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Insomnia vs. Hypersomnia: Exploring the Two Ends of the Sleep Disorder Spectrum

In this article, you will learn the difference between hypersomnia and insomnia. You’ll be able to appreciate hypersomnia vs insomnia symptoms, causes, and impacts. You’ll also walk away with guidance on the different treatment options for insomnia vs hypersomnia, particularly the importance of seeking professional help for all sleep disorders.

There are several distinctions between insomnia and hypersomnia. Both insomnia and hypersomnia are sleep disorders that can be cured with professional mental health treatment. They share many similar symptoms, like irritability, poor sleep quality, and problems focusing. Their treatment is similar as well. Seeking professional help for sleep disorders is highly recommended, regardless of which sleep disorder you have.

Professional treatment can help you identify the causes of your condition and provide guidance on how to manage symptoms and integrate lifestyle changes that improve your sleep quality.

girl has insomnia late at night

What are Insomnia and Hypersomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can make it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep once you fall asleep. Hypersomnia is a condition where you might sleep an adequate number of hours, but during that time, you’ll get very poor sleep quality and therefore be extremely tired throughout the day.

You might imagine the difference between hypersomnia and insomnia to be quite large, but they do share many similarities, like the fact that both can be a primary condition or a secondary condition caused by another mental or physical health problem or that both can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. They differ slightly in terms of their sleep patterns and onset, but individuals can struggle with alternating insomnia and hypersomnia.


Insomnia can be caused by traumatic events or mental health disorders like PTSD or anxiety. Hypersomnia can be the result of depression, untreated PTSD, neurological conditions, drug use, or other unexplained factors.

Potential consequences

In both situations, there are several high-risk potential consequences if left untreated. Poor sleep quality or limited sleep because of insomnia can lead to:

  • Higher risks of accidents on the road
  • Diminished performance at work or school
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Severe physical health issues from insufficient sleep

Can insomnia alternate with hypersomnia?

Yes, in some situations, you might experience alternating insomnia and hypersomnia. Studies indicate that alternating insomnia and hypersomnia are more common in people with depressive disorders or PTSD.

girl can't sleep

Insomnia vs. Hypersomnia: Key Differences

According to research, nearly 70 million Americans struggle with sleep problems like insomnia and hypersomnia. However, they represent two distinctly different sleeping disorders.

Sleep patterns and duration

Comparing insomnia vs hypersomnia, the biggest difference is in the sleep patterns. With insomnia, you will struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get back to sleep after you wake up. You’ll also likely struggle with waking up too early.
With hypersomnia, you’ll have problems waking up, you’ll struggle with a lot of sleepiness during the day, and you might sleep for a long time at night but still feel restless.

Onset and frequency of sleep disturbances

There are some differences between hypersomnia and insomnia that relate to the frequency and onset.

For example, insomnia can be an acute or chronic condition. In acute situations, you might experience symptoms of insomnia after a traumatic life event. But with chronic situations, you might struggle with ongoing insomnia because of workplace stress.

In acute situations, the symptoms might go away on their own after you cope with the trauma, but for chronic situations, you’ll need professional treatment for sleep disorders.

With hypersomnia, you can struggle with primary or secondary sleep disorders. If you have primary hypersomnia, there might not be a cause, but if you have secondary hypersomnia, it could be related to the following:

  • Mood disorders,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • Sleep apnea,
  • Or other underlying conditions.

Associated symptoms and effects on daily functioning

When it comes to hypersomnia vs insomnia, many of the symptoms are the same, as are the effects on daily functioning. For example, both conditions can cause:

  • Insufficient sleep
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration issues

Diagnosis and assessment methods for insomnia and hypersomnia

There isn’t a single test that diagnoses insomnia. If you report to your doctor, you might be asked to keep a sleep journal and rule out other potential medical conditions.

With hypersomnia, doctors can provide questionnaires, have you participate in sleep latency tests, or conduct sleep studies.

Treatment for Insomnia vs Hypersomnia

When insomnia is primary, chronic insomnia, you can get treatment from a mental health professional. Treatment usually includes things like cognitive behavioral therapy or medication. Medication might help you manage the symptoms of your sleep disorder, while cognitive behavioral therapy can help you address underlying stress that contributes to chronic insomnia.

If your insomnia is secondary, the result of other health conditions like anxiety or depression, it can be treated with similar individual and group therapy as well as medication for the co-occurring mental health disorder.

Hypersomnia that is secondary is much easier to treat because you can make lifestyle changes or take certain medications that can help you address the symptoms of the secondary disorder. As is the case with insomnia treatment, a professional can provide medication or cognitive behavioral therapy to help you address things like depression or anxiety. For primary hypersomnia, there is still no known exact cause, but treatment can involve lifestyle changes and therapy as well.

There are several steps that can be taken at home in addition to professional treatment to improve your sleep hygiene, such as:

  • Avoiding sugar before bed
  • Avoiding drugs or alcohol
  • Turning off your screens an hour before bed
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time
  • Keeping your room cool and dark
  • Exercising regularly


In summary, there are many situations where individuals might experience alternating insomnia and hypersomnia. Issues sleeping too much and too little both need professional help.

Sleep is an essential component of your overall health and well-being. If you are struggling with any symptoms of insomnia or hypersomnia, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional mental health treatment center.

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