Somniphobia is a phobia that can totally disrupt your life.
So what are the best ways to overcome the fear of sleep?
And why do some people struggle with this anxiety?
Here’s what you need to know about Somniphobia…
What is Somniphobia?
Somniphobia is a condition that causes extreme fear and anxiety about going to bed.
It’s also popularly known as sleep dread, clinophobia, sleep anxiety and hypnophobia.
It’s common for sleep disorders including insomnia and sleep paralysis among others to cause somniphobia.
Often, if you have experienced a disorder that leaves you shaken up, you will keep worrying over going to bed.
As such, you will not be able to sleep well during the day or at night even with a mattress genius.
As with all different types of phobias, somniphobia is intense.
It affects not only the quality of your sleep but also your daily activities and overall well being.
This piece helps you to understand more about somniphobia and how you can overcome it.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Sleep is important for our health. When a person is well-rested, they are more productive because sleep gives us enough energy and concentration.
Additionally, sleep also helps boost our metabolism. If you don’t get enough sleep, you are highly susceptible to obesity.
During sleep, our heart and blood vessels are being healed and repaired. Short sleep increases your risk of stroke and heart disease.
These are just some of the effects of not getting enough sleep. Meaning, somniphobia can cause many health problems. You have to overcome somniphobia to survive and achieve optimal health.
Useful Resource: Stress Dreams: 12 Common Examples And What They Mean For You
Signs and Symptoms of Somniphobia
As mentioned above, somniphobia is a sleep dread.
You worry about falling asleep during the day or at night even though you may be feeling exhausted.
Your rest becomes regularly interrupted, of low quality, fitful and unrewarding.
If you have somniphobia, you’re more likely to have a lot of stress hormone, cortisol in your system.
This further worsens the condition.
Common symptoms include…
1. Drowsiness and Daytime Sleepiness
Daytime sleepiness is also a common symptom of sleep dread.
If you’re feeling drowsy during the day, chances are high that you do not get enough sleep due to anxiety, insomnia or somniphobia.
2. Chronic Fatigue
The longer you suffer from somniphobia, the more you expose yourself to chronic fatigue.
It means the quality of sleep dread is deep-rooted and severe.
Often, it causes an imbalance in your circadian rhythm and system.
This further affects most of your bodily systems including hormones.
3. Irritability and Mood Swings
When you’re deprived of sleep, you will be moody and irritable.
The flight or fight mechanism of your body is affected and if doesn’t get enough rest.
This results in mood disorders, temporary or long term.
Therefore, if left untreated, somniphobia can cause chronic mood swings.
4. Poor Cognitive Abilities
Somniphobia affects your cognitive abilities and it can lead to memory loss.
It’s imperative to note the brain uses rest to learn, relax, process and consolidate information.
When you’re deprived of sleep, the brain’s ability to function well is compromised leading to memory loss among other conditions.
5. Poor Mental Health
Generally, good sleep is essential in enhancing good mental health.
However, if you’re suffering from somniphobia, the thought of falling asleep is quite distressing.
It grows from the fear of falling asleep to a fear of what is likely to happen when you fall asleep.
Therefore, you’re more likely to suffer from poor mental health leading to;
- Feeling afraid during the day and night whenever you feel or think of sleeping
- Distress during bedtime
- Staying awake as long as you can
- Having panic attacks during bedtime and
- Trouble focusing among others
Physical Symptoms of Somniphobia
Somniphobia also causes an array of physical symptoms.
- Chest congestion or chest tightness
- Increased heartbeat when bedtime draws closer
- Stomach related issues and nausea due to anxiety as you think about sleep
- Trouble breathing
- Sweating and chills
- Fear of having to put off lights when you sleep
- Having a form of distraction such as playing music or leaving the television on
- Turning to alcohol or other substances so that you can fall asleep
- In kids and children, somniphobia may also occur. They are more likely to cry, feel clingy and display resistance or delay tactics during bedtime. They will also ask you not to leave them alone in bed.
With somniphobia, you will fall asleep at some point…
However, the sleep is interrupted due to anxiety and based on what causes the condition.
This means that you do not enjoy quality sleep.
Your sleep will not be restful because you frequently wake up and you will have trouble falling asleep again.
There are different causes of somniphobia.
Sleep disorders are a leading cause and they include…
1. Sleep Paralysis
This is a disorder that occurs leaving you frightened and disoriented.
It’s a state that leaves the brain awake but the body is left asleep.
As such, even if you can see clearly, your body cannot move because your muscles are completely paralyzed.
Sleep paralysis can cause hallucinations and with recurring episodes, you’re more likely to suffer from somniphobia.
Nightmares especially vivid episodes cause distress during bedtime and most of your days.
Scenes of the nightmare often occur during the day or when you’re alone.
Therefore, you will feel afraid of what you might dream of when you fall asleep.
While nightmares can occur here and there, frequent episodes leave you frightened.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can cause somniphobia…
You’ll have trouble sleeping or having a restful sleep.
You will feel afraid of being in your bedroom alone and often worrying about what is more likely to happen.
In some cases, anxiety disorders can prevent you from sleeping in the bed but you can catch some sleep on the couch.
If you feel afraid sleeping on the couch, chances are high that you have somniphobia.
Useful Resource: 14 Reasons Why Anxiety Sucks (And How To Fix Them)
4. Frequent Cases of Sleepwalking
Sleepwalking is scary to almost every person.
It’s equally embarrassing and dangerous:
You can harm others or yourself when sleepwalking because your mind is at an unconscious state.
Often, you will come close to danger or realize how far you have gone while sleepwalking.
In such a case, it’s natural that you will feel afraid of falling asleep.
You never know when you might sleepwalk again.
Sleep talking can also cause somniphobia because you harbour the feeling of being scared of what you will say.
When you stay worried, you generate a phobia that can become chronic.
5. Fear of Death
Many people fear death.
Have you ever felt or thought that you could never wake up again after sleeping?
This is a feeling that often dominates the minds of people with somniphobia.
6. Watching Horror Movies
Watching a horror movie before bedtime can make your nervous.
You will constantly worry about burglary, seeing sinister creatures or ghosts in your home or garden area if you sleep.
Horror movies are perfectly done to seem like a reality.
You will be thinking about your safety and this affects the quality of your sleep leading to somniphobia.
7. Traumatic Life Events
Traumatic life events including loss of a loved one, fire accidents, road accidents and war can cause sleep phobia.
Soldiers who have suffered in war-torn countries often suffer post-traumatic stress disorder that makes it difficult for them to sleep.
Such disorders may lead to nightmares and other sleep disorders.
This can be long term however, with the help of therapies and counselling, post-traumatic disorders can be managed.
Due to sleep disorders, sleeping becomes a problem.
Worrying becomes an everyday thing.
Fear of death becomes inevitable especially in the event of post-traumatic stress disorder.
While certain incidences can expose you to somniphobia at an older age, some can happen during childhood.
This means you may not remember exactly what caused the condition.
Even so, there are risk factors that include:
- Having a close family member who has ever suffered somniphobia or any related phobia.
- A history of anxiety in your family
- An existing medical condition can also put you at risk of somniphobia.
- It’s even worse if the condition is highly associated with possible death.
- Often, it becomes a daily health concern that keeps you anxious about what might happen when you fall asleep.
- Eventually, this anxiety can lead to somniphobia
Somniphobia can be diagnosed by a mental health expert.
You can talk to your doctor about your symptoms for an accurate diagnosis.
Generally, phobias are related to anxiety, fear and disorders that affect your everyday living.
Therefore, if you fear to sleep because your sleep is restless, chances are high that you have the condition.
A fear that;
- Affects the quality of your sleep, impacts your emotional and physical health negatively is not normal.
- An anxiety that is persistent and causes distress, problems in school and at work, or your personal life and lasts for months could mean somniphobia.
- Therefore, whenever you feel scared or cannot enjoy a restful sleep because of long term anxiety or a traumatic life event, it’s imperative that see your doctor for proper diagnosis.
When diagnosed with somniphobia, you can adapt certain routines, medication and therapies to overcome it.
1. Identify the Cause
One of the best ways to overcome somniphobia is by identifying the cause.
If you realize that you have developed the fear due to sleepwalking or by watching a horror movie, you can avoid the triggers.
A professional evaluation is crucial because a medic will tell whether your condition is indeed somniphobia or not.
The sooner you get a proper diagnosis and identify the cause, the easier it will be to overcome it.
2. Change your Mindset
Changing your mindset or perspective about sleep and life, in general, can help you overcome somniphobia.
- Avoid thinking of what will happen when you sleep.
- Engage in other activities that will help you to relax.
- Watching an interesting movie or reading a novel can relax your mind.
- Inspirational books can help you change your perspective about life during the day and at night.
- Start by acknowledging that sleep can be interrupted even in a healthy person.
Because this helps your brain to relax and to switch into a restful sleep.
A good and relaxed mindset allows you to rest when bedtime comes.
3. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Working on ideal sleep hygiene helps you to manage sleep disorders.
This is a practise that involves:
- Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time (a regular sleep pattern). It helps to signal your mind that it’s time to sleep and time to wake up.
- Keeping your bedroom in the best condition (your bedroom should be conducive for sleep).
- Make the room a place to relax, sleep and not an office.
- Watch your TV in your living room and not bedroom if possible.
- Similarly, ensure that the colours of your walls, your bedding and everything therein enhance good sleep.
Medical Help and Treatment
Seeking medical help and treatment is also important if you have had somniphobia that makes your everyday life a problem.
A specialist can diagnose your problem, identify the cause and recommend effective treatment.
Treatment often involves…
1. Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy is an approach that has been used for long to help patients with sleep disorders.
It helps you to learn and understand your thoughts.
You can reframe your thoughts in cognitive therapy to reduce the level of distress.
Remember, the thoughts can be related to a specific fear that causes your sleep anxiety.
One of the approaches that can be used during cognitive behavioural therapy is sleep restriction.
It means you need to go to bed and wake up at specific times.
This allows the body to develop an ideal sleep pattern that helps you to overcome somniphobia.
2. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy involves working with a specialist that exposes you to your fear.
It’s a therapy that includes:
- Discussing your fears
- Talking about the reasons for your anxiety
- Imagining what it would feel like to sleep
- Using relaxation techniques to help you overcome it
- Images may also be used to expose you to your fears, sleeping in a sleep lab or with a nurse or medical expert who stays awake as you sleep.
3. Rehearsal Therapy
Rehearsal therapy is used if somniphobia is caused by nightmares.
You write and rehearse a nightmare during the day.
But why does this work?
Well, it helps you to relax, regain control and manage or conquer your nightmares and possible sleep fears.
Medication can also be used to reduce symptoms of somniphobia.
Your doctor can recommend:
- Benzodiazepines-A Sedative that calms and relieves you of anxiety symptoms. They cannot be used over a long haul because they are addictive.
- Beta-blockers reduces physical anxiety symptoms. It helps with keeping a steady heart rate, regulating pressure and reducing sleep disorders.
With this in mind, it’s clear that somniphobia can affect the quality of your sleep and life.
However, with proper diagnosis, these tips on how to manage it, you can live a normal life.