Study objectives: Theoretical accounts of the progression of insomnia from acute to chronic are lacking. A framework is proposed and tested to examine differences in cognitive coping styles between acute and chronic insomniacs and the relation of cognitive processing and sleep hygiene to causal attributions of insomia. Method: In a cross-sectional design, the relationship among sleep disturbance, causal attributions and various psychological and behavioural variables was examined in a convenience sample of acute and chronic insomniacs from the general population (N = 308). Results: Negative appraisals and the cognitive coping styles 'Worry' and 'Punishment' were found to be associated with both acute and chronic insomnia, whereas 'Distraction' as a cognitive coping strategy significantly reduced reports of chronic insomnia. The results are discussed in relation to multi-level interventions and future directions in theory, research and application.