Somniphobia, commonly known as sleep dread, is when sleepers feel extremely worried or fearful at bedtime. This phobia is known to keep you up throughout the night and is linked to disruptive sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Since sleep is essential to our everyday lives, avoiding going to bed can impact your overall well-being.
In this next article, we will offer some tips on how to overcome somniphobia. Additionally, we’ll give insight into why you may be fearful of sleeping and some symptoms of somniphobia.
1. Change Your Mindset About Sleep
It’s no surprise if you develop somniphobia, you might have negative ideas about sleep. You may view sleeping as being scary or frightening instead of as something good for your health. Furthermore, if you are thinking or worrying about falling asleep, it can worsen feelings of anxiety.
Having a positive mindset about sleeping can help your brain associate bedtime with restoration and peace. If thinking about sleep makes you anxious, you can trick your brain, by telling yourself that you’re trying to stay awake. This practice is called paradoxical intention (similar to reverse psychology) and might be useful for better sleep.
2. Establish a Relaxing Nighttime Routine
Creating a bedtime routine to ease your mind before bed is a great way to relax and prepare yourself for sleep. Drinking your favorite tea or reading a good book can help you let go of your worries, especially if you enjoy these activities.
Another thing you can do at bedtime is write down your feelings before you try to sleep. Writing down nighttime incidents, like nightmares or anxiety, can help you organize your thoughts and understand your fears more clearly. You might even start looking at your situation differently and learn how to regulate your emotions better.
3. Try Daydreaming
Though it may sound a bit cliche, thinking about peaceful things is an effective way to put your mind at ease. One way you can break the cycle of anxiousness is by practicing visualization or daydreaming. Instead of thinking about everyday life stressors, like work or tomorrow’s to-do list, try focusing on relaxing scenery, like the beach.
You can also visualize activities that bring you joy, like singing your favorite song or going on an adventurous hike. This will help keep you in a positive mindset and help wave off feelings of negativity.
4. Create a Peaceful Sleep Environment
Frequent disturbances while sleeping, such as noises, uncomfortable bedding, and bright lights, contribute to a poor sleep environment. Your bedroom should be a place where you feel calm, so creating a peaceful space may help you feel more relaxed around bedtime.
Loud noises and intrusive lights may also make it difficult to fall asleep. Keeping your bedroom dark and noise-free will teach your brain that your bedroom is for sleep only. When we use technology or watch TV in the bedroom, our minds focus on these activities. As a result, our brain associates bedtime with entertainment and not sleep.
Also, If you are too hot or cold at night, it may cause you to feel a bit uncomfortable. Discomfort often leads to stress and can heighten your anxiety around sleep. It’s best to keep your bedroom temperature at a comfortable level to stay cozy while you sleep.
5. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Improving your sleep hygiene may help manage sleep disorders or even prevent them from occurring. Sleeping disorders like sleep apnea can cause individuals to develop somniphobia. More often than not, sleeping disorders are linked to poor sleep practices such as inconsistent bedtimes or snacking on junk food late at night.
Some ways you can practice better sleep hygiene include:
- Keep your sleeping schedule consistent: Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Fluctuating sleep schedules keep your body from getting into a rhythm of consistent sleep and can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm.
- Turn off the lights: Try to keep away from bright lights because they can hinder melatonin production, a hormone the body uses to induce sleep.
- Limit the use of electronics: Turn off all electronics at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops cause mental stimulation and emit blue light that may decrease melatonin production.
- Prioritize sleep: You might be tempted to skip sleeping to get extra work done or study, but it’s better to treat sleep as a priority. Pick a bedtime that will allow you to get the proper 8 hours of sleep, and try your best to be ready for bed around that time each night.
- Avoid caffeine before bed: Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep you feeling wire when you want to sleep. Try to avoid caffeine later in the day because consuming too much can lead to a lack of sleep.
Causes of Somniphobia
Somniphobia is characterized by extreme anxiety and fear around the thought of going to bed. For some individuals, this fear comes from dealing with severe sleep issues like sleep apnea or nightmares. Others may be fearful of something dangerous occurring while they are asleep. In this next section, we’ll highlight some of the common causes related to sleep dread.
Underlying sleep disorder may cause you to feel fearful around bedtime. Sleep issues like sleep paralysis and sleepwalking can be traumatic events and cause sleepers distress while they’re trying to rest peacefully. Below, we’ll outline some sleeping disorders linked to somniphobia.
Sleepwalking can be pretty scary for most people. Sleepwalkers are known to injure or harm themselves while wandering around at night. Instances of sleeping walking can become so dangerous they require hospitalization, and sometimes sleepers have no recollection of the event. If someone has a traumatic experience while sleep-walking, they may be fearful of it happening again, and this might cause them to avoid sleep.
Sleep apnea is a common, but serious, sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Individuals with sleep apnea often wake up gasping for breath, and it’s common for these episodes to feel frightening. Moreover, people with sleep apnea may be scared to go back to bed once they’re up. Their brains associate this negative incident with bedtime, leading to an aversion to sleeping.
Sleep paralysis is defined as a temporary inability to move or speak upon waking up or drifting off. During an episode, you may hallucinate (hear, feel, or see things that are not there), which can be extremely disturbing and often results in fear. For some sleepers, these episodes are so frightening that it impacts their ability to relax at night.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders may struggle with insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Usually, anxiety alone is not the cause of somniphobia. Sometimes, this phobia is developed from the fear of what could happen while you’re asleep.
Frightening nightmares can cause you to wake-up abruptly in the middle of the night. Some lucid dreams are scary enough to cause night sweats or increase your heart rate, making it difficult for you to doze off peacefully. In some instances, thinking about your bad dream or worrying about having another nightmare can cause sleep-related anxiety to develop.
Symptoms of Somniphobia
Sleepers with somniphobia usually struggle with insomnia, making it difficult to receive restorative rest each night. Additionally, this phobia can come with some stressful physical and mental symptoms. Here, we describe some of the symptoms you may experience if you suffer from sleep dread.
- Rapid breathing, panic attacks, or shortness of breath.
- Sweating and chills.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Feelings of dread before or during sleep.
- Inability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Severe mood swings or an inability to regulate emotions.
When does sleep paralysis usually occur?
Episodes of sleep paralysis usually happen just after falling asleep or during wake ups in the middle of the night. One of the major causes of sleep paralysis is sleep deprivation, or a lack of sleep. Sleep paralysis episodes are also triggered by changing sleep schedule, sleeping on your back, the use of certain medications, stress, and other sleep-related problems.
What should I do if I think I have somniphobia?
If you believe you have somniphobia, we suggest talking to a mental health professional about your sleep troubles, as they may be able to offer some insight and diagnose your condition. You can also try practicing a relaxing nightly routine to help ease your mind. Completing tasks like washing your face or brushing your teeth refocuses your attention to the present moment, which can reduce anxiety about sleeping.
Is somniphobia the same as being afraid of the dark?
Being afraid of the dark is a fear separate from somniphobia. Though some phobias have similar symptoms like shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and sweating, these fears are not interchangeable. However, nyctophobia (fear of the dark) may lead to fear of sleep if your anxiety is also related to bedtime.
Is anxiety linked to insomnia?
Anxiety is linked to several sleeping disorders, including chronic insomnia. Worrying about the day or feeling nervous can make it harder for you to fall asleep. On the other hand, if you are not getting restful sleep, it may bring on more stress, creating a cycle of sleep loss and anxiety.
Can somniphobia be cured ?
There are several treatment options to help individuals with somniphobia. Some health professionals recommend exposure or cognitive behavior therapy to help work through your fears. However, treatment options are dependent upon the cause of somniphobia. For instance, if a sleeping disorder like sleep apnea is connected to your fear of sleep, seeking proper care for this condition may help you overcome your fears.
If you’re experiencing anxiety surrounding your sleep, it may help to create a relaxing sleep environment. You can start by incorporating activities that ease your mind like, reading a book or writing in a journal before bedtime. By practicing a nightly routine, your mind will be able to associate your sleep with peacefulness.
It’s important to remember somniphobia can be intense and may prevent you from getting the proper sleep your body needs. So, you may want to consider talking to a primary healthcare provider if at-home treatments fail to soothe your sleep anxiety.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.