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New Study Claims There Are 5 Types of Insomnia — Here’s What Sets Them Apart


Insomnia is something so many people suffer through on a regular basis, making the rest of their waking lives feel all the more stressful. Sleep is an essential part of our overall health, but we tend to make excuses and  tell ourselves we’ll “catch up” on it later when our busy schedules require us to keep moving. There are tons of sleep aids and therapies you can try to finally get your forty winks — like “slow lit” adult bedtime stories — but knowing the root cause is important for any attempt at treatment. As it turns out, a new study from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience claims there are five specific types of insomnia. Here’s what sets them apart:

  1. Highly Distressed: People who fit into this type of insomnia frequently find themselves “feeling down or tense” and can be described as neurotic.
  2. Reward-Sensitive: This “moderately distressed” type of insomnia ties pleasurable experiences to rewards — like a vacation or spa treatment. 
  3. Reward-Insensitive: As the polar opposite of type 2, someone with this type of insomnia is still “moderately distressed” but doesn’t feel pleasure from receiving rewards.
  4. High Reactivity: Although only slightly distressed, this type of insomnia is highly affected by stressful life events, which can lead to sleeplessness. 
  5. Low Reactivity: Someone who fits into this category is not as affected by stressful life events as the cause for their inability to sleep.

The study was conducted in three stages and followed their participants over a span of five years. Researchers issued more than 30 questionnaires and reevaluated the initial responses versus those they received at the very end. The results showed a “high stability of the classification,” meaning the volunteers largely maintained their type of insomnia over time. 

By differentiating the underlying cause of each type, researchers believe we will be better able to develop personalized treatments, especially for those whose lack of sleep leads to a higher risk of depression. (Although insomnia is a primary risk factor in developing depression, not all types are as susceptible as others.) What all of this boils down to is that those who have tried every insomnia cure in the book and still end up sleepless may finally have hope on the horizon by singling out the underlying cause. Whatever the case may be for you, talking with your doctor is the best first step.

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