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How to Overcome
The Fear of Going to Sleep
(Somniphobia)

by Jill Zwarensteyn, Expert Reviewed by Katherine Hall

Disclaimer – Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment… Read more here

For most individuals, going to bed at night is a reward. You get to crawl under the covers, relax, and enjoy some peaceful shuteye.

 

However, for those living with somniphobia – or the fear of going to sleep – the idea of rest is terrifying.

Their reasons for experiencing sleep anxiety can vary.

 

Furthermore, it is necessary to understand that these fears can carry a significant health risk, as sleep is critical for our physical and mental health.

 

Whether you or someone you know is experiencing this condition, we will cover tips on how to overcome sleep dread.

Section 1

What is Sleep Dread?

Section 2

What Causes Sleep Phobia?

Section 3

Fear of Sleep Symptoms

Section 4

Treatment Options

Section 5

Tips for Managing Sleep Anxiety

Section 6

Frequently Asked Questions

Section 1

What is Oversleeping?

Section 2

Causes of Excessive Sleeping

Section 3

Physical Side Effects

Section 4

Mental Side Effects

Section 5

How to Prevent Excessive Sleeping

Section 6

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sleep Dread?

animated image of a kid with sensory processing disorder who can't fall asleep

As mentioned above, this term refers to a phobia in which an individual has a fear of falling asleep. In addition to somniphobia, other names for this condition include hypnophobia, clinophobia, and sleep anxiety. 

When someone is terrified of sleep, they may struggle to doze off despite being tired, or if they do manage to get some shuteye, their rest is fragmented and of poor quality.

What Causes Sleep Phobia?

Disclaimer: We want to warn you that some of these topics could be bothersome for individuals with somniphobia. However, you can click on this link to jump directly down to treatment options for sleep anxiety.

There are different reasons why someone may experience paranoia at night. Most experts say this phobia isn’t of sleep itself but rather what the individual fears could happen while resting.

Chronic Nightmares

While most of us experience bad dreams on occasion, some people may have them more regularly. These nightmares[1] can feel so alarming and real that the individual doesn’t want to go to bed for fear of reliving those visions.
Animated Illustration of a Man Covered in Sweat Sitting on the Edge of His Bed

Anxiety

According to Priory Group, a person diagnosed with an anxiety disorder may have a general fear around sleep and nighttime. They add that people have fewer distractions at night than during the day, which can increase anxiousness.

Sleepwalking

According to the American Sleep  Association[2], sleepwalking is usually first diagnosed by a family member, roommate, or significant other. This may leave the sleepwalker embarrassed or nervous about what they did or could do in the future, causing them to be afraid to go to bed.

Fear of Death

Some people with sleep anxiety may also worry about dying in their sleep. A 2019 study[3] found that men had a more significant link between death anxiety and bedtime procrastination.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is when you wake up in the middle of the night but cannot move; your mind is awake, but your body is still at rest.  Although health experts emphasize that these episodes are harmless, they can be frightening for people experiencing sleep paralysis[4]. As you can imagine, this could cause someone to develop sleep anxiety and to become fearful of falling asleep again.

 

Want to read more? Check out our complete guide for sleep paralysis.

Animated Image of a Man Going Through Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Talking

Most people speak nonsense and gibberish when they talk during the night. However, if you’re harboring a secret or feel worried about what you might say when you’re unconscious, it may lead to a phobia.


Read More: Why Do People Talk in Their Sleep

Horror Movies

Watching a scary film could cause your mind to race with potential dangers that could happen during the night. These fears might range from monsters to more real-world scenarios like burglaries.

Traumatic Incidents

Some people can become afraid of sleeping after a traumatic incident like the death of a loved one, a physical attack, or any other type of experience that results in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Fear of Sleep Symptoms

Daytime Sleepiness

When you don’t get enough shuteye at night, you’ll inevitably be tired the following day. Daytime drowsiness is common in those with a sleep-related phobia.

Animated Image of a Family Having a Meal Together Where a Father Falls Asleep at a Table - Desktop

Chronic Fatigue

The longer you live with this phobia, the more likely you will be chronically fatigued. When someone has chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)[5], their condition does not improve with rest. Additionally, they may have impaired memory, difficulty concentrating, and dizziness.

Mood Swings

The sleep deprivation caused by sleep anxiety can lead to irritability and negative moods. Researchers point out that sleep has a significant impact on mood. This means that when you sleep well, you feel good, and when you don’t, your mood becomes worse[6].

Memory Loss

Not getting enough rest due to this sleep disorder can impact your cognitive abilities, including memory loss. During rest periods, the brain uses this downtime to learn, process information, and consolidate memories. When deprived of these hours, the brain’s ability to hang on to memories becomes compromised.

Treatment Options

Talk to Your Doctor

In the event you notice sleep anxiety is significantly impacting your well-being, you should seek professional help and consider talking with your physician about the issue. A medical doctor can help diagnose your condition and recommend a course of treatment such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)[7] or medications.

A Doctor Listening to a Patient Illustration

Discuss Your Concerns with a Therapist

A therapist can also help individuals dealing with somniphobia, and some medical doctors may recommend therapy as an initial form of treatment before prescribing any medications. According to Sleep Health Solutions, exposure therapy, relaxation techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy are forms of treatment for sleep anxiety.

Tips for Managing Sleep Anxiety

In addition to seeking out guidance from a healthcare professional, there are also ways to help manage your fears on your own.

01

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Engaging in some of these good bedtime rituals may alleviate some of your anxiety and help you sleep better.

Illustration of a Man Sleeping with a Cup of Green Tea on the Night Stand
02

Avoid Unhealthy Habits

According to Priory Group, experts advise staying away from unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol or drugs to help you sleep. Not only could these negative habits jeopardize your health further, but they only provide a short-term solution.

03

Keep a Journal

You may also consider using a journal to document your sleep. Journaling[8] is known to help with anxiety and stress by providing a healthy outlet.

 

You can write down your thoughts and feelings, how you slept, and what factors make your anxiety worse or better. This could help you have a better understanding of your phobia and how to manage it.

Illustration of a Woman Reading Before Bedtime
04

Understand You Are Not Alone

While you may be self-conscious or feel isolated with this phobia, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are others who struggle with sleep anxiety as well, and though you may be concerned about opening up about your condition, a trusted friend or family member can be a great source of support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sleep phobias linked to insomnia?

Yes, the two are connected. Insomnia is defined as a disorder in which a person struggles to fall or stay asleep. Therefore, a sleep anxiety can result in insomnia.

Why am I scared to sleep alone?

Nighttime fears could certainly make you scared of sleeping by yourself. Additionally, if you are used to lying beside a partner, this could trigger distress when you suddenly have to go to sleep alone. This is similar to when someone has trouble sleeping in a new location, also known as the “First-Night Effect” in which one half of the brain rests while the other remains alert.

Is it common in adults?

Both children and adults can experience sleep anxiety. However, with kids, they may be scared of thing such as the dark or imaginary monsters. In this case, experts say parents can help by not building up fears, introducing a night light, avoiding scary tv shows or movies, or providing a comfort object such as a blanket or stuffed toy.

Little Girl Having a Nightmare but Can't Move
[1] “Managing Sleep Anxiety Symptoms at Night”, Priory Group
[2] “Sleep Walking: Facts, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment”, American Sleep Association
[3] Kutlu Kağan Türkarslan, Deniz Okay, Mustafa Çevrim, Özlem Bozo, “Life is Short, Stay Awake: Death Anxiety and Bedtime Procrastination”, Taylor and Francis Online
[4] “What You Should Know About Sleep Paralysis and ‘Sleep Demons’”, Cleveland Clinic
[5] “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, Mayo Clinic, September 24, 2020.
[6] “Sleep and Mood”, Harvard University, December 15, 2008.
[7] “CBT Is a Safe and Effective Treatment for Somniphobia”, Sleep Health Solutions, March 1, 2021.
[8] “Journaling for Mental Health”, University of Rochester Medical Center
Jill Zwarensteyn
Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

Katherine Hall
Katherine Hall

Katherine has over 13 years of clinical experience working in the public and private sector and is dedicated to improving sleep health.

Katherine has a post-graduate diploma in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She spends her workweek at Somnus Therapy with one goal in mind, to help people sleep better using natural and holistic approaches.

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