How to Diagnose Different Types of Insomnia?

Everyone, at some point in their lives, experiences a night of sleeplessness.

But what happens if you find yourself sleepless night after night? This could be an indicator of insomnia.

As a sleep condition with varying manifestations, insomnia is quite prevalent. Insomnia can result from mental health issues or stress, or it might appear for no clear reason. Knowing the different types of insomnia and their treatment options can be helpful.

There are many causes of insomnia. Many visits to the doctor for testing could be necessary for a proper diagnosis. But a patient must meet specific criteria to get an insomnia diagnosis.

This article explores the different forms of insomnia and ways to diagnose them.

Different Types of Insomnia

Now, let’s discuss the types of insomnia below.

1. Short-Term


Acute or transient, insomnia affects a large population at some point. Insomnia is temporary if it lasts less than three months.

A traumatic experience, marital or relationship troubles, monetary and work-related stress, or substance abuse are all common external stressors that can lead to depression.

Short-term distress and insomnia are also side effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

When the underlying causes of acute insomnia are addressed, it may improve. But, temporary sleeplessness might become chronic if it isn’t addressed. This is why incorporating stress reduction into your evening routine is so crucial.

2. Chronic Insomnia

Chronic Insomnia

One of the hallmarks of chronic insomnia is an ongoing habit of having trouble falling or staying asleep. Long-term insomnia must last for at least 3 months and happen at least three times each week.

Many cases of persistent insomnia are secondary. This means they result from another ailment or a side effect. Many factors contribute to this problem, including but not limited to the following:

  • Poor sleep routines or erratic sleeping patterns.
  • Underlying physical difficulties.
  • Specific drugs.
  • Mental health disorders like despair and anxiety.

In other cases, chronic insomnia is the primary problem rather than a symptom. But, working in shifts, jet lag, bad emotions, and prolonged stress can lead to chronic insomnia.

The efficiency of the heart, the brain, and other organs can all be affected by chronic insomnia. Also, insomnia is associated with an increased risk of certain health issues and can exacerbate the symptoms of pre-existing diseases.

Conditions, including asthma, heart disease, and suicidal ideation, fall into this category. But problems like hypertension and obesity may be more likely if insomnia keeps you up.

Other Insomnia Disorder

Most cases of insomnia can be classified as either short-term or chronic. But a patient’s symptoms don’t fit into either category. So, on rare occasions, a doctor may diagnose their patient with “other insomnia disorder.”

Insomnia was once subdivided according to a person’s unique symptoms.

Experts have streamlined how they describe insomnia in the most recent guidebook for classifying sleep disorders. Although certain forms of insomnia are no longer recognized, they could still be used by academics and medical practitioners.

1. Primary And Secondary Insomnia

Primary And Secondary Insomnia

Insomnia can be bifurcated into “primary” and “secondary” types based on the underlying reason. Different from secondary insomnia, which occurs when sleep problems are a sign of another medical problem, primary insomnia develops on its own.

Primary and secondary insomnia are useful ways to define sleep difficulties. But doctors often have trouble telling them apart.

2. Sleep Onset Insomnia

Sleep Onset Insomnia

When you are unable to fall asleep after getting into bed is known as “sleep onset insomnia.” It’s frustrating when you try everything to get to sleep but end up lying there awake.

When experiencing sleep onset, insomnia may take up to 30 minutes of lying in bed before most people finally fall asleep.

Environmental factors, such as emotional or mental stress, noise, light, poor sleep hygiene, having a heavy meal before bed, or a lack of physical activity, can contribute to insomnia.

3. Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep is known as sleep maintenance insomnia. Those who deal with this form of insomnia either wake up many times during the night or get up too early in the morning.

Most adults are able to sleep for long stretches without waking up. It is often for 30 minutes or more after waking up in the middle of the night. On the other hand, those who experience sleep maintenance insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep again.

4. Early Morning Awakening

Early Morning Awakening

Although some may classify this as a form of insomnia, many sleep specialists consider this to be more of a regular part of sleep maintenance. But lack of sleep can negatively affect mood and cognition throughout the day.

5. Mixed Insomnia

Mixed Insomnia

Some people have problems getting to and staying asleep during the night. Mixed insomnia has symptoms of both sleep onset and maintenance insomnia.

6. Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood

Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood

Common sleep problems in kids fall under the “behavioral insomnia of childhood.” The inability to fall asleep, difficulties maintaining sleep, or many awakenings throughout the night are all signs.

Problematic routines at night or difficulties in enforcing limitations by a caretaker may play a role in children’s behavioral insomnia development.

A baby or young child who is often being carried, rocked, or nursed to sleep may have trouble falling asleep on their own as they get older. It can also be because of having difficulty establishing and sticking to a routine.

While this classification is still helpful for clinicians, it is now generally understood to refer to a form of either transient or persistent insomnia in children.

7. Comorbid Insomnia

Comorbid Insomnia

This describes the situation in which one experiences sleeplessness besides another health problems. Anxiety, depression, stomach issues, and various pains are all examples of co-occurring disorders.

A two-way connection between insomnia and certain of these factors is possible. Thus, the symptoms of these disorders are exacerbated by insomnia, which worsens the symptoms of these conditions.

This describes the majority of insomnia cases. It is because there is an underlying health issue that is keeping you up at night.

Insomnia Diagnosis

During the preliminary screening for insomnia, your doctor will ask questions about your daily routine and any potential health issues that could keep you up at night. Keeping a sleep record for at least a week before your first session will be helpful.

A doctor’s diagnosis can be aided by facts like how many times you wake up during the night, how much alcohol and caffeine you drink, and how long you spend asleep each time.

A sleep questionnaire may be required before seeing a doctor.

The doctor will do a thorough physical checkup to identify sleep disorders and ask about your medical history. Also, the doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and examine your neck and tonsils to see whether you have any sleep apnea risk factors.

Additional Diagnostic Tests

For some patients, a doctor’s examination alone won’t be enough. The following treatments and procedures are examples of what they might suggest:

1. Sleep Study

Your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram. To participate in this study, you may need to spend the night in a specialized sleep facility while wearing sensors on your head, face, eyes, chest, limbs, and even one finger.

Before, during, and after sleep, the sensors record electrical activity in the brain, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen levels, and muscle activity. With a compact kit, sleep studies can even be performed at home.

Or, daytime tests measure sleep latency across a series of naps or assess wakefulness and alertness after a typical night’s sleep. Insomnia sleep studies, regardless of the method, are simple and painless procedures.

2. Actigraphy


While actigraphy may resemble overnight sleep studies, they are performed in the comfort of your own home. In this evaluation, you will be asked to keep a sensor on your ankle or wrist while sleeping and awake.

Wearing the sensors for the advised 3–14 days straight is a good starting point. Actigraphy can identify sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia, and irregular circadian rhythms.

The sensor used in actigraphy may cause mild, transitory irritation. But the practice itself is regarded as safe for both children and adults.

3. Blood Tests

Blood Tests

Sleep disorders can be brought on or made worse by any number of medical illnesses.

After reviewing your answers to the questionnaire and conducting a physical examination, your doctor may suggest a battery of blood tests to rule out thyroid problems and other underlying health issues.

You can move on to insomnia treatment if your sleep disorder test shows that you have chronic or short-term insomnia. Insomnia treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, better sleep hygiene practices, or medication.

The Bottom Line

Every one of the several types of insomnia might make it challenging to go through the day. In most cases, the symptoms of acute insomnia respond well to self-care. But, chronic insomnia can lead to major mental health problems if left untreated.

Identifying if you have insomnia might help you if you need to seek professional help.

An official diagnosis of insomnia can help select an appropriate treatment plan.

Talk to your sleep doctor about the many treatment options available.

Seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified medical professional if you’re having trouble sleeping. Never attempt to diagnose or treat your insomnia on your own.

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!