After a long and hard day at work, we head to our bed and get a well-deserved, good night’s sleep. Obtaining a much-needed shuteye is important for an individual’s mental, physical and even spiritual health. A proper sleep cycle, for instance, helps people go through the challenging day-to-day life and restore their body and mind.
Some people, unfortunately, have difficulty falling asleep. They, for example, have a condition that compels them to stay awake.
One sleep disorder we’re going to looking at today is somniphobia — and this condition is more than just your typical insomnia.
What is Somniphobia?
This medical term, also known as fear of sleep, causes extreme anxiety around the thought of hitting the hay. Other names for somniphobia include sleep dread, clinophobia, hypnophobia and sleep anxiety.
Data from the Sleep Association revealed that 50 to 70 million citizens in the United States report some sort of sleep disorder. Somniphobia can be a cause behind some sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Symptoms of Somniphobia
If you have fear of sleep, you’ll be distressed about sleeping or even the mere thought of it. This phobia, in many cases, may stem less from the fear of sleep itself and more from the dread of what might occur while you’re sleeping.
A couple of examples include the thought of not being able to wake up anymore and thinking about someone stabbing you while you’re in bed.
Somniphobia can cause a range of physical and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms of fear of sleep often include:
- Clinginess, crying and other forms of resistance to bedtime (applicable mostly to children), including not wanting caregivers to leave them alone
- Hyperventilation, chills, sweating and breathing difficulties when entertaining any thought related to sleeping
- Raised heart rate and tightness in the chest when thinking about going to bed or sleep
- Nausea and other stomach-related issues related to constant anxiety around sleep
Mental symptoms specific to sleep anxiety might include:
- Difficulty remembering things in the past or recent conversations
- Mood swings and general irritability
- Difficulty focusing on tasks and activities apart from sleep-related fear and worry
- Panic attacks, particularly when the person needs to go to sleep
- Not wanting to go bed (prefers to be up as long as possible, which results in being up all night and sleeping all day)
- Distress as the time to hit the hay gets closer
- The feeling of anxiety and fear when entertaining thoughts regarding sleep
Avoiding sleep entirely by choice is and will never be possible. If you’ve had somniphobia for quite some time now, you’re probably able to get some shuteye most nights. You may, however, experience restless sleep. You might wake up frequently and have difficulty falling asleep again.
Other signs of sleep dread revolve around coping mechanisms. Some people with somniphobia opt to leave on music, the radio, the television or the room lights for distraction. Others may turn to substances, such as drugs and alcohol, to minimize fears of fear around sleep.
What are Some Causes of Somniphobia?
Health experts are not 100 percent sure of the exact cause of somniphobia. A couple of sleep disorders, though, could play a role in the development of fear of sleep, including:
- Nightmare Disorder – This causes vivid and frequent nightmares that often cause distress. The person may find themselves worrying about having more nightmares.
- Sleep Paralysis – This sleep disorder happens when you wake up from a rapid eye movement (REM) sleep with your muscles paralyzed, making movement difficult and somewhat impossible. You may experience nightmare-like hallucinations, which can make sleep paralysis scary.
Experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trauma can contribute to nightmares and may cause somniphobia.
Some associate the fear of dying, also known as thanatophobia, with fear of sleep. Worrying about passing on while asleep might eventually result in the fear of falling asleep.
How to Overcome Somniphobia
Small and simple steps can go a long way in helping you overcome somniphobia. You can start by practicing good sleep hygiene.
Make sure you take note of the following basics:
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
- Refrain from working out two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking or eating anything with caffeine a few hours before retiring for the day.
- Keep a boring book near your bed.
- Create a restful routine, such as taking a warm bath, listening to music and doing deep breathing exercises.
Alternatively, you can overcome your fear of sleep by talking to a qualified professional. Your doctor or therapist may recommend a comprehensive sleep care center or a sleep disorder center that can help you with your condition.
They may also suggest the following methods to help treat your somniphobia:
Certain drugs can minimize anxiety and fear associated with somniphobia. Benzodiazepines, for instance, can alleviate anxiety symptoms. Beta-blockers help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This therapy helps you work through and identify fears related to sleep. You’ll discover how to challenge your thoughts when you experience them. You’ll also learn how to reframe them, so they cause less anxiety.
You’ll work closely with a therapist to expose yourself gradually to your fear while coming up with ways to minimize anxiety. Exposure therapy for somniphobia may include using relaxation strategies, discussing the fear and imagining what getting a good night’s sleep looks like.
Don’t allow somniphobia to give you restless nights and negatively affect your quality of life. Take steps to take the dread out of going to sleep.