4.1.1Insomnia is most frequently defined by an individual’s report of sleeping difficulties


Insomnia can be classified as transient, acute, or chronic.

  1. Transient insomnia lasts for less than a week. It can be caused by another disorder, by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Its consequences – sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance – are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
  2. Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of less than a month.
  3. Chronic insomnia lasts for longer than a month. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. Its effects can vary according to its causes. They might include muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue; but people with chronic insomnia often show increased alertness. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Can cause double vision.

Causes and co-morbidities

Symptoms of insomnia can be caused by or can be co-morbid with:

  • Use of psychoactive drugs or stimulants, including certain medications, herbs, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, MDMA and modafinil
  • Use of fluoroquinolone antibiotic drugs, see fluoroquinolone toxicity, associated with more severe and chronic types of insomnia
  • Restless Legs Syndrome, which can cause sleep onset insomnia due to the discomforting sensations felt and the need to move the legs or other body parts to relieve these sensations.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) which occurs during sleep and can cause arousals which the sleeper is unaware of.
  • Pain – An injury or condition that causes pain can preclude an individual from finding a comfortable position in which to fall asleep, and can in addition cause awakening.
  • Hormone shifts such as those that precede menstruation and those during menopause.
  • Life events such as fear, stress, anxiety, emotional or mental tension, work problems, financial stress, birth of a child and bereavement.
  • Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Disturbances of the circadian rhythm, such as shift work and jet lag, can cause an inability to sleep at some times of the day and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day. Chronic circadian rhythm disorders are characterized by similar symptoms.
  • Certain neurological disorders, brain lesions, or a history of traumatic brain injury
  • Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Abuse of over-the counter or prescription sleep aids can produce rebound insomnia
  • Poor sleep hygiene, e.g., noise
  • Parasomnias which include such disruptive sleep events as nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, violent behavior while sleeping, and REM behavior disorder, in which the physical body moves in response to events within dreams.
  • A rare genetic condition can cause a prion-based, permanent and eventually fatal form of insomnia called fatal familial insomnia.
  • Physical exercise. Exercise-induced insomnia is common in athletes, causing prolonged sleep onset latency.

Hypnotherapy can help reduce the anxiety or low moods which contribute to insomnia, it can also act as a refocus for pain and poor sleep hygeine, and can help regulate irratic sleep patterns by introducing REM sleep earlier on in the cycle. Insomnia caused by drugs, restless legs, hormones or mental disturbances such as Bipolar are not generally treated using hypnotherapy. Check with your GP if you’re unsure, if they say it’s anxiety related then Hypnotherapy certainly can help alongside getting your sleep hygeine right.

Things you can do for yourself

  • Don’t have a TV in the bedroom
  • Wind down with a warm bath about an hour before bed and then read something light
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Don’t use alcohol. If you are drinking try and cut back gradually to no intake
  • Cut back on caffeine. Move the last caffeine drink back through the day and see if it makes a different
  • Drink a cup of warm milk
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, overheating is often a cause of poor sleep
  • Clean bedclothes

At last the NHS is recognising that Hypnotherapy helps with sleep disorders – Read more here

If you would like to read a case study, please email me and I’ll send my free e-book “10 years on the couch”.


Also see: How Hypnotherapy helped a GCSE student sleep

Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.

Read Penny’s inspiring story How I beat all my phobias, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life. Feel free to send Penny a message here.