Sleep is a natural activity the body craves after a hard day’s work. But while some anticipate the act of getting into bed, turning off the lights, and entering dreamland, others dread it all together. Let’s discuss the fear of sleeping at night and explore ways to overcome this obstacle.
- Somniphobia, or the intense fear of sleep, can range from apprehension about sleep to intense fears of nightmares or not waking up. It often intersects with anxiety and sleep disorders, creating a cyclical relationship.
- Factors such as chronic anxiety, experiences of sleep paralysis, and nightmare disorders, often linked to trauma or PTSD, contribute to the development of somniphobia.
- Anxiety, worry, nightmares, night terrors, increased heart rate, sweating, and patterns of insomnia are common symptoms of somniphobia, impacting daily life and overall well-being.
- Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, maintaining a comfortable sleep environment (including ideal temperature, darkness, and reduced noise), avoiding caffeine before bedtime, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and seeking professional treatment if needed are effective strategies.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and medication are common treatments for somniphobia. Seeking support from a therapist or counselor specializing in sleep-related issues can provide personalized strategies for overcoming the fear of sleeping at night.
Sleep phobia or somniphobia refers to the fear of falling asleep. From feeling apprehensive about sleeping to full-on fear of nightmares and never waking up, sleep phobia is on a spectrum and affects people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Anxiety and sleep disorders also tend to overlap. In other words, anxiety can affect sleep, and sleep may affect anxiety. While a person with anxiety has difficulty falling asleep, someone with a sleep disorder may feel anxious and afraid of not getting the rest they need, creating a never-ending cycle.
What Causes Somniphobia At Night?
The exact cause isn’t known, but some factors at play are:
- Chronic anxiety — Triggers the body’s release of stress hormones about everyday situations like falling asleep. The thought of distressing events happening while one is sleeping, such as death or burglary, can also cause somniphobia.
- Sleep paralysis — Occurs when waking from REM sleep, i.e., rapid eye movement, with paralyzed muscles, making movement difficult. This can also induce frightening hallucinations.
- Nightmare disorder — Frequent and vivid nightmares that cause distress. Trauma and PTSD can also induce this.
Somniphobia, or the fear of sleeping, can show itself through various symptoms that might affect someone’s daily life. Somniphobia can cause anxiety or worry about going to bed and falling asleep. This fear might be linked to nightmares, night terrors, or the feeling of losing control while asleep.
Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, sweating, and trembling at the thought of going to sleep. Individuals with somniphobia might also develop patterns of insomnia, finding it challenging to get the necessary amount of rest. Understanding and addressing these symptoms is crucial for seeking support and developing strategies to overcome somniphobia, promoting a healthier relationship with sleep.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Sleeping At Night
To reduce sleep anxiety, healthy boundaries around sleep or “sleep hygiene” are needed. This means establishing a routine before bed, making the bedroom comfortable for sleep, cutting back on caffeine, and managing stress.
But if the fear of sleeping at night is severe, seeking a professional for help may be appropriate.
Let’s take a closer look at these strategies:
1. Establish A Bedtime Routine (And Be Consistent)
This means going to bed at the same time every night — and yes, even on the weekends. A healthy bedtime routine starts by winding down an hour before bed, silencing electronic devices, tending to personal hygiene, dimming the lights, and ends by taking part in a relaxing activity like reading.
So, why is consistency important? Research shows that a consistent sleep schedule improves the quality of sleep and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm, i.e., the internal clock. Moreover, cardiovascular functions like blood pressure and heart rate follow circadian patterns, promoting restorative sleep and optimal health.
2. Maintain A Comfortable Sleep Environment
Research shows that those who have higher quality sleep have bedrooms optimized for sleep. This includes:
- Temperature — 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) is the ideal bedroom temperature for sleeping.
- Light — Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. The brain produces melatonin, a hormone that induces feelings of sleepiness and relaxation when it gets dark. Exposure to artificial light in the evening, such as blue light from phones, computers, and television screens, can disrupt circadian rhythms and prolong sleep onset.
- Noise — Loud noises can cause sleep disruption and harm physical and mental health. Fans, noise-blocking curtains, and white noise machines can block outside noise. Soothing music can also mask sounds and has been shown to alleviate pain and anxiety. Several sleep applications like ShutEye utilize this technique, creating a calm and comforting soundscape for optimal sleep.
3. Avoid Caffeine Before Bed
Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that prolongs sleep latency, i.e., the amount of time it takes for a person to fall asleep, reducing total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality. It also worsens anxiety and blocks adenosine, a sleep-promoting chemical produced in the brain during waking hours. When caffeine blocks this chemical, it will interfere with the circadian rhythm, keeping a person awake and alert. Moreover, the recommended cut-off time for caffeine is at least six hours before bedtime.
4. Keep Stress Low
It’s important to be mindful of stress as high levels can trigger the body’s stress response, elevating the hormone cortisol and disrupting sleep. To manage stress, practice coping mechanisms before bed like meditation and journaling, and avoid watching the news or upsetting television.
5. Seek Professional Treatment
If the fear of sleeping at night is severe, a therapist can help. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medication.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy — Identifies and challenges negative thought patterns to alter unwanted behavior, e.g., fear of sleeping at night.
Cognitive therapy reduces distress before bed and requires a person to go to bed and wake up at specific times, i.e., sleep restriction, to allow the body to develop a sleeping pattern.
- Exposure therapy — Involves discussing fears around sleep, relaxation techniques, imaging what it would feel like to sleep, and sleeping in a sleep lab for observation.
- Medication — Sedatives and drugs that reduce physical anxiety symptoms like beta-blockers can be used to reduce sleep phobia.
Safe and effective reatment for somniphobia, the extreme anxiety and fear around sleep, typically involves a combination of therapeutic approaches. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common and effective method, helping individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns associated with sleep. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can be taught to manage anxiety and promote a calm bedtime routine.
Gradual exposure therapy, where individuals face their fear of sleep in a controlled manner, is another effective treatment option to desensitize them to anxiety triggers. Creating a comfortable and calming sleep environment and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can also contribute to alleviating extreme fear of sleep. In severe cases, medication may be considered under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in sleep-related issues and forms of treatment can provide tailored strategies for overcoming the fear of going to sleep and fostering a positive relationship with sleep.
Ready For Restorative Sleep?
While the above strategies are designed to curb the fear of sleeping at night, they’re not instantaneous as the body needs time to adjust to new rituals and routines.
To bridge the gap, get some ShutEye — your personalized one-in-all app to help you relax and sleep. From monitoring sleep cycles to enhancing sleep environment, ShutEye is the sleep app you’ll never want to go a night without. To fulfill all your sleep inquiries, visit the ShutEye website for more information.
What is somniphobia?
Somniphobia, also known as sleep phobia, is an intense fear or anxiety around the act of falling asleep or going to bed.
What are the causes of somniphobia?
The exact cause of somniphobia is not always clear, but it can be related to sleep disturbances, sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, fear of dying in your sleep, and anxiety or fear around sleep.
What are the common symptoms of somniphobia?
People with somniphobia may experience extreme fear, nightmares, or sleep paralysis. They may also have anxiety and fear around sleep, contributing to a lack of restful sleep.
How is somniphobia diagnosed?
Diagnosing somniphobia involves evaluating an individual’s sleep habits, sleep issues, and related symptoms of anxiety or fear. Consulting with a sleep medicine specialist or a sleep foundation can help in the diagnosis.
What are the effective treatments for somniphobia?
Treatments for somniphobia and sleep anxiety may include addressing underlying sleep issues, practicing good sleep hygiene, seeking therapy for anxiety, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be effective in managing somniphobia.
Can somniphobia cause sleep problems?
Yes, somniphobia can lead to sleep disturbances and sleep loss, as it can contribute to a fear of falling asleep, preventing individuals from getting enough sleep.
How can someone develop somniphobia?
People can develop somniphobia due to various reasons such as a traumatic experience related to sleep, excessive worrying about not getting enough sleep, or associating sleep with negative thoughts or fears.
Is sleep essential for overall well-being?
Yes, restful sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to detrimental effects on health, so addressing somniphobia and ensuring enough healthy sleep is crucial.
What are the related terms to somniphobia?
Related terms to somniphobia include fear and anxiety, avoid sleep, sleep issues, anxiety or fear around sleep, and being able to get enough sleep.
Should I be concerned if I suspect I have somniphobia?
If you suspect you may have somniphobia and it’s affecting your daily life, it’s important to seek help. Many people with somniphobia find relief through effective treatment and support.