Insomnia: research uncovers more than one type.

Rather than being one disorder, new research concludes that insomnia has five subtypes that differ by personality traits, with differing risk for depression, brain activity, and response to treatment.

Of course, the main symptoms include insufficient and poor-quality sleep, as well as finding it difficult to fall and stay asleep. As any sufferer will confirm, it is a debilitating condition, causing distress, tiredness and disruption of daily functioning. Depression, anxiety and irritability are also common side effects. Effectiveness of treatment has been inconsistent, and this may now be explained because up until now the subtypes of the disease remained unrecognized. In fact, earlier studies may have failed in understanding the disease because they focused too much on symptoms.

The 5 personality trait types of insomnia the researchers now identify are:

Type 1 “highly distressed”: individuals score high on distressing personality traits, such as neuroticism and “feeling down or tense.”

Type 2 “moderately distressed but reward-sensitive”: individuals scores indicate that responses to “pleasurable emotions” are intact.

Type 3 “moderately distressed and reward-insensitive.”

Type 4 “slightly distressed with high reactivity”: symptoms vary with “environment and life events.”

Type 5 “slightly distressed with low reactivity.”

The researchers also found over a 5 year period that individuals mostly conserved their type of insomnia (indicating high stability in the classifications) as well as finding other differences between the types, including the response to treatments. The authors even noted the risk of developing depression “was up to five times different between groups”. Research has now begun to investigate ways to prevent depression in people in the highest risk insomnia category.

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