The Eleven Types of Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Insomnia isn’t a “one type fits all,” type of condition. Some have difficulty falling asleep, some have trouble staying asleep, and others have trouble getting back to sleep after waking up too early. But finding the underlying cause with a medical professional is the key to treating it. These are the top 11 types of insomnia a professional might find is behind your sleep issues.

Adjustment insomnia

This is the term used to describe short-term insomnia, and generally occurs because of stress -- both good and bad. However, sleeping problems generally will go away on their own once the stress resolved, or once your life begins to adapt and adjust to the stress.

Behavioral insomnia/childhood

This type of insomnia occurs in children when they are not made to go to bed at a normal time. Children without strict bedtimes may stay awake into the wee hours of the morning if left to set their own sleeping schedules.

Idiopathic insomnia

This type of insomnia is a lifelong problem. It can start as early as infancy and continue throughout life. This insomnia also remains a mystery to the medical community. It has no clear cause, as it is not the result of a sleep disorder, medical problem, psychological problem, stress, medication, or poor sleep hygiene.

Insomnia due to medical condition

Sometimes insomnia is brought on by a medical condition. This may be due to allergies, a heart condition, an injury, or medical conditions which can cause pain, such as cancer, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Insomnia in these cases is viewed as a side effect of the condition and requires separate attention and treatment.

Insomnia due to mental disorder

Just as medical conditions can cause insomnia, so can mental disorders. Psychiatric conditions that can cause insomnia include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and others. Insomnia is viewed as a side effect of the disorder, and requires separate attention and treatment.

Non-organic unspecified insomnia

Physicians will give this classification when physical causes and known substances have been ruled out as the cause of the insomnia, and sometimes given as further investigation is taking place. Here, the insomnia is most likely due to an underlying psychological factor that is causing disruption.

Organic, unspecified insomnia

This classification is given when it is believed the insomnia is caused by a mental condition, medical or physical condition, or to substance exposure. However, the specific cause still remains unclear and further testing is required.

Paradoxical insomnia

This term is typically used when someone has a complaint of having severe insomnia, but the degree of their reported sleep deprivation seems improbable. He or she may report little or no sleep at night, but it’s believed they are underestimating total sleep time. Experts believe that individuals with paradoxical insomnia, remain in a state of hyper-arousal through the night.

Psycho-physiological insomnia

This type of insomnia classification is given when an individual cannot sleep because they are focused on not being able to sleep. As their worry over not being able to sleep grows, they become more tense and less likely to fall asleep easily.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.