Types of insomnia

There are many types of insomnia that can be classified in terms of duration, start time and causes. As for the duration, we can distinguish:

insomnia incidental: lasts several days. It occurs mainly under the influence of acute physiological stress (eg disease) or situational stress (change of time zone) in people with normal sleep history.

insomnia short-term: lasts several weeks. It is a kind of insomnia occurring in a situation of prolonged physiological stress (severe illness) or situational (mourning). In these cases, it is important to analyze the habits of people with insomnia to determine if insomnia has arisen as a disorder of proper sleep hygiene.

chronic insomnia: lasts over a month. This is certainly the kind of insomnia that needs confirmation. It can often be caused by chronic organic diseases. In other cases, it is caused by the abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs. Psychiatric disorders can occur.

As for the duration of insomnia, it refers to a specific moment at night when a person has difficulty falling asleep or sleeping. The following distinction can be found in insomnia publications:

insomnia initial: it is insomnia, which suffers people who have trouble falling asleep. These people usually spend a lot of sleepless hours in bed before falling asleep.

main insomnia: this type of insomnia occurs in the form of frequent and short awakenings or very shallow sleep in the middle of the night. It can also be a full awakening in the middle of the night, but with the ability to get back to sleep.

terminal insomnia: this is insomnia, which suffers people who wake up in the early morning hours after 4-5 hours of sleep. It may be associated with the difficulty of maintaining sleep in the last hours, characterized by the REM phase, compared to the first hours of sleep, characterized by a deep sleep phase (the so-called delta sleep). Often this is related to voltage states.


Insomnia can be caused by many causes. Determining them is necessary to understand the problem and help the person affected by insomnia in solving it. The causes of insomnia can be roughly divided into three categories:

  • insomnia situational
  • primary insomnia
  • primary insomnia not situational

Situational insomnia is the result of internal or external events or situations that affect people and their environment. It can also be divided into:

  • situational insomnia
  • Situational insomnia resulting from circadian rhythm disorders
  • insomnia secondary illness caused by health factors (eg disease, pain) or psychological.

Situational insomnia of the extrinsic state is caused by external factors that disturb sleep. Among this type of insomnia can be distinguished:

  1. insomnia caused by environmental factors: disruptive factors and the subjective effects of their operation can be many. Most often they concern noise coming from the environment (eg movement or snoring), inappropriate temperature (too hot or too cold) or an uncomfortable bed.
  2. insomnia associated with altitude: is a type of insomnia that usually occurs at an altitude above 3000 meters above sea level; it is usually accompanied by many physical ailments.
  3. insomnia associated with adaptation or occurring when we sleep in a different bed or out of home. This type of insomnia can occur regardless of the positive or negative perception of a given situation.
  4. insomnia due to the use of various substances: the cause of this type of insomnia may be addiction to hypnotics or stimulants, as well as heavy metal poisoning or organic toxins. The sleep may also be influenced by alcohol and some foods such as garlic or onions.

Situational insomnia resulting from the change in the circadian rhythm is caused by non-physiological changes in the chronology of sleep. We distinguish here:

  • jet lag syndrome, which is a kind of insomnia caused by the change of the time zone. It manifests itself with problems with falling asleep or staying asleep. It seems that it touches more people traveling east than west. It lasts from 2 to 5 days.
  • employee night shift syndrome.

Situational insomnia with a disease or mental background should be treated as a result of these conditions, not external factors. Among these situations, we distinguish:

insomnia caused by pain or symptoms of an organic disease: some pain can cause you to wake up and delay or prevent sleep. In addition, some ailments may lead to the adoption of a forced posture or position, which occurs, for example, when using orthopedic equipment, bedsores or breathing problems.

hospital insomnia: hospitalization can significantly interfere with sleep due to emotional, organic and environmental factors.

insomnia caused by stressful psychological situations: psychological factors that can interfere with sleep and fall asleep are manifold. These can be pleasant events (eg an exciting day or waiting for an important event) or unpleasant events, such as mourning or problems in family or professional life.

in order to be able to speak about non-situational insomnia, it can not be caused or can not be accompanied by other situations potentially related to states, such as, for example, organic disease, mental illness or the use of chemical substances.

It stands out here:

Psychophysical insomnia, often resulting from situational insomnia. When the situational factor disappears, people who are affected by this type of insomnia often still suffer from it. A vicious circle is formed: fear of another sleepless night causes an increase in tension, which in turn prevents proper relaxation.

Insomnia caused by poor sleep hygiene. It can be caused by certain habits that make it difficult to maintain adequate vigilance during the day and quiet sleep at night. Among the factors that disrupt sleep, there are bad eating habits, such as too large a meal and excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeinated beverages. Another factor may be an afternoon nap or intense physical exercise immediately before going to bed.

Insomnia caused by circadian rhythm disruption. This kind of insomnia differs from similar situational sleepiness in that the circadian rhythm disorder is not the result of travel or shift work, but concerns the phase shift of the normal biological rhythm. In people suffering from this type of insomnia, the sleep phase occurs prematurely or is delayed. They have evening drowsiness with early morning waking or insomnia. Some people have observed a different than 24-hour sleep-wake rhythm. This problem often affects people who get bad habits as a result of insomnia, which further promotes shifts in sleep phases.

Among non-emergency insomnia, there are:

Insomnia associated with mental disorders through numerous neurobiological mechanisms. It affects, for example, people with anxiety disorders, who most often experience difficulty in falling asleep, or people with post-traumatic stress disorder, which may experience waking up from sleep due to nightmares. In depressed people there is a shortened delta sleep phase; they have a tendency to frequent nocturnal awakenings and they wake up prematurely in the morning.

Insomnia associated with neurological diseases. This type of insomnia often occurs in cortical and subcortical dementia (dementia caused by damage at the cortical level and below this level, respectively). In this type of insomnia there is also severe fatal insomnia – a progressive disease caused by the degeneration of some thalamic cells. It starts with problems falling asleep and leads to loss of sleep. People affected by this type of insomnia may then suddenly transition from waking to sleep, which in turn leads to severe headaches or epileptic seizures.

Insomnia associated with internal diseases, referred to as non-sleep disorders, which are inseparable from the underlying disease. Most often it is insomnia associated with cardiovascular disease, problems with blood pressure, chronic heart failure, respiratory depression or gastroesophageal reflux.