Some may venture to brush aside their feelings by calling it insomnia, but for those who fear going to sleep the real term is Somniphobia and the anxiety seems unrelenting.
Consider this partial note from Eliza a teen from Australia who shared her experiences via Sleepnet.com, “I’m afraid when I go to sleep I’m not going to wake up. When I was 10 I had this fear but it went away. This problem has really started to get bad in the past 9 months. It is so bad I’m afraid to sleep by myself in my room, in case something/someone breaks in and kills me in my sleep or I die in my sleep and never wake up. Its not that I don’t enjoy sleep, it’s just I’m so afraid and then this fear leads to a massive anxiety attack.. and it’s really hard. I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel as if I’ve lost all control over sleep. I’m a wreck and I’m so scared at night to sleep. I cry every night before I go to bed because this fear is SO intense.”
Did you know that a large percentage of individuals who have other phobias will also indicate they have a fear of going to sleep? Some reports indicate significant sleep anxiety in as many as 80% of patience who experience a separate phobia. There may be the belief that whatever fears they have can cause problems for them when they aren’t awake to protect themselves.
What Causes Somniphobia
This is one fear that can be brought on by experiences we may have little control over. Nightmares or night terrors are often the source for the long-term anxiety experienced by somniphobes. Many of these instances begin in childhood and terrorize the sleep of individuals throughout their lives.
These experiences are often not based in instances that have actually happened, but are real in dreams. In order to resist having the dreams a somniphobe may work to remain coherent long after they should be asleep.
An individual with this affliction may respond like Eliza above who wants someone in the room with her if she is going to feel comfortable enough to sleep. They may spend hours in front of a television watching things that don’t interest them in an effort to stay awake. They may rely on caffeine to sustain them during the day, but the sleep deprivation will take its toll in health issues and mental stress.
Other general symptoms include…
- Increased body temperature
- Feeling deprived of air
- Feeling trapped
- Rapid heartbeat
- Panic attack
Those who suffer from Somniphobia will admit they need sleep. They may even want to sleep, but they feel as if they will be harmed in some way if they allow their guard to drop in favor of sleep.
Overcoming the Fear of Going to Sleep
One suggestion for reducing the fear associated with Somniphobia is to retrain your mind to reset its fear level following a nightmare or night terror. The truth is in most cases the anxiety associated with bad dreams is not an every night occurrence. If you can reset the point of fear it may be possible to get a better night’s sleep more often.
Therapy is another viable alternative for those who need an empathetic ear to help them through a time of personal fear crisis.
Have you experienced this fear? Are you experiencing it now? What seems to bring it on and how do you typically respond?