For most of us, we can’t wait to get into bed and get some shuteye.
However, there are some of us that suffer from somnophobia, which is the fear of going to sleep. If you experience this, the thought of putting your head on the pillow and trying to get to sleep is horrifying.
Things that you may fear include having nightmares you can’t control or losing control of your ability to talk or how your body moves. The irony is that if you don’t get enough sleep, you can end up facing a whole host of health problems as a result.
Let’s take a look at how to overcome a fear of going to sleep.
Sleep Dread: What is it?
In layman’s terms, sleep dread is when you’re afraid to fall asleep. As well as calling it somnophobia, there are other names for it as well, including sleep phobia, sleep anxiety, and even hypnophobia.
Because the person suffering from this is also suffering from high levels of anxiety, they may not even be able to fall asleep, despite being extremely tired. In addition, when you do actually manage to fall asleep, it’s often low quality and is easily disrupted.
People who suffer from a condition like this often have a high level of stress hormones in their system, like cortisol. Having hormones like this coursing through your system can only prevent your ability to fall asleep even further.
So, What Causes a Fear of Sleep?
It’s normal for you to experience nightmares now and then. However, there are some people that will experience nightmares every time they fall asleep. If you’re suffering from somnophobia, you’ll most likely have nightmares that are so vivid that they prevent you from wanting to fall asleep in the first place.
If you’re someone who has had issues with anxiety in the past, then you may very well suffer from the fear of sleep too. You may find it difficult to fall asleep, and you may find yourself trapped in a nightmare most of the time when you do finally manage to get there. You may be in fear of a lack of control when you’re not conscious, and perhaps think that something terrible is going to happen.
The idea of sleepwalking is terrifying for most people. Not only is it a bit embarrassing, but it can also put you in danger, as well. There are many stories out there of people injuring themselves or others when they sleepwalk.
If you sleepwalk and you’ve had a terrible experience, then it’s no surprise that you’re hesitant to fall asleep.
Afraid of Death
Have you ever thought about the fact that you may not wake up again once you fall asleep? While this is an unlikely scenario, it’s definitely enough to cause fear of sleeping in some people.
When we go off to sleep, our muscles relax entirely as we don’t have any reason to move them. When we wake up again, our brain is back in charge of our muscles.
However, there is a phenomenon called sleep paralysis where some people wake up in the middle of the night, and their brain hasn’t gained back control of their muscles, yet. This means that while their brain is awake, their body is still asleep and they can’t move.
The thought of this is absolutely terrifying for some, and certainly enough to prevent you from falling asleep.
Most people don’t make sense when they talk in the middle of the night. However, if you’re someone who is particularly paranoid about what you may say while you’re asleep, then this could be enough to prevent you from falling asleep in the first place.
Watching scary movies right before you go to bed can make you feel nervous about falling asleep. From a burglar to a monster or a ghost, there are plenty of scenarios for your brain to make up while you’re trying to go to sleep.
While we all know that scary movies aren’t real, some of them are so realistic that we can end up getting into bed thinking that the worst is going to happen.
Many people say that they have issues getting to sleep after they’ve suffered through a traumatic event like losing a loved one or being in a car accident.
Symptoms of Sleep Fear
Sleepiness in the Daytime
If you’re struggling to get a decent night’s sleep, then there’s a good chance you’re going to feel tired throughout the day. Being tired during the day is a common symptom of those that have a fear of falling asleep.
The longer that you experience a fear of sleep, the more likely it is that you will develop chronic fatigue. Because your sleep deprivation has become so serious, your body’s entire system is off kilter which can affect everything from bodily functions to hormones.
If you’re sleep deprived, there’s a good chance that this is going to affect your mood. You may find yourself becoming irritated at nothing and moody when you least expect it.
When the body is deprived of sleep, it goes into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. One short term result can be a mood disorder. If this issue is left untreated, this disorder can become chronic.
When your brain is deprived of sleep, strange things can happen. If it hasn’t gotten enough rest for your cognitive abilities to function correctly, you may experience symptoms like memory loss.
How to Manage a Fear of Sleep
Alter Your Perspective
Your mind is capable of almost anything, which means that if you choose to change your perspective, you can alter your mindset completely. If you’re concerned about what’s happening while you’re asleep, tell yourself over and over again that nothing terrible is going to happen.
Tell yourself that it’s okay to have a couple of bad nights, and if something happens during the night, you are capable of coping with it. By coming to terms with the fact that your sleep could be interrupted and your brain is prepared, then you’ll be able to relax and get that much-needed rest.
Have Good Sleep Hygiene
Practicing a good sleep routine is vital to avoiding issues while you sleep. This includes going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, keeping your bedroom nice and dark, avoiding naps during the day and not drinking any caffeine too close to bedtime.
Having the same nightly routine every evening is helpful in telling your body that it’s time to go to bed and get some sleep. You can create a structured routine like having a bath, drinking a herbal tea or reading a book. By having the same routine every night, your body will soon get used to falling asleep.
Sometimes consulting a medical third-party is recommended. Talking to a health professional may get you closer to actually diagnosing the issue that you have and help you to get the type of treatment you need quickly. Treatment can include anything from cognitive behavioral therapy to prescription medications.
Ironically, another way to make sure you get a good night’s sleep is to avoid routine altogether. What we mean here is avoid habits that you may think help but actually, in the long run, hinder your ability to get to sleep.
These can include things like alcohol or sleeping pills.
Release the Worry
It’s not easy to completely let go of things that are concerning you. However, as we talked about with the mind, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Things like practicing meditation and mindfulness can set you on a positive path to disciplining your brain not to worry when you’re trying to get to sleep.
One thing you can do within this is to remind yourself that tomorrow is a brand new day, which means you’ll have another day to try out everything you’ve been doing. You’ll also be able to wake up with an entirely new and fresh perspective.
Embrace Your Fears
A lot of the time in scary movies, the protagonist ends up facing the monster or entity head on and in doing so not making it as frightening as it was. You can do the same thing by acknowledging and identifying your fears, and even talking about them.
This could end up helping you see that your fears aren’t founded on anything after all.
Is There a Connection Between Insomnia and Sleep Fear?
Yes, these two health issues are closely connected. While someone who has insomnia may not suffer from sleep fear, someone who experiences sleep fear will undoubtedly be suffering from insomnia as well.
I’m Scared to Sleep By Myself
Sleeping alone can cause a lot of issues around fear. Here are some reasons why:
- If someone breaks in, you’ve got no one around to protect or defend you.
- If you’re paranoid about suffering from a medical condition while you’re asleep, then you’ll think that there won’t be anyone there to help you if it happens.
- If you sleepwalk, you may be concerned that there’s no one around to prevent you from injuring yourself.
Fear of sleep is actually quite a rare condition. Interestingly, it does actually seem to affect women more often than men. It can also be seen in children as well, but when it’s in children, they usually outgrow it by the time they become an adult.
Either way, it’s a good idea to talk to a health professional if you’re unsure of which path to take to reduce the symptoms.