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What are the 3 Types of Insomnia?

The types, causes, and tips to cope with insomnia
Woman sleeping during the day after facing insomnia

The Different Types of Insomnia

Sleeping is paramount to both our physical and mental being. It is a restorative process for our brain and body, yet many people have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. This sleep disturbance is known as insomnia.

When our mind is highly stimulated, whether it is because we are overly excited about something, anticipating something good or bad, or other causes of a restless mind that make sleep becomes hard to find. If this issue sounds familiar to you, learning about the types, the common causes, and ways to treat it may help you overcome this issue.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that often correlates with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, or Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Insomnia is a condition where someone is having trouble falling asleep initially, difficulty staying asleep through the night, waking up too early than intended, and finding it difficult to fall back to sleep.

Studies show that insomnia affects and causes mental health problems as well as is a condition created by mental health problems. For instance, depression and anxiety commonly create disturbance in sleep patterns or insufficient quality of sleep.

The condition creates emotional instability. A professor in neuroscience and sleep expert, Matthew Walker PhD., in his book Why Sleep Matters, explains that when we are deprived of quality sleep, the first part of the brain that takes a nosedive is the CEO of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain, which is located around above the centre of your eyes, keeps you from making impulsive actions or reactions. It maintains stable and rational thinking.

Additionally, many studies have pointed out that during sleep, our body actively reorganizes the information we get during our waking hours to go on a self-healing process. Therefore insomnia affects our overall wellbeing.

The Three Types

Based on the duration of insomnia, there are 3 types of insomnia, which are:

  1. Transient Insomnia. This type lasts for a few days. It commonly happens during stressful times, or due to illnesses.

  2. Acute Insomnia. This type lasts for a few days to three months, and is more common in women than men. Acute insomnia is also called short-term insomnia, or adjustment insomnia.

  3. Chronic Insomnia. This type lasts from a few days to a few months, therefore it is a long term sleep problem.

While based on the nature of sleep disruption, there are 4 characteristics of insomnia, which are: sleep onset insomnia, sleep offset insomnia, sleep maintenance insomnia, and non resistant insomnia.

What are the Causes?

Some of the causes of insomnia are:

Psychological insomnia: mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and mania often lead to sleep problems. However, in the DSM-5, clinicians treating mental health patients are encouraged to view insomnia as a primary condition rather than as a symptom of mental health problems.

Life stressors include work stress, relationships issues, and financial problems are some of the common causes of insomnia. The regret, frustration, sadness, or worry may keep you away from dozing off peacefully.

Physiological insomnia: insomnia that is caused by a learned process. Irregular sleep schedules when having jet lag and shift work disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which is a body’s internal clock, and cause insomnia. Similarly, you may have trouble falling asleep at night if you nap late in the afternoon.

Adjustment insomnia: Insomnia that is associated with morbidities:

  • For example, insomnia is caused by dementia, or epilepsy, which is a neurological condition of morbidity.

  • Insomnia is associated with other illnesses, for example, GERD, and chronic diabetes mellitus.

Primary insomnia: there is no cause of insomnia. It is often seen in subclinical conditions of depression and mania.

How Do I Know if I Have Insomnia

If you are wondering if your lack of sleep has developed into insomnia, here are some common symptoms:

  • Despite having enough time to sleep, it is hard to sleep. You are likely to toss and turn in bed with a light out for hours and still be awake.

  • Keep waking up during the night, or wake up earlier than intended and find it hard to return to sleep.

  • Feeling fatigued during the daytime due to lack of sleep.

  • Irritable and may develop a depressive mood.

  • Having problems finding motivation, staying focused and remembering things.

How to Treat It

There are many ways to treat insomnia, through medication, self-help and therapy with a psychologist. One thing may work for someone and not for another. So, let’s explore what are the available options and which would possibly work for you.


Sleeping Pills. There are many over the counter sleeping pills that are safe enough to take without a doctor’s prescription, however, it is highly encouraged to consult your doctor before taking any sleeping pills. Chemical medications are likely to affect our body’s microbiomes, and long term use creates a tolerance to these organisms, which means we must increase the dosage in order to achieve the same effect.

Supplements. Most popular supplement to aid sleep is the melatonin supplement, which is commonly synthetically made, and available over the counter. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in our brain by a pinecone shaped gland called pineal. The production automatically happens when our surroundings are dark, therefore it is also known as the dark hormone. In a way, it tells us that it is time for us to rest and sleep. Synthetic melatonin is intended to create the same effect.


The gentle kneading when we get a massage from therapist or self-massage give a calming experience, relaxes muscles, reduce the production of stress hormones and tiggers the release of some happy hormones.

Using essential oils which are known to create a calming effect such as lavender and chamomile is a common practice and can further help body to relax.


Take 30 minutes before your planned bedtime to meditate, or pray. This activity is essentially a mindfulness practise where we focus on a thought, an object, or an activity. For example, focus on your breathing. Meditation builds a sense of peace and helps us relax.


A few minutes under the morning sun helps the body realign with its circadian rhythm. Sunlight triggers the release of hormones that prepare our body for activity. In turn, we feel tired at night after an active day. During the time when the sun sets and the lights go out, our brain releases melatonin to aid in our relaxation.

Light therapy can be use when it is not possible for you to have a morning sunlight. This therapy involves the use of a light box which give the same effect as sunlight without the harm of ultra violet. Whether you are getting the morning light from sunlight or a light box, it is important to avoid direct light exposure to your eyes.

Get Started with 7 Cups

There are many resources available in the 7 Cups community which you can use to work on your insomnia problem, such as:

  • Growth Paths. Our community users have shared some sleep related paths with tips that work for them which you can check and give a try.

  • Mindfulness Exercises. There are many guided mindfulness exercises such as the body scan exercise which you can try. You may additionally find this Six Minutes Breathing Exercise relaxing.

  • Online Therapy. When all the self-help doesn’t seem to work well for you, give therapy a try. A mental health professional will help you find the root problem, and guide you to work on your sleep issue with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia or also known as CBT-I. With structured and systematic therapy sessions, you will gradually build a healthy sleeping pattern.

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.


Tiara Nurhalida has always been fascinated with writing, neuromarketing, and human behavior. She is learning more about different mental health topics and active listening at 7 Cups. Since graduating from the Content Development and Marketing Program at the 7 Cups Academy, she is interested to contribute more towards the 7 Cups Content areas.

Posted: 02 May 2022
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