Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in the world. Now, a scientific investigation highlights five different types with their particular symptoms, paving the way for their prevention.
Adequate sleep is essential to prevent numerous diseases, have an adequate performance, avoid problems such as anxiety or depression and achieve physical and mental well-being throughout the day. Sleeping less than seven hours a day – along with bad habits such as irregular sleep cycles, which cause the alteration of circadian rhythms – is linked to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart failure or vascular accidents, as well as secular dysfunctions, aging the skin, weakening of the bones or metabolic decontrol.
Around insomnia, researchers from a Dutch Institute of Neuroscience have classified five different types that could help doctors customize specific treatments in the future, making them more effective and better adapted to each individual with sleep problems. Contrary to what might be expected, groupings are not based on typical sleep symptoms, such as problems waking up or difficulty falling asleep.
The new types of insomnia revealed in the research -published in The Lancet Psychiatry- are linked to other factors such as stress, emotions, personality traits, mood and previous life events. The classification contemplates types from 1 to 5, whose application demonstrates how different people with insomnia had different cognitive characteristics, including levels of anxiety and emotional sensitivity. The study also showed that participants tended to stay in the same type over time.
“While we have always considered insomnia to be a disorder, it actually represents five different disorders,” says one of the researchers, Tessa Blanken of the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience, stressing that the “underlying brain mechanisms may be very different.” The research collected data from approximately 2,224 individuals who showed self-reported symptoms of insomnia. They were asked to fill out questionnaires about personality traits linked to brain structure and function, and compared with a control group.
What scores did each type of insomnia obtain?
Type 1 individuals scored high on distress traits, such as neuroticism and low mood sensation, while those of Type 2 and Type 3 groups scored lower in this respect, although Type 2 respondents in general were more positive and they were vitally more satisfied than Type 3.
Type 4 and Type 5 individuals reported lower levels of distress, but Type 4 people tended to experience long-term insomnia after stressful life events, whereas this aspect was not perceived in Type 5 subjects. Follow-up surveys conducted five years later, the study participants were almost all in the same group: 87% repeated the same type of insomnia.
According to the researchers, knowing some of the traits behind a person’s insomnia could help doctors find a treatment that works best. People of Type 2 and Type 4 obtained notable improvements in their sleep after taking benzodiazepines. For their part, Type 2 also responded well to cognitive-behavioral therapy, something that did not work for Type 4 patients.
Although the study has limitations such as voluntary participation -which may not represent the population as a whole- or that were not patients diagnosed with insomnia but who reported symptoms of this disorder, it is a fundamental starting point for the study. future improvement of the treatments of this evil of the 21st century. Another way to approach personalization is the analysis of genetic risk factors.