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Insomnia Isn't One Size Fits All: Understanding 5 Types of Insomnia

man stressed with insomnia at night

man stressed with insomnia at night

If you've ever had insomnia, you know how frustrating it can be to lie awake for hours wanting so badly to fall asleep. Maybe you even feel so exhausted that you're not sure how you can stay awake.

If you've had insomnia for a significant amount of time, you've probably even tried an assortment of methods to try to treat your insomnia. As loved ones report specific insomnia treatment methods worked well, you may find your frustration increasing if those methods do nothing for you or make your symptoms worse.

The good news for those who have insomnia is the key to treatment could be identifying the type of insomnia you experience. Because there are different types of insomnia, not everyone is going to react the same way to the same treatment.

From 2010 to 2016, a study took place in the Netherlands involving people who have insomnia. The results of the study were published earlier this year in The Lancet Psychiatry. The study involved over 4,000 volunteers 18 years old and older, roughly half of them scoring high on the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) and therefore having probable insomnia disorder. The other half, who had low ISI scores, acted as a control group.

The results of the study concluded that there are five basic types of insomnia. According to Tessa Blanken, a Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience researcher and the lead author of the research paper, these five types of insomnia come from personality traits and life histories.

If you have insomnia, read on to learn more about the five types of insomnia.

Type One: Highly Distressed

People with this form of insomnia feel anxious or highly active just before bed. They also report a higher prevalence of negative feelings mixed with lower levels of positive emotions or happiness. People with type one insomnia are also more likely to report suffering from depression at some point in their lives than those with other types of insomnia. Those with type one also experienced higher levels of neuroticism than other groups. Neuroticism included feelings of anxiety, nervousness, or tenseness.

Type Two: Moderately Distressed, Reward Sensitive

Like the first group, those with type two insomnia also experience pre-sleep anxiety or feel highly active just before bed, which makes it difficult for them to fall asleep. While they experience the negative emotions reported by those from the first group, type two insomniacs did not experience the same level of a lack of positive emotions. Positive emotions can help to bring them out of their funk.

This group experienced higher levels of lack of sleep caused by a lack of stress control than other groups. Ironically enough, as type twos worry about not being able to sleep, this worry might be contributing to their inability to fall asleep.

Type Three: Moderately Distressed, Reward Insensitive

Like the first two groups, those with type three also experienced negative feelings. While they did not react as effectively to positive emotions as those with type two insomnia, their depression levels were significantly lower than those with type two insomnia.

Type Four: Slightly Distressed, High Reactivity

Unlike the first three groups, overall distress does not cause sleep issues for type four insomniacs. Instead, their inability to sleep comes out of their life events. These people are stressing about things such as financial issues, relationship problems, health issues, or other problems they face in their lives.

Type four insomniacs reported a higher level of adversity during their childhoods than other groups. Childhood adversity may include things such as the death of a family member or close friend, abuse, or surviving a severe natural disaster. For most people in this group, their insomnia did not start until they were 40 years old or older.

Type Five: Slightly Distressed, Low Reactivity

Similar to type fours, type five insomniacs do not experience the same level of distress the first three groups experienced. Also like type four insomniacs, this group's insomnia is affected by life events. While type five also generally develop their insomnia at 40 or older, they reported lower levels of difficult circumstances during their childhood, and they seemed to react less severely to stressful life events.

Those with type four may find it particularly challenging to fall asleep during an especially stressful time in their lives, but type fives experience insomnia at roughly the same level no matter their current life circumstances.

Causes vs. Symptoms

One important thing to understand about these five types of insomnia is, unlike the National Sleep Foundation's five types of insomnia, these five types deal more with the causes than the way insomnia affects the person's sleep patterns.

For example, the National Sleep Foundation's five types of insomnia cover whether the person has trouble falling asleep at night or whether the person wakes up in the night and has trouble falling back to sleep. Consequently, two people with the same type of insomnia as defined by this study may experience different symptoms while having similar underlying causes.

More Research Brings Us Closer to Successful Treatments

While the exact perfect treatments for each type of insomnia aren't clear from the study, some insight is available into what types of treatment work better for some of the groups. For example, while cognitive behavioral therapy might work well for type two insomniacs, those with type four may benefit more from a treatment that allows them to deal with the adverse childhood events that may have contributed to their insomnia. More research needs to be done to determine a more effective link between the type of insomnia and the best treatment, but this study does hopefully point future research in the right direction.

If you have insomnia or find your bedroom atmosphere isn't quite as comfortable as you'd like, contact us. While we cannot solve every sleep disorder issue, we do have an assortment of products to help make your sleep environment more relaxing, including sleep masks, pajamas, mattresses, pillows, and other luxurious bedding.