Being too scared to sleep is a sleep disorder known as somniphobia. People who’ve never suffered from this condition might find it difficult to understand.
This fear of falling asleep can cause stress and anxiety and, in the long run, can severely impact your general health and mental well-being.
The fear you get about going to sleep may creep into your thoughts during the day. For instance, in the hours approaching bedtime, you might already be starting to experience a feeling of dread when the idea of going to sleep comes to mind.
One reason some people fear going to sleep is if they suffer from sleep paralysis or night terrors. The thought of experiencing something frightening while you’re asleep is understandable. It will undoubtedly make you anxious about going to bed, so what can you do to ease your fear?
So, throughout this guide, I will be talking you through all the possible reasons you might be too scared to sleep and what you can do to prevent it in the future. However, like with any phobia, there is no quick fix, so ensure that you’re patient and have faith. You can get over your fear of sleep with enough perseverance and dedication.
What Causes a Fear of Sleep?
Research is constantly underway to figure out what could cause people to be too scared to sleep. Still, to date, no definite known cause has been deciphered.
However, there isn’t yet a scientific reason for this condition. It has been proven that certain factors can contribute to the phobia, such as people who suffer from nightmares, sleep paralysis, or hallucinations.
Sometimes when people fall asleep, they experience hallucinations that can be rather vivid. These are usually human faces, animals, or occasionally unnerving images. Although this is an entirely normal experience, it may scare some people and cause them to be too frightened to close their eyes at night.
1. Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is a frightening condition, which, if you’ve never experienced it before, can be terrifying. It’s when you awake from REM sleep, and you feel as though you’re being pinned to the bed or like you’re unable to move. Some people also experience hallucinations when this happens, which can give the impression of a creature or entity holding them down.
2. Night Terrors
Night terrors are recurrent nightmares that are much more vivid than an average bad dream. They sometimes appear so realistic that the images can stay with you throughout the day, causing you much anxiety and worry.
As you can imagine, both of these sleep disorders can be good causes for a person to be worried about going to sleep in the evening.
3. Other Causes
Other causes for being scared to sleep include worrying about what might happen while you’re in the land of nod. For example, some people have an irrational fear that they might die in their sleep or that their house will be set on fire.
Symptoms of Sleep Fear
Somniphobia can be linked to several fears and sometimes be related to trauma or another fear that only comes to you once you close your eyes at night. Usually, when we’re anxious, worried, or stressed, these fears become more intense once the lights go out and we’re left alone with our thoughts.
In some cases, fear of sleep can also be linked to mental health, which tends to include symptoms such as:
- Lack of concentration
- Panic attacks
- Anxiety when thinking about going to sleep
- Mood swings
- Feeling stressed in the hours leading up to bedtime
Some people with somniphobia may also experience physical symptoms such as fever, a tight feeling in the chest, and nausea at the thought of going to sleep. You may also experience an increased heart rate which can occur when you get yourself up about sleeping.
How to Get Over a Fear of Sleep?
Getting over any phobia is no mean feat. It, more often than not, will require the help and advice of a professional who can get to the root of the problem and help you to work through your fear in a controlled environment.
Below are some of the treatments you might be offered to help you get over your fear of sleep.
1. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy has proven to be one of the most effective ways of dealing with phobias. It works by slowly exposing you to what you fear the most, which, although it may seem daunting, is the best way to combat any irrational or frightful thoughts.
When it comes to sleep fear, this might involve learning various ways to clear the mind and relax. Learning how to meditate can sometimes be effective.
Other ways that might be used could be presenting you with relaxing imagery, including looking at pictures of people who are sound asleep. The idea is for you to picture these images yourself while getting ready to fall asleep.
Some sleep therapy to overcome your fear may involve visiting a sleep center. You will be asked to try sleeping in a room with another person who can monitor you while you sleep.
2. Sleeping With Another Person
In many cases, the fear of sleeping only occurs when you sleep alone or find yourself alone in a darkened room, which is why when trying to get over your fear, it can be beneficial to rope in the help of a friend, partner, or another family member. The feeling of having another person nearby can make you feel safer and more relaxed, therefore discouraging any negative thoughts while you fall asleep.
3. Sleeping With The Lights on
Although fear of the dark may not be the primary cause of your fear of sleep, sleeping with the lights on can lessen the chances of feeling anxious when going to sleep. This is especially the case with people who experience nightmares or hallucinations. Try sleeping in full exposure, to begin with, and over time decrease the light to a bedside lamp or a plug-in light and work towards sleeping in complete darkness over some time.
4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is an effective way to overcome a phobia with a professional who can talk you through various methods of combating frightful thoughts and deflecting from the fear. Whether this is the fear of sleep itself or the fear that something may happen to you while you’re sleeping.
Your therapist may suggest introducing a strict sleep schedule that involves going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning. This can help your brain to get into a rhythm of knowing when it’s time to go to sleep.
5. Relaxing Techniques
You may be able to work through your sleep phobia by practicing some relaxing techniques in the hours leading up to bedtime. This could be reading a book (preferably an easy read or pleasant story,) taking a warm bath, using essential oils such as lavender, or listening to peaceful music.
In more severe cases of somniphobia, a professional might suggest sleep aid medications such as benzodiazepines which work like a sedative. However, these should be prescribed and carefully monitored, as they are highly addictive and can cause further ongoing health issues.
A Final Analysis
Of course, avoiding sleep altogether is not physically possible. The fear of going to sleep can cause a lot of distress, as eventually, you will have to fall asleep. The fear of sleep can lead you to try and stay up late at night. When you ultimately do fall asleep, you may wake up multiple times during the night, meaning your sleep is not restorative. This can then hurt your mental and physical health.
It’s essential to seek help and address the issue of being too scared to sleep to improve your general well-being and combat the underlying issue. In many cases, the cause of sleep phobia can be cured without treatment. However, if this is an ongoing problem that’s disrupting your life and general sleep health, professional help is strongly advised.
While there is no medication that can be used to combat your fear directly, some sleep aid medications, when prescribed and used with care, can help you to sleep better while you’re in the process of overcoming your sleep fear. However, it is vital that this is used as a short-term solution and monitored closely by your psychiatrist or physician.