If you’ve ever asked yourself: “What is the phobia of sleeping alone” and wondered about some of the symptoms sleep phobia and sleep anxiety are accompanied with and what you can do to alleviate them, you’ve come to the right place. Our article will shine a light on some of the most common reasons why this phobia occurs and armour you with some techniques and tips regarding how you should approach it.
In addition to all this, we’ll also answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding sleep phobia, like what to do when you’re scared at night. With that out of the way, let’s start by defining what sleep phobia actually is and examine some of the symptoms that come along with it.
What Is Sleep Phobia?
Sleep phobia, also referred to as sleep anxiety and somniphobia, is a sleep disorder that entails fears, worries, and anxieties surrounding falling asleep, in this case without the company of someone else. The phobia could also include worries about remaining asleep, as well as imagining worst-case scenarios about some of the things that can happen once you fall asleep. Unfortunately, the phobia is also present when an individual is extremely tired, so your energy levels have no bearing on the extent of which you experience the phobia. Consequently, this leads to a series of negative experiences surrounding sleep and bedtime, which could hinder your ability to heal from the phobia.
Needless to say, having a phobia that’s related to a third of our daily activity can be extremely inhibiting and lower the quality of our life. Luckily, apart from counselling, there are some steps you can take to soothe your fears and anxieties around sleeping alone, which we will explore below.
There is a correlation between sleep disorders and somniphobia. The phobia of sleeping alone can occur as a consequence of some sleep disorders that inherently come with very unpleasant symptoms, such as nightmares and sleep paralysis. For that reason, the presence of multiple sleeping disorders concurrently isn’t all that uncommon in individuals.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Somniphobia?
We briefly explained what somniphobia is and how it manifests itself, but let’s have a closer look at some of its symptoms to help you identify whether it’s the cause of you staying up at night and having anxieties surrounding sleep.
Somniphobia comes with a few physical and mental symptoms that include:
- Having anxious thoughts and fears regarding falling asleep or the things that can occur once you fall asleep;
- Getting panic attacks near your bedtime that stem from these anxieties and fears;
- Having difficulty falling asleep and postponing your sleep as much as possible;
- Feeling tired and lethargic during the day as a result of staying up at night;
- Feeling irritable during the day as a result of lack of sleep.
The phobia also comes with some physical symptoms that are quite common, such as:
- Feeling like you’re out of breath;
- Having heart palpitations and feeling a tightness in your chest (especially if you’re having a panic attack);
- Having an anxious stomach and feeling nauseous;
- Excessive sweating while or before trying to fall asleep.
As you can see, the list of possible symptoms that come with sleep phobia is quite extensive. Some of the symptoms, like excessive sweating, are quite innocuous, while others can be quite hard to grapple with and can even increase the panic you’re feeling, like heart palpitations.
Since sleep is an inherent part of life, these symptoms can’t be ignored and must be faced straight on. Luckily, you do have control over your sleep phobia and there are some things you can do that will help you deal with the symptoms and its root cause.
Before we move on to the tips that can help with your sleep phobia, let’s examine some of the potential causes of sleep phobia and see what the root issue of this phobia might be.
What Causes Sleep Phobia?
One of the most common causes of sleep phobia is sleep disorders. The most prevailing sleep disorder associated with sleep phobia is insomnia. It makes perfect sense that a fear of falling asleep, either by yourself or with someone else, can be linked to the inability to fall asleep. Since insomnia and sleep phobia are so tightly related, the combination can significantly worsen your sleep anxiety and decrease your overall quality of life.
Another sleep disorder that’s been associated with sleep phobia is sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis occurs when your muscles become paralysed after you’re awake and you’re unable to move while being fully aware of your surroundings. If you’ve never experienced sleep paralysis before, it’s just as terrifying as it sounds. It makes perfect sense how such a scary prospect could put someone off sleep and increase their fear and anxiety levels surrounding sleep. To make matters worse, some people report seeing certain shapes and figures while experiencing sleep paralysis, most of which are quite horrifying. Since sleep paralysis isn’t a one-time occurrence but it can become a chronic issue, it can cause severe stress and anxiety surrounding sleep, especially if you sleep alone.
If you’re someone who is prone to nightmares, you also have increased chances of suffering from sleep phobia. Nobody likes waking up from a scary nightmare drenched in sweat, so it makes perfect sense why you would try to postpone sleep as much as possible.
Another common reason why you might suffer from sleep phobia is childhood trauma. There are many ways childhood trauma can occur and manifest itself, so it’s best to be explored with a professional. Whether it’s the fact that you had nightmares as a child, you have bad experiences with sleeping or trying to fall asleep at a young age, or you or your loved ones suffered a traumatic event surrounding or during sleep, there are a myriad of reasons childhood trauma can be linked to sleep anxiety. Suffering from some of the abovementioned sleep disorders as a kid also increases your chances of sleep anxiety in adulthood.
Sleep phobia and separation anxiety go hand in hand. If the child is brought up in a home where it was pretty common to sleep in the same room as the parent until they became a teen, it can be harder for the child to transition to sleeping alone, thus resulting in a combination of separation anxiety and sleep phobia. If the child hasn’t learned a coping mechanism and hasn’t adapted to sleeping independently from an early age, the chances of them suffering from sleeping anxiety in adulthood increase.
Stress and Anxiety
Suffering from chronic stress and anxiety unrelated to sleep can also be a major cause of sleep anxiety. Increased stress levels are linked to certain stress hormones like cortisol. If your body has an excess of cortisol prior to going to sleep, it can make your symptoms of sleep phobia even worse, resulting in a vicious cycle where your anxiety fuels your sleep phobia, and vice versa.
How Is Sleep Anxiety Diagnosed?
If you recognise some of the symptoms we mentioned earlier and you want to confirm that what you have is sleep phobia, the best way to get a correct diagnosis is to talk to a medical professional. Lay out all your symptoms in front of your doctor, discuss some of the reasons why you think your sleep phobia might stem from, and see if your suspicions are correct. Since sleep is crucial for our overall health and mental wellbeing, sleep phobia can be extremely detrimental, so the sooner you get a correct diagnosis, the faster you can start treating your phobia.
Is There a Link Between Sleep Phobia and a Fear of Dying?
Interestingly, experts have found a link between sleep phobia and a fear of dying. This connection makes perfect sense – sleep remains a partly mysterious state and scientists don’t have all the answers surrounding it. Not to mention, the reason why some people are afraid to sleep alone is that they believe they might die in their sleep and nobody will be there to call an ambulance for them and protect them. Since this link is so strong and can cause a lot of anxiety and intrusive thoughts surrounding sleep and death, it’s recommended that you speak to a professional about both issues so that your anxiety is at least partly alleviated.
How to Overcome Somniphobia
Finding ways to cope with the symptoms that occur as a result of sleep phobia is crucial for your overall health. There are several approaches you can take, including trying out some holistic approaches at home or discussing your symptoms with a professional. Here are some of the ways you can alleviate sleep phobia symptoms and get to the root cause of it.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has proven to be incredibly successful for curing sleep phobia, separation anxiety, and the anxiety of sleeping alone. Discussing your symptoms, your past trauma, and your fears with a professional is by far the fastest and safest option for treating sleep phobia. At therapy, you will learn how to better understand yourself and the implications of your sleep anxiety, as well as how to deal with your triggers. Your doctor might include a combination of techniques and medication that will help you unlearn some of your fears and attitudes towards sleeping and help you build healthier habits and coping mechanisms.
Avoid Watching or Reading the News Before Bed
There’s no shortage of bad news in our current times, and reading about the bad things that are happening in the world prior to going to sleep is a recipe for disaster. Hearing about the negativity in the world negatively impacts our emotions and fuels our fear of being out of control, which can definitely be an anxiety trigger. Swap your ritual of scrolling through social media or watching TV before going to bed with reading a book or listening to relaxing music.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct treatment for curing the phobia of sleep yet, but taking some medication and supplements can be of help when trying to deal with the symptoms of sleep phobia.
We recommend refraining from taking medication without a doctor’s prescription, sans some OTC supplements that are relatively innocuous, such as melatonin. If you believe that you need medication to treat your symptoms and condition, we recommend talking to a professional.
Reduce Your Overall Stress Levels
As we mentioned earlier, stress can exasperate some of the symptoms of sleep phobia. Most of us lead busy and stressful lives, and finding healthy ways to cope with the stress is imperative for our overall mental and physical wellbeing.
Some of the activities and habits you should try incorporating in your routine include journaling, meditating, working out regularly, and having a healthy diet.
Clean Up Your Sleep Hygiene
While it might be hard at first, making your sleep schedule as regular as possible can be seriously helpful when dealing with sleep anxiety and sleep phobia. Our bodies love routine, so make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Additionally, pay close attention to the rituals included in your morning and bedtime routine and try to make them as enjoyable as possible.
What To Do When You Are Scared at Night?
The fear of falling asleep is quite common. Some of the things you can do to make it go away include avoiding the news before going to sleep, indulging in some relaxing activities like yoga, and going to therapy.
What Are the Symptoms of Somniphobia?
Some somniphobia symptoms include fear and anxiety regarding going to sleep, heart palpitations, and difficulty falling asleep.
How to Overcome Somniphobia?
Some steps you can take in overcoming somniphobia include going to therapy, taking supplements, reducing your overall stress levels, and having a regular sleeping schedule.
The Bottom Line
We hope our guide on sleep phobia helped solve some of your dilemmas you might be having regarding the symptoms and treatment of sleep phobia and sleep-related anxiety.
Sleep phobia, or somniophobia, is a sleep disorder that manifests itself through symptoms such as having anxiety about sleeping in general or sleeping in a particular setting, having difficulty falling asleep, or worrying about what will happen if you do. Some of the most common symptoms include anxious thoughts, heart palpitations, tiredness, and panic attacks. While these symptoms are scary at first glance, there are some things you can do to alleviate them and get to the root cause of your issue, such as going to therapy, reducing your overall stress levels, avoiding the news before bed, and having a regular sleeping schedule.