I was and am still this way. I have severe sleep apnea. It has always been hard for me to get to sleep and then I couldn't stay asleep. The CPAP has helped and it is becoming easier as I become more and more comfortable with it.
My sleep specialist described the insomnia as a trained defensive measure, where your body and brain realize that your sleeping is poor and/or dangerous and thus hinders sleeping. I kinda like that description.
I also have the opportunity to watch my son. (4.8 years now) As he grows with sleep apnea. He never slept well and long as an infant.. but none of the pediatricians thought it anything other than colic.. he fought sleep like it was war and never slept well. It wasn't until I was thirty and my son 2 that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea that I began to see all the signs in my son and husband.
Well I made my husband go and get evaluated and he had mild sleep apnea as a result of hypopnea. My son's breathing and sleeping issues we tried to address surgically with first an adnoidectomy and then a tonsillectomy. Well these didn't work to aide his sleep but his sinus and ear infections were reduced. I asked my sleep specialist, if my son could have sleep apnea. My pediatricians were telling me "No." still and that children do not have sleep apnea.. they were wrong! My sleep specialist said sleep apnea is genetically dominant and that my son should be evaluated and that sleep studies can be performed as early as six months and should be on any and all of my future children. Well I made my appointment and had my son evaluated.. he had both hypopnea and obstructive sleep apnea. He was stopping breathing 30 times and hour and had 15 incidences of a depressed breathing rate an hour as well.. he had severe sleep apnea, just like mommy and daddy.
Now we all are using CPAP's. My son at 4.8 feels like a very big boy using his.. but back to the insomnia. As my sone grew and his sleep apnea worsened.. so did his insomnia. He also manifested many severe sleep deprivation symptoms as well. One thing most noted in children with sleep apnea is their unwillingness to sleep and be sleepy. To counteract this they begin to manifest and exhibit hyperactive traits. Constantly moving, speaking out loud randomly, unwilling to sit and work on something for long periods of time.. etc. Why? One can see the child is obviously exhausted, but if he sat and was quiet he would nod off and pass out in his seat. With every passing day sleep was lost the effects would get worse. Amplifying moods swings and over all ability to control ones inner most feelings and urges. He would get easily frustrated and had to have things just so or he would blow his top. It takes years of sleep deprivation to accept being tired and grumpy and making the best of it. But this is hard for those with normal sleep patterns to understand. I would like to see how normal sleepers felt if they deliberately forced them selves to lose two hours or even one hour of sleep a night. By then end of the week they would be willing to take a bite out of anyone that looks at them funny. It was painful to watch my son be accused of ADHD when I knew it wasn't that.. we had him tested. He could focus and concentrate he had no attention issues.. he just couldn't or wouldn't allow his body to achieve a restful state. All along it was that he was only getting 4 hours of actual sleep for the 14 he was sleeping. This wore him dow, he stopped growing for a whole year and he couldn't explain or understand why he didn't want to sleep.. he just innately fought it.
So is it subconscious.. I think yes it is some way. Is it fear? I am not sure. I feel it is more instinctual. I think it is a trained biological defense mechanism that develops in intensity over time. I have been on my CPAP for two years now.. my insomnia is getting better slowly but surely with continued use and good sleep hygiene.
Well that is my long rambling 20 cents worth. Hope it can help you and your friend.