If you have trouble sleeping, you may think that you have insomnia, but insomnia is often much more complicated than not being able to fall asleep easily. In fact, there are different types of insomnia, and the diagnosing process is different depending on your age and level of symptoms you’re experiencing.

Chronic insomnia disorder is when you experience severe sleeping problems and daytime symptoms at least three times per week for at least three months. Daytime symptoms can include having trouble focusing, fatigue that gets worse over time, decreased motivation, and irritability. Many symptoms that people with this type of insomnia experience include having trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently and for long periods of time, waking up early despite often going to bed late, and not feeling rested even when getting sleep.

Short-term insomnia disorder is similar in symptoms and diagnosis, but the level of symptoms is different. If you experience sleeping problems and daytime symptoms less than three times a week and for less than three months out of the year, you may have short-term insomnia. This is much more common among adults than chronic insomnia, though is sometimes harder to diagnose due to people assuming they are just having some temporary sleeping problems.

There are quite a few other types of insomnia that can be diagnosed, though they are not as common:

Paradoxical insomnia is when someone is experiencing trouble sleeping, but does not show the normal symptoms that go along with it, which makes it extremely difficult to diagnose.

Sleep-onset insomnia is when someone has trouble falling asleep, but often sleeps a normal amount and usually sleeps rather restfully once they are asleep. 

Behavioral insomnia of childhood is when a child’s sleep is disrupted due to them missing something that they usually have or feel they need to fall asleep such as a nightlight or stuffed animal. This is rarely diagnosed anymore, but if you noticed your child is having trouble sleeping, consider if anything has changed for them recently.

How do you know if you should be concerned about symptoms? If you experience any of the following on a regular basis (especially if it is more than three nights a week), contact your doctor to discuss options:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble falling and/or staying asleep
  • Waking up frequently or waking up much earlier than you should
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Impaired memory/forgetfulness
  • Decreased motivation
  • Hyperactivity or irritability

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