What Are the Different Types of Insomnia?


Insomnia is not a single, unified disorder, and people can experience it in multiple ways. Either way, it is a troublesome condition that needs to be addressed with the help of a professional. Without further ado, here are five types of insomnia and how they affect a person:


1. Sleep Onset Insomnia

Sleep-onset insomnia is a problem that affects people at the beginning of the night, causing tossing and turning without actually being able to fall asleep. It is very prevalent in those that are shift workers, or anyone that tries to move their natural circadian rhythm.

People with sleep-onset problems can spend hours in bed without being able to fall asleep. Not being able to fall asleep means that a person with insomnia of this nature has reduced total sleep time and feels the effects of that lack of sleep the next day. The sleep onset insomnia also causes anxiety about being able to fall asleep, which makes the insomnia worse.


2. Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Sleep maintenance insomnia describes an inability to stay asleep through the night. This type of insomnia typically generates multiple awakenings during the night, often lasting 20-30 minutes, making it hard to get back to sleep.

This fragmented sleep pattern reduces both sleep quantity and quality, making it more likely for a person to feel tired or sluggish in the daytime. This type of insomnia is often associated with other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, which go undetected but can cause you to wake up several times a night. Because it often wakes you in a state of distress from not breathing properly, it can be hard to get back to sleep.


3. Early Morning Awakening Insomnia

People who wake up in the morning with difficulty falling back to sleep often wake up well before they want to. Some experts weigh this as a symptom of a separate sleep disorder, while others view it as bad sleep maintenance habits.

People with early morning awakening insomnia often regret waking up and may have trouble performing physical or mental activities the next day.


4. Mixed Insomnia

The truth is, most people with insomnia are in several of these categories. The things that might effect sleep onset can also keep you up in the middle of the night if you wake up and start stressing about them.

Because it is common for people with insomnia to have overlapping sleeping problems, the broader term insomnia may describe people with issues related to sleep onset, sleep maintenance, and early morning awakenings.

In addition, many people with insomnia find that their symptoms can shift over time, making it hard to classify the condition strictly among the subtypes.


5. Comorbid Insomnia

In the past, sleep problems were often labelled as a comorbid condition of insomnia or as secondary insomnia. This meant that it was believed that other conditions such as anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or physical pain were causing insomnia and in some cases, the poor sleep was making the other conditions worse.

Most people consider sleeplessness a symptom that signals an underlying problem, but it may be the root cause of other health issues. For example, while anxiety is sometimes a cause of insomnia, insomnia may also cause anxiety that does not resolve even after treating the underlying issue. In addition, sleeping problems triggered by another issue are not always resolved even after resolving the issue. In other words, its complicated! And you have to treat all the conditions to see an improvement in any one of them.

To determine whether insomnia is comorbid or secondary, a patient’s symptoms must be analyzed compared to those of other mental health issues and several different conditions that may predispose him to insomnia. Also, several conditions can contribute to insomnia; thus, identifying a single cause of this disorder is challenging.



Insomnia can take many forms, and people with this condition may experience it in numerous ways. The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to talk to an expert about your sleeping habits. A qualified sleep specialist can help you understand why you wake up in the middle of the night and what you can do about it.

At Sleep Better Live Better, Dr. Muir and her qualified team have helped thousands of patients find healthy sleep solutions in North Vancouver, Surrey, and Satellite Victoria. Whether you’re suffering from sleep apnea, insomnia, or other sleeping problems, Dr. Muir and her team are glad to be of service. Sleep your way to health and vitality today! If you’re looking for a sleep clinic in Surrey, we’ve got you covered. Call us today at 604-587-5337 to book a schedule!