Along with the 3 types of insomnia, insomnia can also be classed by 3 patterns. These are onset insomnia, sleep maintenance Insomnia and terminal insomnia.
The patterns of insomnia are defined by where in your sleep cycle you suffer from insomnia; the start, middle or end.
Like each type of insomnia, each pattern of insomnia has its own individual causes.
In this article we’ll take a look at the 3 patterns of insomnia and discover the reasons why they might show up during the night.
Onset insomnia is classed as a difficulty falling to sleep at the beginning of the night. So essentially something is preventing you from getting to sleep.
This is commonly caused by:
- Having nagging problems on the mind
- Fear and anxiety
- Going to bed when you’re not sleepy
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable bed
- Sleeping in an environment that does not promote relaxation
Onset insomnia is a characteristic of delayed sleep phase syndrome which is very common in teenagers. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is when your sleep pattern gets pushed forward. So instead of going to sleep at 11pm and waking up at 7am, you may get to sleep at 2am and wake up at 10pm. Teenagers are biologically wired for this to happen, so it is perfectly normal. However Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome does have the potential to develop into insomnia.
Delayed sleep phase syndrome is best treated by a consistent sleep pattern, supported by good sleep timing. To do this, the time you wake up and your meal times should be regular and consistent. Especially avoid meals and exposure to bright light late in the day just before bed.
The key to treating this pattern of insomnia is to go to bed only when your are sleepy. Otherwise your mind will begin to associate bed time with lying awake in bed instead of being fast asleep and you will find it subsequently harder to fall asleep at night.
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
Also known as middle of the night insomnia. This relates to waking in the middle of the night and having problems getting back to sleep. Everyone wakes up on the night and most of the time you don’t remember doing so. It only becomes a problem if you can’t get back to sleep.
This can be caused by an illness preventing you from sleeping soundly. Pain can also be to blame, causing you to wake you up in the middle of the night. Needing get up to go to the toilet and exposing yourself to bright light is another common cause.
If you do wake up in the night, remember to keep calm and relaxed and allow yourself to naturally drift back into a nice, deep sleep. Have faith in your body’s natural ability to go to sleep and don’t try to force it.
If you wake up in the night, avoid putting the light on. Your body reacts to light by suppressing the sleepiness hormone called melatonin. Your body is hard wired to believe that day equals awake and night equals sleep. Your body may interpret any light exposure by thinking that the sun has risen and so it is time to get up. So keep yourself in darkness.
If you have anxiety or depression, suppressed anxious thoughts can arise during one of these natural wake up times during the night and stimulate your brain, preventing you from sleeping.
Also known as late insomnia or end of the night awakening. This is basically waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep again, or falling asleep just in time for the alarm clock.
This can be caused by poor quality sleep. Good quality sleep is defined as a sufficient amount of deep refreshing sleep. Poor quality sleep is too much light sleep, which you could be easily awoken from.
Older people are most likely to suffer from this pattern of insomnia. This is because they often experience Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome. It’s the opposite of what most teenagers suffer with. It basically means you get sleepy earlier and as a result you wake up earlier. Taking refreshing naps during the day of around 20 minutes each is often recommended as a good supplement to your normal nigh time sleep.
Some people naturally need less sleep than others. So if you wake up early but feel great, you’re not suffering from insomnia. It only becomes a problem if you wake up early and still feel tired and experience the signs of a lack of sleep.
If it’s daylight when you wake up, ensure you block out as much light from your bedroom as possible. Exposing yourself to light is a natural way to get your body to wake up.
Depression is also a common cause of Terminal or Late insomnia. Depressed people spend more time in REM sleep, the dreaming state where your mind is still active. REM is a very light stage of sleep that you can be easily awoken from, and it is thought that your mind has a role in waking you up, to prevent too much REM sleep.
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For a more in depth look at the causes of insomnia along with their recommended treatment, see the article Find the Cause of your Insomnia.