Breaking Down the Different Types and Categories of Insomnia

I want to start by thanking the great words of advice I received from folks after my post earlier this week. I’d never opened up about my insomnia in this space before, and it was encouraging hear advice from others who have struggled with insomnia before. One of the biggest things I’ve learned about insomnia this week is that it’s so much more than not being able to sleep. With that in mind, I thought I did some research so I can talk more about the different types of insomnia and the challenges they can create in your day-to-day life.

Personally, the worst thing about insomnia is that it disrupts any sort of routine I’ve got going (which is already a rarity). A good day of mental health is squandered when insomnia robs you of rest, which can lead to a day of worsening mental health. This leads to a cycle of poor sleep and rougher days mental health-wise. Until this week, I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to my insomnia. Now that I’ve learned a few of the ways my insomnia manifests itself, I can at least better prepare for how it affects me. There are two main types of insomnia, and within those types are a number of categories that are defined by when you fall asleep, when you wake up and the quality of your sleep.

Types of Insomnia

The two main types of insomnia are short-term (also known as “acute”) insomnia and chronic insomnia. Short-term/acute insomnia, the most common type, is a brief episode of difficulty sleeping (less than three months). This type usually occurs when you’re going through stressful life events, anything from a job or relationship change to something like, I don’t know, a pandemic.

Short-term insomnia goes away and symptoms leave a majority of the time, (as we adjust to the changes and life events), but it could also develop into chronic insomnia. This is a long-term pattern of difficulty sleeping. According to the Sleep Foundation, chronic insomnia is defined as a person who “has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer.”

Categories of Insomnia

These these two types of insomnia are very common, there’s more variety to how insomnia can manifest. There’s sleep onset insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep (or when initiating sleep if you work non-traditional hours). Sleep maintenance insomnia is when you have difficulty staying asleep. It’s characterized best when you wake up in the middle of the night and it takes a half-hour or more to fall back asleep.

Early morning awakening insomnia occurs when you wake up well before you’d planned, and you’re up for the day. This isn’t “waking up early” – more like waking up at 3 a.m. when your alarm was set for 8, and once you’re up, you’re awake for the day. And then of course there is mixed insomnia, which is a combination of any/all of these categories. Although there are many more specific groups and are caused by different things, they generally fall under these categories.

Like I wrote earlier in the week, I don’t like sleep. But I know part of that dislike is also fear – I don’t get the rest I’m looking for when I go to bed, which makes me weary of going to sleep. I’m hoping that education and research will lead me to better sleeping habits. It might not lead to better sleep, but it should lead to a mentally healthier lifestyle, which is always a goal of mine!

Note: most of these terms came from the Sleep Foundation, an organization I learned a lot from this week.


3 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Different Types and Categories of Insomnia

  1. Mentally Ill In America January 28, 2021 / 2:21 pm

    I am generally aware of these things, but it takes a real concerted effort to sleep in a healthy fashion. All one can do is work through some of the obstacles causing the issues, which in a lot of people’s cases, is mental health related. One day at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

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