The Natural History of Insomnia: Evaluating illness severity from acute to chronic insomnia; Is the first the worst?

Julia T Boyle*, Knashawn H Morales, Alexandria Muench, Jason Ellis, Ivan Vargas, Michael A Grandner, Donn Posner, Michael L Perlis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives
The 3P and 4P models represent illness severity over the course of insomnia disorder. The 3P model suggests that illness severity is worst during acute onset. The 4P model suggests that illness severity crescendos with chronicity. The present analysis from an archival dataset assesses illness severity with new onset illness (i.e., from good sleep [GS] to acute insomnia [AI] to chronic insomnia [CI]). Illness severity is quantified in terms of Total Wake Time (TWT).

GSs (N=934) were followed up to 1-year with digital sleep diaries, and classified as GS, AI, or CI. Data for CIs were anchored to the 1st of 14 days with insomnia so that day-to-day TWT was represented prior-to-and-following AI onset. A similar graphic (+/-acute onset) was constructed for number of days per week with insomnia. GS data were temporally matched to CI data. Segmented linear mixed regression models were applied to examine the change in slopes in the AI-to-CI period compared to GS-to-AI period.

23 individuals transitioned to AI and then CI. Average TWT rose during the first 2 weeks of AI onset (b=1.8,SE=0.57,p=0.001) and was then stable for 3 months (b=-0.02,SE=0.04,p=0.53). Average number of affected days was stable from AI to CI (b=0.0005,SE=0.002,p=0.81). That is, while there was week-to-week variability in the number of days affected, no linear trend was evident.

In our sample of CIs, primarily with middle insomnia, the average severity and number of affected days was worst with the onset of AI (worst is first) and stable thereafter.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsae034
Early online date4 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Feb 2024

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