Joanita Wibowo


The 5 types of insomnia revealed

The 5 types of insomnia revealed

Having trouble getting some shut-eye at night? You may not be alone – one third of Australians will suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives. Treatments for insomnia vary from relaxation techniques to medication, but no cure has been found to be universally effective. And now a new research has discovered why.

A new study published on the Lancet Psychiatry has found that the sleep disorder could be categorised into five different types. Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience used the data of more than 2,200 volunteers aged 18 and above to create a report on different sleep complaints, brain mechanisms and treatment effects.

“While we have always considered insomnia to be one disorder, it actually represents five different disorders,” said Dr Tessa Blanken, one of the researchers.

Below is the breakdown for each type:

  • Type 1: Highly distressed; people who score high on neuroticism and are more prone to feeling down or tense.
  • Type 2: Moderately distressed but reward sensitive (that is, more responsive to positive emotions and events).
  • Type 3: Moderately distressed and reward insensitive.
  • Type 4: Slightly distressed with high reactivity; stressful life events to environment and life events. Stressful life events would induce severe and lasting insomnia in this type.
  • Type 5: Slightly distressed with low reactivity; stressful life events would have no effects on sleep for this type.
While these five type groups share the same sleep complaints – including difficulty falling asleep and early morning awakening – they react differently to treatments. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy was only helpful to group 2, while benzodiazepines benefited groups 2 and 4.

The study also found that group 1 was most at risk of developing depression and other sleep disorders. 

“Subtyping now enables much more efficient research into the prevention of depression, by inviting specifically those with the highest risk,” the study said.

Volunteers whose electrical brain activity was measured again after five years were found to retain their types, which suggested that sleep problems are “anchored in the brain”. This finding, the researchers said, “could be a new page in the history of insomnia, promoting discoveries on mechanisms and interventions”.

Do you have insomnia or other sleeping problems? Share your story in the comment below.