4. Idiopathic Insomnia

Idiopathic insomnia is one of the most serious sleep disorders. It’s a lifelong problem that starts during a child’s early years and lasts all the way into adulthood. Typically, idiopathic insomnia has nothing to do with stress, medication, or pain.

Generally speaking, idiopathic insomnia is the result of some kind of physical imbalance in the body. For example, it may be the result of an overactive awakening system or under active sleep trigger. What is clear is that those dealing with idiopathic insomnia need special treatment unique to their specific condition.


5. Insomnia Due to Substance Abuse

There are a number of substances that can negatively affect the ability to sleep, including medication, caffeine, alcohol, and certain foods. Some medications can prevent sleep (which means you may need to take that medication earlier in the day). Caffeine can prevent the mind from effectively shutting down.

While alcohol can help one get to sleep but may cause mid-night waking, and some foods (such as spicy foods) can cause indigestion and prevent the onset of sleep. Your challenge is to determine how you can remove the problem substance from your diet in order to resume sleeping effectively. This change may require the support of medical professionals.


6. Insomnia Due to Medical Issue

Sometimes insomnia is a strictly mental health issue related to stress and anxiety. That can certainly be the case when a person is being treated for a serious medical condition.

But pain is often a symptom of a significant medical issue and can have a dramatic impact on sleep. Medications designed to reduce or eliminate pain can help, but they may also affect a patient’s sleep schedule. If you’re being treated for a medical issue, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible sleep problems and how to overcome them.

prescription medication

7. Paradoxical Insomnia

Paradoxical insomnia is a complicated matter that takes place without any clear evidence that sleeplessness is a problem. Those dealing with it may actually over-report the problem. That means they claim to have slept far less than they actually have.

There may be a number of explanations for paradoxical insomnia, but at its core the issue is a mental health matter. If someone you know appears to be dealing with this type of insomnia, encourage them to be open and honest with their physician about the issue.


8. Psychophysiological Insomnia

It may sound highly complicated, but psychophysiological insomnia is both common and simple: it’s essentially insomnia caused by excessive worrying about not being able to sleep. In effect, it’s a vicious cycle: one does not sleep, so they worry about not sleeping and, for that reason, fail to get a good night’s rest.

In many cases, people with this form of insomnia focus too much on being tired the next day as a result of not getting a full night’s rest. In order to overcome these issues, they may need to be treated for anxiety or depression and take part in cognitive behavioral therapy.