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Can’t Sleep Alone? Learn How To Rest Better Solo

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Not everyone has the ability to simply sprawl out in an empty, quiet house and just zonk out right away. Many people struggle to fall asleep on a frequent basis, with these issues only growing worse when they are alone.

For some, all it takes is having another person in the house, though not necessarily in the same room, while others require a co-sleeper in order to get through the night. Let’s look at some of the reasons a person could have trouble sleeping alone and what can be done to combat them.

Possible Reasons Why Someone Doesn’t Want to Sleep Alone


A common reason people give for being unable to sleep alone is an intense fear of going to sleep, which is known as somniphobia1. Some are afraid that something will happen during the night, such as a health event or nightmare, and they will not have anyone to help them through it. Others simply cannot stand to be alone, awake, or asleep, and they may require the company of others to feel relaxed.

Somniphobia, however, is different than sleep anxiety. In the case of sleep anxiety, it’s specifically when someone’s concerned about getting enough rest rather than the fear of sleeping.


If a person generally shares their bed with someone else, they could feel awkward when suddenly sleeping alone. The reasoning for this is that they are conditioned to sleep beside someone, and this conditioning can impact sleep latency2, which is the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Therefore, if your routine changes, it could take you longer to doze off.

This should feel similar to the sleeplessness many experience during their first few nights in a new home or when traveling to a foreign location. This is known as the “First Night Effect3,” which only allows the right hemisphere of your brain to rest while the left hemisphere stands watch.


Cuddling with someone can help produce the “feel-good hormone” oxytocin4, which might allow you to feel more relaxed at night in order to fall asleep. Additionally, preliminary research5 suggests that non-sexual physical touch can improve sleep quality. However, if there’s no one beside you, you don’t get the advantage of physical affection.

A Note from Dr. Raj Dasgupta

“A classic example of struggling to sleep alone can be seen in pediatric sleep medicine when managing sleep-onset associations which is a common cause of chronic insomnia in children. A child who experiences insomnia due to sleep-onset associations can only fall asleep under certain conditions. These children require a specific action by the caregiver to fall asleep in the evening or after waking up during the night. Over time, a child may begin to associate a specific routine with falling asleep and become unable or unwilling to go to sleep unless their caregiver intervenes. Children can also develop sleep-onset associations related to a specific object, setting, or activity. “

Dr. Raj’s Bio

Tips for Sleeping Alone

Before your bedtime, consider practicing mindful meditation techniques. Preliminary research6 suggests that mindfulness meditation can be effective at improving sleep quality by managing certain sleep disturbance factors.

Dr. Kristen Casey, a licensed clinical psychologist, explains more about some of these techniques that could help with sleep. 

“Relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can be used as tools to promote relaxation and decrease hyperarousal prior to bedtime. These techniques are an important component of the CBT-I protocol (first-line treatment for insomnia).”

Sleeping beside a pet could also help you feel more comfortable. Not only could a pet offer a sense of protection, but they can also help lower stress levels7.

Read More: Benefits of Letting Your Dog Sleep in Your Bed

There are also steps you can take throughout the day that could help you rest easier at night. Practicing good sleep-related habits like keeping a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine late in the day could help. 

If worrying is keeping you up at night, consider carving out some “worry time” in your day when you can journal your concerns8, so they ideally don’t impact you the rest of the day. However, Dr. Casey advises that it’s generally recommended people not schedule this time too close to their bedtime as it can cause anxiety before bed. That said, it’s important to discuss this with your healthcare professional to ensure the best solution for you.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper


  1. “Somniphobia (Fear of Sleep)”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified March 30, 2022.
  2. Markwald PhD, Rachel R., Iftikhar MD, Imran., Youngstedt PhD, Shawn D. “Behavioral Strategies, Including Exercise, for Addressing Insomnia”. National Library of Medicine. 2018.
  3. “Neurological Psychology: The “First-Night Effect”. Penn State University. 2016.
  4. “Can You Kiss and Hug Your Way to Better Health? Research Says Yes.”. Penn Medicine. 2018.
  5. Xie, Yuxi., Feeney, Brooke C. “A narrative review of research linking non-sexual social touch to sleep quality”. Journal of Sleep Research. 2023.
  6. Rusch, Heather L., et al. “The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2018.
  7. “The Friend Who Keeps You Young”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed January 9, 2024.
  8. “Daily Well Practice #5: Schedule Worry Time”. Amherst College. Webpage accessed March 5, 2024.