The two main types of insomnia

The two main types of insomnia

Transient insomnia refers to what most people experience at some point, and lasts a few days or a few weeks. If you find it impossible to sleep on Sunday nights, or before an important event, or you are experiencing a ‘bad patch’ of sleep, perhaps because you are under particular stress, then you have transient insomnia. You may have had these bad patches several times in your life and have had no way of dealing with the problem other than using prescription drugs or over-the-counter remedies.

Chronic insomnia. If, on the other hand, you have been troubled by poor sleep for many years, if your ‘bad patches’ seem to outweigh your ‘good patches’, and if you regularly spend nights getting no more than a few hours’ sleep, if it has become a major problem in your life, then you are a chronic insomniac. Chronic insomniacs typically become ‘obsessed’ by their problem and have usually tried countless prescription medicines and alternative remedies. They often report that ‘nothing works’ for them.

Within either of these divisions, people fall into two more groups. Those who find it difficult to fall asleep in the first place — sleep onset insomniacs, and those who fall asleep quite quickly but who wake too early and find it impossible to get back to sleep — sleep maintenance insomniacs. You may not know (or care) which category or subcategory of insomniac you fall into. Happily, it makes no difference which label you might feel like applying to your particular sleeping problem — practicing good sleep hygiene will cure all forms of insomnia, whether you have been suffering for two weeks or 20 years. Whichever of these sleep problems you have, cultivating healthy sleep habits will have a profoundly beneficial effect on your future slumbers.

Short-term, transient insomnia usually occurs either during a period of extreme stress, or as a result of accidental poor sleeping habits. Often, these two things go together. This is because a common response to a missed night of sleep through stress is to lie in, or try to take naps during the day, thus creating poor sleeping patterns. Usually, transient insomnia rights itself and almost every person has experienced a run of insomnia at some point in his or her life. But for some people, these bouts of insomnia become more and more frequent, even becoming the norm, and runs of good nights of sleep become the exception. Some people even get to a stage where they cannot remember the last time they had a really good period of sleep.

The scary truth is that all chronic insomniacs started out as transient insomniacs, and there is always a danger that any short spell of sleeplessness could turn into a more serious problem. Why does this happen? And why does insomnia sometimes remain long after the original stress or cause has disappeared or even been forgotten? One of the greatest frustrations for a chronic insomniac is in trying to work out why their insomnia lasts for years, while others seem able to get over a bad patch of sleep very quickly, often by using a simple remedy such as a relaxation CD or white noise MP3. It is hardly surprising that chronic insomniacs often feel ‘broken’ or different.

Learning to avoid unhealthy sleep habits is vital to getting great sleep. I’ve written many articles in great detail (which can be viewed here) the way that a mild patch of poor sleep can become chronic. If you are new to insomnia, the information provided from my sleeping tips will be invaluable in preventing your problem from becoming worse. If, on the other hand, your problem is already chronic, understanding such processes will be essential to your recovery. Indeed, without an understanding of the way that a few missed nights can become (and remain) a life-long problem, it is my belief that a chronic insomniac may never recover. So before tackling your problem head-on, you should fully examine the psychology of insomnia.

The theory behind my approach is that insomnia is not just about sleep; it encroaches into one’s whole life. As such, you should take a holistic approach, attending to thoughts and beliefs about sleep, and to habits and behaviours which create and reinforce the problem. In order to do this, browse through the articles that focus on the various ways in which insomniacs create and maintain the problem, in order that these may be addressed and dealt with. This may seem unnecessarily negative, but bear with it. Through learning about the classic mistakes that insomniacs make, you will see the way people give life to insomnia, how it arises and why it gets so much worse in some people. Understanding these things in a general way will allow you to go on to discover the specific ways in which you do similar things in your own life. Only then will you be in a position to begin the process of feeling refreshed and energized every day after restful nights of sleep.

There are many mistakes which people unwittingly make along the road to insomnia. How many are you guilty of?