It’s Not All The Same, Insomnia May Have 5 Subtypes

Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Or do you wake up too early and have trouble falling back to sleep? That might be insomnia. However, now there is another thing you need to know. Not all insomnias are the same. A new finds there are at least five types of insomnia.

In a paper published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam identified the subtypes of insomnia by considering personality traits and emotions, not just sleep-related symptoms.

Finding Out the Different Faces of Insomnia

Insomnia is considered the second-most prevalent and burdensome mental disorder. It affects at least one out of ten people in the world. However, its treatment has always been troublesome. Some methods that might be effective to others are ineffective to some. 

In a project called Netherlands Sleep Registry which aims to identify the possible types of insomnia, about 4,000 volunteers were surveyed online about their sleep habits and traits. Half of these volunteers were suffering from insomnia. The survey considered other factors such as personality traits, emotions, mood, and response to stressful life events.

Five Subtypes

Researchers found that the participants fit into five different categories. These categories are differentiated by the levels of distress (negative emotions such as anxiety and worry) and happiness (positive or pleasurable emotions) of people with insomnia, as well as effects of sudden stressful events.

Type 1Those who have high levels of distress and low levels of happiness.
Type 2 Those who have moderate levels of distress, but with moderate or relatively normal levels of happiness.
Type 3 Those who have moderate levels of distress, but have low levels of happiness.
Type 4 Those who have low levels of distress, however, they tend to have long-term insomnia after experiencing a stressful life event.
Type 5Those who have low levels of distress and their sleep disorder isn’t affected by stress at all.

These subtypes were proven to be consistent over time. The volunteers were surveyed again after five years and the majority of them remained under the same subtype.

“While we have always considered insomnia to be one disorder, it actually represents five different disorders. Underlying brain mechanisms may be very different. For comparison: progress in our understanding of dementia was propelled once we realized that there are different kinds, such as Alzheimer-, vascular-, and frontal-temporal dementia,” says Drs. Tessa Blanken of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Development of Personalized Treatment Methods

The findings give a better understanding of the causes of insomnia and would help improve management methods for the condition by developing personalized treatments for each type.

For example, researchers found that those under subtypes 2 and 4 improved much after taking a type of tranquilizer called benzodiazepine. However, this drug is not effective to those under type 3. People with subtype 2 insomnia responded well to cognitive behavioral therapy, while those under subtype 4 did not.

The researchers also highlighted that categorization can help to find out which subtype have the highest risk of depression so it can be prevented. Those with subtype 1 insomnia had the greatest risk of depression.