INSOMNIA is the second most prevalent mental disorder in the world, affecting one in ten people globally.
If left untreated, it can lead to anxiety, depression and even heart failure.
As many as 16 million adults in the UK are plagued by sleepless nights.
And while some treatments work for some, they’re useless for others.
Now, a new study might shed some light on the issue – after scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience discovered there are five different types of insomnia.
Insomnia Type 1 – ‘highly distressed’
People with type 1 insomnia have high levels of distress, especially negative emotions like anxiety, and low levels of happiness as well as often “feeling down or tense”.
These people also had the greatest lifetime risk of depression and develop the symptoms earlier in life.
Type 1 is the most serious, and if you think you’re a sufferer it’s important to contact your GP.
DO I HAVE INSOMNIA?
How do you know if you hagve insomnia? According to the NHS, you may have insomnia if you regularly:
- find it hard to go to sleep
- wake up several times during the night
- lie awake at night
- wake up early and can’t go back to sleep
- still feel tired after waking up
- find it hard to nap during the day even though you’re tired
- feel tired and irritable during the day
- find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired
Common causes of insomnia include: stress, anxiety or depression, a noisey sleeping environment, a room that’s too hot or cold, uncomfortable beds, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy, jet lag, and shift work.
Insomnia Type 2 – ‘moderately distressed but reward-sensitive’
Type 2 is characterised by moderate levels of distress, but a person’s level of happiness and experiences of pleasurable emotions tend to be relatively normal.
The scientists found that suffererse see the most improvement in their sleep symptoms after taking a drug called benzodiazepine – like Xanax or Valium.
This sub-type also responded well to a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy.
Insomnia Type 3 – ‘moderately distressed and reward-insensitive’
People with type 3 insomnia have moderate levels of distress, but low levels of happiness and reduced experiences of pleasure.
Those suffering with this type of insomnia don’t see an improvement in their sleep symptoms after taking benzodiazepines.
Insomnia Type 4 – ‘slightly distressed with high reactivity’
Type 4 sufferers typically show lower levels of distress, but they tend to experience long-lasting insomnia in response to a stressful life event, for example.
As with type 2, people with this sub-type of insomnia saw the most improvement in their sleep symptoms after taking benzodiazepine, but did not respond well to cognitive behavioural therapy.
HOW TO TREAT INSOMNIA YOURSELF
If you feel you might be suffering from insomnia, you can try and treat it yourself. This can be done by making simple changes to a few of your habits.
- TIMING: try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and only go to bed when you feel tired
- RELAX: try to relax at least 1 hour before bed – for example, take a bath or read a book
- ENVIRONMENT: make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, and use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs
- BED: make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
- ACTIVE: exercising regularly during the day can also help significantly with sleepless night.
Insomnia Type 5 – ‘slightly distressed with low reactivity’
Type 5 is the least serious form and sufferers tend to have low levels of distress, and their sleep disorder wasn’t affected by stressful life events.
It can help to follow NHS’ guide to ‘treating insomnia yourself’ (detailed below), which includes making small lifestyle changes.
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The researchers studied thousands of people who had voluntarily signed up to an online sleep registry.
First, they analysed dozen of questionnaires that over 4,000 volunteers took part in, of which more than half had been identified with “probable insomnia disorder”.
However, the researchers looked beyond sleep complaints. The questionnaires measured personality traits that scientists have linked to differences in brain function and structure.
Using a method called “latent class analyses”, the researchers found that the five different ‘sub-types’ differ depending on personality traits, risk for depression, brain activity, and response to treatment.
With that, they found that certain insomnia treatments may work best for certain sub-types.
The scientists behind the study said the discovery of the different types of insomnia could help diagnose patients and treat insomnia much faster in the future.
“There is now hope for faster discoveries,” said Dr Tessa Blanken, lead author of the study. “For comparison: progress in our understanding of dementia was propelled once we realised that there are different kinds, such as Alzheimer-, vascular-, and frontal-temporal dementia.”
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