Asomnia or Insomnia?

Last updated: January 2023

Most people who 'typically' sleep well don't know the difference between asomnia and insomina. In fact, as I type this, my spell corrector is sending off loud alarms – wanting to autocorrect asomnia. However, I think there is a big difference between the 2 'conditions.'

Differences between asomnia and insomnia

You, dear reader, know very well the feeling you get when you tell a coworker about your insomnia and they say: 'Yeah I had a rough night last night.' We clearly know there is an inherent difference between the occasional spell of rough nights and the harsh grind of night after night after night of very poor sleep.

Asomnia

Asomnia means, literally, without sleep. Your average coworker with a rough night of sleep, or a mom of a newborn, or someone being woken by horns blaring all night – these people suffer from 'asomnia' because they haven't slept.

Insomnia

Insomnia is different. It feeds itself, and keeps itself going, and you may even recognize that anxiety about not sleeping is what is driving the sleeplessness. People with asomnia don't have that anxiety – yet. Their wakefulness stems from external sources. Insomnia, and its self-perpetuating sleeplessness cycle, is often driven by internal sources; such as anxiety, reduced sleep drive, and unhelpful sleep-related behaviors.

My recent experience

I reflected on the difference between these 2 problems recently when I went through a very bad bout of asomnia. I lost my son's father and dear friend unexpectedly on the Thursday – and then my own father the following Tuesday.

Needless to say, between the grief and the stress of planning funeral arrangments and starting probate processes, my sleep (and my appetite!) took a big hit. It was days of staring at the ceiling, wide awake, followed by weeks of broken sleep and nightmares. But, 6 weeks later, my sleep has returned to what is normal for me – about 9 hours a night.

What's the difference?

Why? What's the difference between someone in that situation and someone who then spends years with sleeping problems?

Finding confidence to overcome

Confidence in my ability to sleep. I had no anxiety about my sleep because of this confidence (though yes I was miserable!) I gained this confidence through overcoming chronic insomnia in the past, and having survived the blips that come with life's punches since then.

It never crossed my mind that sleep might not return to normal, so I developed no additional anxiety about the sleeplessness, and as the stress of the initial bereavements began to settle – so did my sleep.

I had a very bad bout of asomnia, but not a return of my insomnia. The spellchecker doesn't know the difference – and you might not have recognized the word – but anyone who has ever shared their insomnia experience understands the difference when someone who truly doesn't have insomnia claims they do – simply because of a sleepless night.

How to find sleep confidence? CBTi

I credit the building of my sleep confidence since recovering from insomnia using cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI. Has anything ever helped you increase your confidence in your ability to sleep?  What was it and how did it help?

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