Insomnia Home > Types of Insomnia

Insomnia is a condition that comes in several forms. Your healthcare provider will determine which insomnia type you have based on what is causing it, how often it occurs, and how long it tends to last. For example, your insomnia could be classified as primary or secondary. Insomnia can also be categorized in other ways, such as whether it is acute, transient, or chronic.

Types of Insomnia: An Introduction

Insomnia can come in several different forms. Knowing the cause of the insomnia, as well as how often the insomnia occurs, can help your healthcare provider determine which type you have.
Common forms of insomnia that are determined by the cause of insomnia include:
  • Primary insomnia
  • Secondary insomnia.
The different types of insomnia can also be based on how long it lasts and how often it occurs. These include:
  • Acute insomnia (short-term)
  • Transient insomnia (comes and goes)
  • Chronic insomnia.
Primary Insomnia
Primary insomnia is one kind of insomnia that is not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. This insomnia type occurs in about 20 percent of chronic insomnia cases.
Secondary Insomnia
Secondary insomnia is a form of insomnia that is directly caused by one of the following:
  • A health condition, including:



  • Medication
  • Pain
  • Certain substances, such as alcohol or caffeine.
Acute Insomnia
Acute (short-term) insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. It is often caused by emotional or physical discomfort, and can be related to a single specific event. Causes of acute insomnia can include:
  • Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, moving, etc.)
  • Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
  • Illness
  • Things that throw off a normal sleep schedule (like jet lag or switching from a day to night shift).
Transient Insomnia
Transient insomnia is a type of insomnia that comes and goes, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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