Most people cannot wait for the night to come so they can go to bed and enjoy resting until the morning, especially if they have a good quality mattress beneath them, the one that can provide a good night’s rest. But for some, that is a quite scary, almost terrifying experience. We are talking about the fear of sleep, or as it’s also called somniphobia, that can make your life miserable and affect your both physical and mental well-being.
For people who have this phobia, the idea of falling asleep is unthinkable. There is no logical explanation for that, but for some reason, they are afraid they will never wake up because something terrible is going to happen, or that the same nightmare will be waiting for them as soon as they close their eyes.
What is Somniphobia?
This phobia has many names – hypnophobia, somniphobia, clinophobia, sleep dread and sleep anxiety. It’s an irrational fear of falling asleep because of what might happen while you are unconscious. The usual scenario implies a person worrying all day long about having to go to sleep, and then, when the moment comes, their anxiety level is so high that their body cannot relax enough for them actually to have some rest.
It’s clear that at some point, the person will fall asleep, but their resting time will be low quality and frequently interrupted. If that pattern keeps repeating, and it almost always does when it comes to this phobia, after some time, the health of the person will be jeopardized. So, if you recognize yourself in these lines, you need to find a way of stopping this, because it’s not a joke, and it can have serious consequences after some time.
What Causes Fear of Sleep?
There can be many reasons you have this intimidating feeling when thinking about falling asleep. Here are some of them, reported by the people who are having a never-ending fight with hypnophobia.
For some people, the fear of sleeping is caused by the extreme level of stress, based on them not being in control of their own body during the unconscious stage. They cannot stop thinking about all the bad things that can happen to them while they are sleeping. It’s also recorded that some people cannot imagine falling asleep because they are afraid of being possessed by demons and evil spirits.
Experts don’t really know why, but while most of the people have nightmares from time to time, others have it every time they go to bed. That’s the reason they develop somniphobia. As they explained, the nightmares are so realistic and so disturbing that they cannot imagine going back to them night after night.
Fear of Death
Elderly people have a habit of saying they wish nothing more than to one day go to bed and simply don’t wake up. They think of it as the best possible death, because you won’t know what’s happening and you won’t suffer. But some people think of it as the terrifying thing in the world, so scary that it prevents them from having a good night’s rest.
If you find out you are a sleepwalker, no wonder you are afraid to go to bed. The fact that sleepwalking can be not only potentially embarrassing but quite dangerous may create some kind of resistance and fear regarding sleep. It’s not rare that people who tend to implement unconscious actions during the night have this phobia.
So, you just found out from your partner that you tend to be all chatty while sleeping. That can be awkward, especially if you have some secrets you would not like to come out. The fact that you cannot control what you say or do after you doze off can be quite intimidating. As a result, there can be severe sleep dread.
When things work as they should, our brain will slow down our entire body and minimize the movement of our limbs when we are asleep. But some people can experience different scenarios. It can happen that after you are awake, your body is still „asleep, “ and you cannot move. That can cause serious trauma and lead to somniphobia.
Some research showed that after people experienced trauma like physical attack, the death of someone close, war, or pretty much anything that can result in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), they can develop a fear of sleep. It’s not something they can explain why, but they are just too scared to go to bed and cannot relax.
This may sound silly, but if you tend to watch too many horror movies, it may happen, you eventually become scared of going to bed. The stories based on ghosts, murderers, and some other unexplained and unnatural things can make you feel terrified, and with time quite anxious. So letting yourself be “unprotected“ while being unconscious during the night may be quite a challenge.
Fear of Falling Asleep Symptoms
Our body is always telling us if something isn’t right, one way or another. We should listen to it carefully, pay attention to all the details and changes it goes through because it can lead us to the core of the problem. When it comes to sleep deprivation caused by fear of falling asleep, these are infallible signs.
This one is quite normal. If you don’t get enough sleep during the night, you will feel tired and sleepy during the entire day, or at least on several occasions. Daytime drowsiness is a common symptom of sleep phobia. And if you wonder how many hours of sleep do you need in order to avoid this, experts say the number goes between seven and eight.
It’s not strange that people who are sleep deprived experience mood shifts like irritability, crankiness, nervousness, etc. When our body doesn’t get good quality rest, the parasympathetic mechanism shall take effect. As a result of that, there will be a short-term mood disorder, which can become chronic if not treated in time. Try looking for tips on how to fix sleeping schedule that should be helpful regarding all problems that come out as a result of lack of sleep.
Although we often do not understand how important, regular sleep is, the absence of it can make our lives hell. Sleep deprivation can easily affect our cognitive abilities, including memory loss. Our brain works in a certain way, it processes the information gathered during the day, and consolidate our memories. But if it cannot get enough rest, its work may be compromised, which can lead to short term memory loss.
There are so many reasons you should take some actions in order to release yourself from this sleep phobia. One of them is chronic fatigue. If you suffer long enough from the absence of sleep, your body will become exhausted. Your entire circadian rhythm will be thrown off balance, and that is no joke since it can affect all sorts of bodily functions, as well as your hormones.
Some of our body reactions will not so transparently point to having this kind of problem, but if you noticed some of these repeating actions, and you are aware you’ve been sleep deprived, you should think about consulting to the professional.
If you start feeling distressed as the night and the bedtime get closer if you fight the urge to sleep and tend to stay up as late as possible, if you experienced panic attacks or trouble breathing when the night comes, this might be the problem you are facing. Also, if you find it difficult to think about anything else, then the fear of sleep, or have difficulty remembering stuff, it’s possible you have clinophobia.
On the other hand, some symptoms can be extensive nausea or other stomach problems when the time for bed comes, just like the feeling of great pressure in the chest area, and increased heart rate after a minute or two spent inside the bed. It may happen you experience hyperventilation, extreme sweating, and shaking, while kids can start crying and screaming when their parents try to leave the room.
Some people often tend to consume alcohol or some other substances in order to be able to go to sleep. Some have strict rules that need to be applied, like leaving television, lights, or the music on to distract them.
Are There any Risk Factors?
If you have someone in your family who suffered from some kind of phobia or extreme anxiety, it’s more likely for you to develop this specific or some other phobia. Experts are not claiming there is a genetic connection, but the fact is chances are increased.
Also, having one of many sleep disorders or a serious medical condition can be a factor of higher somniphobia risk. For example, if you have a heart problem that can lead to death, you might start being afraid of that happening during the night while you are asleep. Eventually, that sort of fear can lead to sleep phobia.
Consulting a medical professional is the best thing you can do for yourself if suspecting you have this kind of problem. They will need first to diagnose it properly, and then they will help you overcome it. It’s not something that will go away easily, without help, and it’s serious enough to affect your physical and mental health, as well as your everyday life.
How can You Treat Sleep Phobia?
After the professional comes to a conclusion on the main source of your phobia, they will prescribe you a certain treatment.
This sort of therapy includes working with a specialist on exposing your fear and gradually overcoming it. That means talking about the fear, experimenting with some relaxing methods, and thinking about what it would mean to have a good night’s rest. Sometimes this approach may include spending time in a sleep lab or with a professional who stays awake while you sleep.
Behavioral therapy is based on your fighting and challenging the bad thoughts that prevent you from sleeping peacefully. That can be pointed to thoughts about sleep itself or towards the fear that causes you not wanting to go to bed. Often, the therapist will recommend a sleep restriction method, which means that you need to go to bed and get up every day at the exact same time, regardless if you have slept or not.
The medications for phobia do not exist, but some of them can reduce anxiety and other symptoms. If there is no other way, you may be prescribed beta-blockers or benzodiazepines for occasional use. Beta-blockers can keep your blood pressure steady and maintain a normal heart rate, while benzodiazepines can help you with usual anxiety symptoms.
People who haven’t experienced something like this cannot possibly understand what you are going through, the agony of feeling extremely tired but fighting the urge to sleep so hard while experiencing all kinds of unpleasant symptoms. The important thing is not to create a stigma around it, but to accept you have a problem, the one that is not so uncommon as you think and is treatable. Be aware that if you continue to ignore it, as many people tend to, you will keep exposing your body to extreme stress that can and most likely will lead to some health problems.
Understanding Somniphobia, or Fear of Sleep – https://www.healthline.com/