14 Types of Insomnia — Causes and Treatments

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Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder. It refers to difficulty getting enough sleep even though there was opportunity for a full night’s rest. Insomnia impacts the night time experience, but it also has repercussions for during the day. It can adversely affect relationships, social life, work performance, and mental and physical health, generally damaging quality of life.

Symptoms typically include fatigue, lack of attention span, poor memory, decreased productivity, sadness or irritability, tiredness and sleepiness, anger, poor decision making, low motivation, and frustration. It can be caused by stress, other medical conditions, other sleep disorders, medications, mental health problems, lifestyle and environmental factors.

As many as a third of adults suffer from some type of insomnia. (1) It’s more common in older adults, and particularly pertinent for people under stress, pregnant women and those suffering with mental illness.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately. 

Durations of Insomnia Infographic
Durations of Insomnia Infographic

Transient Insomnia

Transient insomnia is a period of difficulty with sleep lasting less than a week. Of all the types, it is most associated with real-world factors such as jetlag, stress, or anxiety.

Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia describes any short period of difficulty sleeping, typically meaning less than one month. It can usually be attributed by a real life event of stress, bad news or traveling, and commonly resolves itself without any treatment.

Short Term Insomnia

Short term insomnia is any period of insomnia lasting under three months. It occurs in fifteen to twenty percent of people, and usually resolves itself, too, especially with the help of a supportive mattress and calming bedroom decor.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia refers to a more long-term pattern of problematic sleeping – usually any longer than three months. Insomnia is considered chronic if it affects a person three or more nights out of a week. Chronic insomnia can be a lifelong issue for sufferers. It affects around ten percent of adults.

Adjustment Insomnia

Adjustment insomnia describes a period of insomnia definitively linked to a life event – typically of stress, grief or worry. The insomnia ends either when the problem goes away, or the sufferer learns how to cope with the problem.

Causes of Insomnia Infographic
Causes of Insomnia Infographic

Insomnia Caused By Drugs Or Substances

This refers to problems sleeping caused by medications or recreational drug use. The most common offender is caffeine, but sleep can be adversely affected by alcohol, benzodiazepines or opioids, too. This type of insomnia can also refer to non-brain-altering substances, for example insomnia caused by eating a big meal just before bed.

Comorbid Insomnia

Comorbid insomnia occurs alongside any other condition. The most common are anxiety or depression, or other psychiatric conditions. Comorbid insomnia also frequently occurs alongside chronic pain issues like arthritis.

Onset Insomnia

Onset insomnia describes difficulty with falling asleep. Once asleep, the sufferer tend to be able to sleep through the night – it’s the getting to sleep which is the problem.

Maintenance Insomnia

Maintenance insomnia refers to difficulty staying asleep. Sufferers usually wake frequently during the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep.

Behavioral Insomnia Of Childhood

Behavioral insomnia often begins when a child is not given a specific and strict bedtime by their parents. They are never taught normal sleep habits and routines, and thus struggle with getting to sleep. This type of insomnia can last into adulthood, and may affect the potential for good sleeping habits for a lifetime.

Idiopathic Insomnia

Idiopathic insomnia is a long term sleep disorder which typically starts in childhood. It’s distinct in that it cannot be explained by any other causes, such as medical problems, other sleep disorders, or lifestyle choices. The true cause of idiopathic insomnia remains unclear.

Paradoxical Insomnia

Paradoxical insomnia refers to the complaint of severe or chronic insomnia which is not objectively happening. The key feature is overestimation by the sufferer or how long it takes to fall asleep or periods of wakefulness. They also underestimate their actual sleep time. The effects of this type of insomnia are not as severe as of actual chronic insomnia.

Psychophysiological Insomnia

Psychophysiological insomnia is a sort of “self-induced” insomnia. It refers broadly to cases where the worry and stress caused by insomnia is the reason for the issues getting to and staying asleep. It’s a vicious cycle, as the worrying causes the insomnia while the insomnia causes the worrying.

Sleep Hygiene Insomnia

This refers to insomnia caused by poor sleep hygiene. This can mean having a bedroom which is too warm or too cold, too bright, or too noisy. It can also refer to bad sleep habits, like looking at a phone or computer just before trying to sleep, getting into bed a long time before one is planning on sleeping, or having a poor evening and sleep routine.

Insomnia Treatment

Insomnia Treatments Infographic
Insomnia Treatments Infographic

Treatment for insomnia falls into three broad categories.They are sleep hygiene, therapy, and medication.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to habits and routines surrounding your sleep habits, such as maintaining a consistent bedtime, and not using your bed for anything other than sleeping.


Therapy usually means cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, which addresses the thoughts, moods and behaviors that may be the cause of the issue.


Medication usually refers to a type of sleeping pill, although they are not always a long term solution as a tolerance can be built up to them over time.

Although insomnia can be harmful to one’s lifestyle, there is always a way to minimize its effect. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need help overcoming the disorder. Information on the internet shouldn’t take the place of advice from a qualified medical professional!


  1. www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/Insomnia.pdf.
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Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Professional Photography Magazine, Bustle, Ravishly and more. When not writing, she enjoys pubs, knitting, nature and mysteries.

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