Different Types of Insomnia May Need Different Treatments. So What Type Do You Have?

Understanding more about the various types of insomnia will help you determine how to deal with your own case.

We have our broad definition of insomnia, of course–not getting enough solid sleep hours to see you through the day in comfort. But it’s the unique details you’re experiencing that will tell you what your best treatment approach might be.

Take a moment to go through this quick overview of the most common types of insomnia.

Initial Insomnia: Do you tend to lie awake for more than an hour before you get to sleep? Can you stay asleep until morning once you do finally fall asleep?

initial insomniaIf so, you have what is often called initial insomnia. This is one of the most common types of insomnia, and is best helped by developing good sleep hygiene and reducing nighttime stress and worry.

Middle Insomnia: Do you manage to fall asleep fairly quickly but then wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep?

If so, you have what is called middle insomnia. This is certainly one of the most frustrating types of insomnia. But you CAN go back to sleep. The Insomnia self-help section will give you some tips.

terminal insomnia Terminal Insomnia:Do you wake up too early in the morning, before you have gotten your full amount of sleep? In that case, you have what’s called terminal insomnia (that sounds a lot worse than it is–no, you won’t die from waking up too early, so relax!), also called late insomnia.

Intermittent Insomnia: Do you just have insomnia occasionally? Does it last a few days and then go away?

If so, join the club! This is the most common of all types of insomnia, as just about everyone has it. It’s is usually nothing to worry about, unless…

…your insomnia is directly related to a certain event or activity you must perform, such as test-taking. In this case, it may prevent you from realizing an important life goal, such as passing a professional exam or even graduating from college.

So even intermittent insomnia can’t be dismissed if it’s messing up your life!

chronic insomnia
Chronic Insomnia: Have you had your insomnia for several weeks now? Possibly even months? Does it sometimes get better only to relapse a few weeks later? Do you have sleepless nights more than once a week?

If so, you’re in the right place. You are main focus of this entire website. When I think “insomnia” I am really thinking “chronic insomnia” because that’s what I had for so long. You’ll want to spend a lot of time here, and in fact,
I have devoted a whole section just for you!

Severe Insomnia: Are you going without any sleep at all for more than three nights a week?

If so, you may have a case of severe insomnia. Your nervous system is stuck in a state of “emergency alert” for whatever reason, and you probably want to seek out short-term medical treatment for your insomnia.

NOTE: Sometimes people ask me, “When do you think medical treatment for insomnia is a good idea?” and my answer is, “When you have severe insomnia.

The right medical treatment can help you get some needed rest to restore more normal functioning of your body and mind. Then you can work on a long-term cure for your chronic insomnia.

A medical doctor who specializes in sleep–either independently or associated with a sleep clinic or sleep center–is the best choice.

If you know you have either a physical or mental conditions that could be causing your severe insomnia–such as bipolar disorder, serious depression, serious anxiety, breathing problems, pain or side effects from medications–then it’s definitely time to consult with your doctor. You can learn more about medical treatment in this article.

Pregnancy Insomnia: Are you pregnant? It’s quite common to have trouble sleeping during pregnancy. These types of insomnia are mostly caused by the unique and dramatic physiological changes taking place.

Insomnia during early pregnancy is often due to hormonal changes and also may have some emotional causes.

Insomnia during late pregnancy is often caused by the discomfort brought on by your ever-expanding uterus and abdomen.

With both early and late pregnancy insomnia, you may find yourself feeling very fatigued, drowsy, tired and yet ever so frustrated because good, solid sleep seems so out of reach.

Child and teen insomnia
Child and Teen Insomnia: Is it your child or teenager who has insomnia? Are you a teenager who can’t sleep?

The most common cause of childhood and teenage insomnia is mental/emotional (anxiety, depression, anger, grief, etc.), but may also be caused by asthma and allergies, complications of obesity (such as sleep apnea) and other physical conditions.

Lack of physical activity and excessive mental stimulation (too much gaming, perhaps?) may also play a role.

Growing kids need their sleep, so it’s crucial to get to the root cause of insomnia in kids and deal with it quickly before other mental and physical health problems develop. See article on teenage insomnia part 1 here and part 2 here.

Menopause Insomnia: Are you menopausal or premenopausal? The insomnia and menopause link is very common. Hormonal changes and other emotional and physical changes can play havoc with your sleep–along with other areas of your life, of course. Read more in this article series on insomnia and menopause.

The good news is, there is a lot you can do to ease your insomnia symptoms and turn this transition stage into a positive, growth-oriented time of your life.

Nightmares: Do frightening dreams wake you up during the night and make it impossible to go back to sleep?

Nightmares aren’t really classified among the types of insomnia, but can make it difficult to sleep through the night. In adults, nightmares are sometimes related to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but may also be caused by other conditions or just happen out of the blue.

Nightmares are most common in children, and seem to be just a normal phase of childhood unless unusually severe or frequent.

Nightmares are different than “night terrors,” which occur in a different sleep stage and are considered a “sleep disorder.” Night terrors are not necessarily associated with insomnia.

Circadian Rhythm Insomnia: These are the types of insomnia you might get if you change your sleeping schedule too often, travel across time zones frequently, or work nights.

All of these activities may cause disruptions to the biological clock in your brain, which needs consistent light-and-darkness patterns to “set” itself. See the article on circadian rhythm disorders and insomnia.

Primary vs. Secondary Insomnia: The type of insomnia that is not directly caused by a specific condition is called “Primary Insomnia.”

As I’ve already mentioned, insomnia can have many causes, some unique to each individual. But occasionally it can be directly linked to something else, such as a new medication you’re taking, or a recent health issue–such as an allergy, thyroid problem, pain or illness.

If resolving the underlying issue is all that is needed to cure insomnia, then it’s not primary insomnia–it’s secondary insomnia.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if your insomnia is primary or secondary. That’s why a careful health assessment is necessary before you begin the process of curing your insomnia.

Are there more types of insomnia I haven’t covered yet? Yes, no doubt there are, but we’ll get to those later.

Once you’ve identified which among these various types of insomnia you are blessed with–OK, maybe cursed with is more accurate–you can move on.

The two main types of insomnia are primary and secondary–but how do you know what you have? This article will help clear things up.

What if your insomnia is caused by circadian rhythms being out of whack? Find out more in this article.

If you have initial insomnia, you can’t fall asleep for a looooong time… click here to find out more.

When you have middle insomnia, you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep. Click here for more info…

If you have terminal or late insomnia, you wake up too early. Click here to find out more…

Nearly everyone has intermittent insomnia, but sometimes it can lead to chronic… click here to find out how to nip it early before it gets problematic…

If you’ve been diagnosed with “idiopathic insomnia” don’t panic–just click here for some encouraging words and suggestions.

If you’re a woman approaching menopause and wondering why you’re suddenly having sleep problems, check out the insomnia and menopause connection in this insomnia and menopause series, Part I.

Click here for Part II of the Insomnia and Menopause series…

…then click here for Part III of the Insomnia and Menopause series.

Do you have “severe insomnia?” You might be the best judge of that, but make sure you have all the facts.