Understanding Subthreshold Insomnia: Steps to Overcome Sleep Difficulties

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on September 26, 2023
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We understand that sleep, or the lack thereof, can make a difference in our everyday lives. Sleep issues are more common than you think and often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed.

One such issue is subthreshold insomnia.

It’s a term that may sound intimidating, but don’t worry—we’re here to walk you through it.

Subthreshold insomnia is a sleep disorder that isn’t quite severe enough to meet the clinical definition of insomnia, yet it still affects your quality of life. It’s like being stuck in a limbo of sleeplessness— not severe enough to be classified as full-blown insomnia, but significant enough to cause distress and disruption in your daily activities.

Understanding this condition is the first step toward improving sleep and mental health.

In this article, we’ll delve into the causes and symptoms of subthreshold insomnia, discuss various approaches to manage it, and provide a comprehensive guide to overcoming this sleep difficulty.

But remember, while articles like this one are informative, they are no substitute for professional medical advice. If you’re struggling with sleep, we strongly encourage you to seek help from a healthcare provider or consider telehealth services.

Ready to take the first step towards better sleep? Let’s dive in!

The causes and Symptoms of Subthreshold Insomnia

Subthreshold insomnia is a form of sleep disorder that may not meet the full criteria for clinical insomnia, but it’s significant enough to disrupt daily life. Research identifies that 16% of the population meets the criteria for insomnia.

This condition can be linked to various factors, including mental health issues, stress, lifestyle habits, and certain medical conditions.


Several factors can contribute to the development of subthreshold insomnia:

  1. Stress: High stress levels can make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult.
  2. Mental health disorders: Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia are often associated with subthreshold insomnia.
  3. Lifestyle factors: Irregular sleep schedules or poor sleep hygiene can lead to subthreshold insomnia.
  4. Medical conditions: Certain physical ailments or chronic pain can cause this type of insomnia.


Subthreshold insomnia, or subclinical insomnia, is a less severe form of insomnia. While it may share some characteristics with full-blown insomnia, it doesn’t meet all the criteria needed to diagnose insomnia.

Here are some key features of subthreshold insomnia:

  1. Less frequent or severe symptoms: Individuals with subthreshold insomnia may experience difficulties with sleep, but these issues occur less frequently or are less severe than those experienced by people with insomnia.
  2. Shorter duration: Symptoms of subthreshold insomnia might not last as long as those of insomnia. For instance, they might occur less than three times a week or for less than three months.
  3. Less impact on daily life: While subthreshold insomnia can still affect a person’s well-being, it may not cause the same level of distress or impairment in daily functioning as insomnia.
  4. Potential precursor to insomnia: Some research suggests that subthreshold insomnia could be a risk factor for developing full-blown insomnia.

Understanding these causes and symptoms is crucial in managing subthreshold insomnia effectively. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking professional help to find the most suitable treatment plan is essential.

Pros and Cons of Various Approaches to Managing Subthreshold Insomnia

How to deal with your insomnia — and finally get to sleep | Sleeping with Science

Managing subthreshold insomnia involves various evidence-based approaches, each with its pros and cons:

  • Interdisciplinary Pain Management: It’s a mixed bag, helping some patients but providing only slight improvement for others.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): It’s pretty effective for managing insomnia symptoms, but digital delivery may not work for everyone.
  • Virtual Agents: AI-based virtual agents show promise for screening and managing insomnia symptoms, offering accessibility and cost-effectiveness, but more research is needed.
  • Medication: Provides short-term relief but doesn’t address the underlying causes of insomnia and may have side effects.
  • Mind-Body Interventions: Techniques like meditation and yoga can help manage insomnia but may not be as effective as traditional methods.

The Sleep Foundation notes there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. With patience and guidance, better sleep is within reach.

Exploring the Positive Effects of Successfully Handling Subthreshold Insomnia

Successfully managing subthreshold insomnia can lead to various positive effects, not just in terms of improved sleep but also overall mental and physical health.

Here are some key benefits that research has highlighted:

  1. Reduced Obesity Risk: Studies have found an association between subthreshold insomnia and obesity. Successfully managing insomnia can contribute to a healthier weight and lifestyle.
  2. Improved Mental Health: Managing insomnia effectively can help reduce anxiety sensitivity and promote better sleep quality, improving mental well-being.
  3. Enhanced Cognitive Functioning: Research suggests that treating sleep disorders can positively impact cognitive and communication recovery, especially in adults with chronic traumatic brain injury.
  4. Better Psychological Status: Physical activity, often recommended for managing insomnia, has been linked with improved psychological status.
  5. Reduced Perfectionism: Evidence suggests that perfectionism is positively correlated with insomnia. Managing insomnia may help alleviate this trait, leading to healthier thought patterns and behaviors.

Remember, these benefits underline the importance of correctly identifying and managing subthreshold insomnia. So get those zzz’s rolling!

How To Overcome Subthreshold Insomnia

Struggling with subthreshold insomnia? There are practical steps you can take to manage and potentially overcome this condition:

  • Understand your symptoms: Use tools like the Insomnia Severity Index to recognize the severity of your condition.
  • Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): Work with a trained provider to identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to your insomnia symptoms.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Maintain a regular sleep schedule, create a restful environment, and avoid late-night screen time.
  • Consider medication: If your symptoms persist, consult a healthcare provider about options.
  • Stay aware of your overall health: Regular check-ups and open communication with your healthcare provider are essential.

Rest assured, you’re not alone in this journey – with the proper steps, you can improve your sleep and overall well-being.

For more sleep info and treatments for insomnia, please see the following Online Mental Health Review articles: Stellar Sleep review, CBT-I steps, CBT-I for insomnia, CBT-I online, CBT-I sleep diary, insomnia in females, subthreshold insomnia, insomnia test resources, somnologists, and causes of female insomnia.

Addressing Common Questions and Misconceptions about Subthreshold Insomnia

When it comes to subthreshold insomnia, a sleep disorder that doesn’t fully meet the criteria for clinical insomnia but can significantly disrupt one’s life, misconceptions are common.

Let’s tackle some of the most prevalent questions and myths about this condition.

Myth 1: Insomnia is solely not being able to sleep. The truth is, insomnia isn’t just about difficulty falling asleep. It also encompasses trouble staying asleep, waking up too early, or feeling unrefreshed after sleep.

Myth 2: There’s nothing you can do about insomnia. Contrary to this belief, several effective treatments are available for managing insomnia, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) and maintaining good sleep hygiene.

Myth 3: All insomnia medications are the same. Not all sleep aids are created equal. The effectiveness and side effects of these medications can vary significantly among individuals. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

Myth 4: You can ‘catch up’ on sleep. While it might be tempting to compensate for lost sleep by sleeping in or napping, this can disrupt your sleep schedule and exacerbate insomnia symptoms.

Common Question: Is insomnia related to other health issues? Insomnia can co-occur with other health conditions, including chronic pain and mental health disorders. Addressing these underlying issues as part of your insomnia treatment plan is essential.

Discover Stellar Sleep For Subthreshold Insomnia Treatment

Meet Stellar Sleep, the #1 mobile app based on science, is designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Developed in collaboration with top sleep psychologists and therapists at Harvard, this award-winning app uses the power of psychology to help you sleep better. Our team bought and reviewed Stellar Sleep, and now we believe:

Stellar Sleep is not just an app; it’s a comprehensive sleep aid designed around cognitive-behavioral therapy – insomnia (CBT-I) principlesMeta-analysis shows CBT-I is a scientifically proven method that changes negative thought patterns and behaviors that can contribute to sleep problems. Researchers state, “CBT-I produces clinically significant effects that last up to a year after therapy.”

With Stellar Sleep, you get personalized, evidence-based treatment plans that guide you through habit-building exercises, CBT-I techniques, and more—all aimed at breaking the insomnia cycle and helping you achieve restful sleep.

Stellar Sleep Tools

  • Personalized Treatment Plans: Based on your unique sleep patterns and needs, Stellar Sleep provides tailored treatment plans to help you conquer insomnia.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Insomnia (CBT-I): This app utilizes CBT techniques proven to help manage insomnia, teaching you how to change negative thoughts and behaviors impacting your sleep.
  • Habit Building Exercises: Create healthy sleep habits that encourage restful nights and energized days.
  • Expert Collaboration: Developed with input from top sleep psychologists and therapists, Stellar Sleep combines expert knowledge with user-friendly technology.
  • Evidence-Based: The strategies used by Stellar Sleep are based on scientific research, ensuring you receive a reliable approach to managing your sleep.

Try the Stellar Sleep Quiz for a free 7-day trial!


And there you have it! We’ve explored the complex world of subthreshold insomnia, addressing its causes, symptoms, and the various approaches to manage it. Remember, sleep is not a luxury—it’s a fundamental aspect of our health and well-being.

While subthreshold insomnia may not be as severe as full-blown insomnia, it’s still a condition that can significantly impact your life. But here’s the good news: it’s manageable, and with the right tools and strategies, you can improve your sleep quality and overall mental health.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) has shown promising results in restructuring the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to insomnia. Maintaining regular schedules for daily activities, including eating and exercise, has proven effective.

It’s crucial to remember that everyone’s journey is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re struggling with sleep issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from healthcare providers or consider telehealth services. They can provide personalized advice and treatment plans designed specifically for your needs.

Remember, understanding your condition is the first step. Implementing lifestyle changes, trying out therapies, and seeking professional help are subsequent steps toward a better night’s sleep and a healthier life. You are not alone in this journey, and support is available.

Here’s to sleep better and brighter days ahead!

In Case of an Emergency:

If you are in a critical situation, it’s crucial not to delay seeking help while waiting for an online therapy session. In case of immediate danger to yourself or others, please dial 911 immediately. If you’re contemplating self-harm, remember that assistance is available around the clock at the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Moreover, support for individuals grappling with mental health or substance abuse issues can be accessed through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). This service offers free, confidential guidance and information about treatment options, 24/7, 365 days a year.

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