There is a multiverse with different settings in each of its universes - steampunk in universe A, fantasy in universe B, biopunk in universe C, etc. And in steampunk world there is a group of characters who are suffering from insomnia for different reasons.

Character 1 - Female, "Rogue" (basically, a gunslinger and a swordfighter for hire). The body she currently considers to be "hers" is in steampunk world, although in truth steampunk-body is merely her "avatar". Her real body is in cyberpunk world and it is sustained in medically induced coma due to medical experiment. When her steampunk-body goes to sleep, she awakens in her cyberpunk-body, which is quite unpleasant because:

  1. her cyberpunk-body is kept in a really small medical capsule (like a coffin, but even smaller);
  2. her comatose body can't move much;
  3. she is claustrophobic;
  4. all her memories about cyberpunk world are locked, she considers steampunk world to be a real one and cyberpunk-one a nightmare (although all of them are equally real).

tl;dr: she suffers from nightmares, therefore she strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

Character 2 - Male, "Doctor" (or "Flesh sculptor" as he calls himself - basically, a mix between a surgeon and a necromancer). Came into steampunk world from fantasy one by accident - he was asked to bring something from lower levels of basement in the medical university he was studying in, got lost, stumbled upon a secret passage which led to even deeper dungeons... Long story short, he somehow ended up in steampunk world with no knowledge of how to get back. Back at his world education is rather unusual: students don't have to waste hundreds of hours on studying books and manuals because all of the information they'll need gets telepathically written in their heads. However, nobody would be able to stay sane after getting this huge unstructured chunk of information, so all of this knowledge is locked away. As students keep practicing and understanding things they already know, knowledge gets unlocked bit by bit while they sleep. It's not a pleasant way of learning (day and night, literally), but it's really effective. He follows Rogue (because there is nowhere to go for him in this alien and quite weird world) and stitches her up (both figuratively and literally) which gives him a lot of practice and a lot of "learning nights".

tl;dr: he suffers from constant headaches caused by sleeping, therefore he strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

Character 3 - Female, "Huntress" from the biopunkish world of polymorphs (i.e. human-like race who can reshape their body at will). Although this race prioritized everything related to their unique biological abilities, they managed to create a dimensional gates and travel to other worlds. They weren't careful enough with destination of these travels, which lead to technogeneous calamity on their planet: their civilization was almost completely destroyed by uncontrollable grey goo they call "Corruption". The grey goo consumed most of the planet's surface and went dormant for no apparent reason. So now they have to find a way to get rid of this grey goo without waking it up AND (preferably) getting back everything it ate. That's where dimensional gates came up again (if this goo came from somewhere, there has to be a way to find its creators, right?) The "Huntress" was one of the agents sent through the gates to find a solution. For obvious reasons all of the agents have to work very carefully, without disclosing their nature or fragile state of their homeworld. This, plus constant stress, plus "fate of the world on your shoulders" would make quite a lot of these agents very paranoid.

tl'dr: she suffers from severe paranoia, therefore she strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

My question is: how plausible are these explanations for insomnia?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Usually, insomnia refers to having trouble sleeping when you want to. You are talking about hypnophobia which is indeed a thing. So yes, it's possible, but it's not insomnia. $\endgroup$
    – PatJ
    Dec 12, 2016 at 10:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ PatJ , I think the OP meant insomnia. Even if they want to nap, their hypnophobia conditioned their mind and bodies to avoid sleep. There's plenty of examples in psychology, I think all of the explanations above are valid and that the simple answer is yes, and the question isn't related to Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2016 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ Could one of the close-voters give an explanation? Worldbuilding is a patchwork covering a variety of topics; while some questions are clearly outside this patchwork, asking if medical conditions are plausible seems a-ok to me. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Dec 12, 2016 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that this question is beyond the pale. You're asking if this is plausible, and even if it isn't specific to your world (it isn't because you could take out all the extraneous stuff about the characters, and it would boil down to "are these good reasons for insomnia?") it's a plot element. There are lots of questions like this on here. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2016 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'm asking if the reasons I listed are good enough to be realistic and if not what should I change. Maybe "insomnia" is not the best term here: I need to explain why they are tired, but can't sleep long enough to get rid of exhaustion. And also why they drink like there is no tomorrow on every possible occasion. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2016 at 15:44

1 Answer 1



Suffers from nightmares, therefore she strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

The comments basically cover this. Insomnia is the inability to sleep when you want to, while hypnophobia is the fear of (and resulting efforts to avoid) sleeping. If Rogue intentionally does not sleep, then it may not be considered "inability to sleep" because it is voluntary.

One way of getting around this if you want to call it insomnia is to cure Rogue's nightmares in some way; resolve the trauma that caused them, have her take medicine, etc. and make it so that she does want to sleep - and yet some primal, irrational fear has developed so that she physically can't fall asleep even if she now wants to.

Alternatively she could try to sleep anyways (no avoidance) but be woken up by the nightmares. It would then be considered "inability to sleep" rather than "fear of sleep".


Suffers from constant headaches caused by sleeping, therefore he strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

The same solutions listed above apply. This is hypnophobia - but it becomes insomnia if you stop him from avoiding sleeping, then wake him up during sleep due to headaches. It changes from fear to inability.


Suffers from severe paranoia, therefore she strives to sleep as rarely as possible.

Same solution as the above two. Either medicate huntress, but some fear of sleep still remains; or have her try to sleep anyways, but awake with paranoia / fear.

  • $\begingroup$ All right, I doubt anyone else would add something more constructive so the winner is you, mate. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2016 at 8:10

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