Most of us like to sleep and look at it as a basic necessity to survive just like eating, drinking and breathing. Many tend to get cranky or irritable due to the lack of sleep. However, there are some people in the world who also suffer from anxiety disorders related to sleep, prominent among which is a condition called Somniphobia.
The word Somniphobia is derived from Latin somnus meaning sleep and phobos meaning fear. Thus, Somniphobia is the fear of sleeping or falling asleep. It is also called ‘Hypnophobia’, the fear of being hypnotized, a condition where the person is literally made to go in a sleep-like state.
The fear of sleep is related to fear of the unknown. Often the sufferer is terrified of what might happen if s/he falls asleep. One fears being ‘out of control’. Many are afraid of having nightmares or fear being unable to ‘hear’ their loved ones call out to them.
Causes of Somniphobia
Somniphobia is related to a host of other phobias like fear of sleepwalking, fear of nightmares or fearing dying in sleep (Thanatophobia).
- Sleepwalking is one the typical causes of fear of sleep. The majority of sleepwalkers do something benign in this state, but they are so afraid it occurs in the first place, that they are afraid to go to sleep.
- Death is also known as the ‘big sleep’. Somniphobes feel very vulnerable whilst sleeping and believe that death and sleeping are unsettlingly similar conditions which leave them completely out of control. Edith Piaf, a French singer’s famous quote sums this up: “I fear sleep, as it is a form of death”.
- Some people tend to talk in their sleep. Most of it is gibberish, but they fear revealing important things or being out of control about what they are saying.
- Sleep paralysis is another cause of Somniphobia. This is the state when a person, upon waking up, experiences muscular paralysis. This might happen several times which leads to them fearing sleeping.
- People with existing anxiety disorders often find it hard to fall asleep. When they do, their sleep is more likely to be plagued with nightmares. Often they wake up in the middle of the night and cannot even remember their bad dreams. They find it difficult to fall back asleep. Such nightmares and sleep-panic becomes a vicious circle: their sleep deprivation leads to even greater anxiety of fear of falling sleep.
- Movies of the horror genre can sometimes trigger Somniphobia. Some folklore and cultures also talk of hags, witches and demons “settling on top of their hapless sleeping victims”.
- A direct/indirect negative or traumatic incidence, death of a loved one etc can also trigger this phobia.
Symptoms of fear of sleep phobia
Panic and anxiety attacks are the most common symptoms of fear of sleep phobia. Such people might display one of more of the following symptoms:
- Daytime fatigue and drowsiness
- Irritability, mood swings
- Inability to concentrate-hampered work productivity
- Tendency of falling sick frequently, having low energy levels etc.
Thus, symptoms of Somniphobia can lead to reduced memory, mental awareness and loss of control. It can be a debilitating condition that severely affects professional and personal life of the sufferer.
Treatment for overcoming the fear of sleep phobia
Many mental health forums are known to help individuals overcome their fear of sleep phobia. These online as well as offline support groups let people share their experiences and contribute ideas or remedies that have helped them overcome sleep phobia.
Relaxing mantras and chanting of “Om” before bedtime are known to help one relax and fall asleep. Meditation and Yoga as well as other mind body techniques like Tai Chi and qigong are all powerful remedies for overcoming Somniphobia.
Many sompniphobic individuals have also found relief by practicing deep breathing. Therapists also encourage phobics to write down their rational and irrational thoughts about sleeping which slowly enable them to enjoy the physical relaxation that sleep brings. Overtime, one starts to enjoy the process of sleeping by practicing these techniques.
Talk therapy, hypnotherapy, gradual desensitization and psychotherapy are other useful and effective ways of overcoming fear of sleep. Some doctors also prescribe anxiety reducing medicines for Somniphobia, but these must be taken as the last resort.
I’m 48 and just started suffering from the extreme fear of sleep a year ago. You are all correct that it must be one of the most terrible phobias as it is a fear of something that cannot be avoided. It has ruined my life and that of my family. I’m trying desperately to find help but so far have not been able to find anyone that can help with this specific fear. I’m about to start CBT and I’m on the highest dose of anxiety medicine but in truth I’m not at all certain CBT will help. It seems to just be a case of dealing with it as best we can. Love to you all as I truly understand what you are going through on a daily basis and I’m saddened to see how young some of you are as I would hate for my daughter to be suffering this. If anyone knows of a UK Counsellor who has helped them please let me know.
Awe, I sincerely hope you seek help! You are not alone in this!
Susan Spalding says
My son died from this manifestation of a pre-existing anxiety disorder. He took a dive from the 7th story ledge on day eight without any sleep, suffering from profound sleep deprivation for months beforehand.
I’m afraid to sleep. People with existing anxiety disorders often find it hard to sleep. Anxiety cause sleeping problems and because of sleep deprivation it leads to even greater anxiety of fear of falling to sleep. I have had this problem for years and still struggling to get rid of it.
Tony Moran says
I also suffer from Somniphobia, this is one of the most terrible phobias and I have been searching for something to work and ease my pain. I am not sure if there is sufficient treatment available and would like to start a society to help each other start to cope with this.
I’ve had the fear of being alone since I was very, very young. I would hold onto my mother’s arm while she changed my diapers. I was always needing my parents by my side. When they would leave my room for the night, I would storm to their room and bang on the locked door. I’d cry, scared they were abandoning. So I would sit in front of their door and cry till i became exhausted. Then I’d go to sleep. Later at around the age of 10 I stopped the habit and began trying to sleep by myself. At the age around 12 I started having episodes before going asleep that’d I’d die in the middle of my slumber. I’d panic so badly I’d cry. It still happens and it’s still terrifying. I watch videos, play video games, and keep myself moving to avoid sleeping because I’m so scared. I’m 14 now and it’s so hard trying to sleep. I’m religious, so whenever I start to panic, I pray a bit of the rosary and end up going to sleep. I’ve already told my parents of my episodes but they seem to think I’m making them up. It’s hard, but I’ll be fine as long as I have God with me.
Hey I think it’s really smart to pray to God. Do you have a pet that could keep you company, that would help you sleep. Maybe try to convince your parents to get you one. Can you sleep with your friends like at a sleepover? I like having my pet with me when I sleep.
I am absolutely petrified of sleeping. It’s to the point where I need someone next to me. And if I don’t have anyone next to me I force myself to stay awake until i can’t, then I cry/scream myself to sleep. I need help.
Hey hun I had this same problem, have you tried anti anxiety medication?
Are you now ok (alright) after taking anti anxiety medication?
Cee Cee says
I’m afraid to be alone also. Meds for anxiety have helped. I also have pets that sleep in my bed. My dogs protect me and keep me company.
You are exactly the same as me, I would cry if there is no one beside me until i sleep and I haven’t found the solution yet.
I would stay awake as i become suspicious that someone is waiting for this opportunity to come and hurt me bad. So even if I try to convince myself it’s all created by my mind; I still can’t sleep, it’s really embarrassing.
I don’t know if, for me, it’s a fear of being alone. If it is, I am not consciously aware of it. But I do know the rare times I do sleep, it’s when I’m with someone I am less worried about falling asleep. But I will put off sleep for days, until I will abruptly fall asleep, often at my desk, injuring my face sometimes falling forward. I hate the concept of just being gone for that long. I have a lot of things that have occurred in my life, many things recently that I have had no control of. I tell myself every day I’m going to focus on this, or get that done, etc. Instead, I’m often spinning my wheels because I haven’t slept in days. Then night comes and I try to stay up, I think because I feel there’s less of a defined line between this day and the next. Another day I’ve just let fall to the wayside and my life is completely destroyed. This is ruining everything I have left.
I don’t have a fear of sleeping but i have a fear of sleeping too much, for example i fear getting any more sleep than 7 hours. But it used to be less until it started increasing slowly. If you know what’s happening, or if it’s just from my messed up sleeping schedule, please tell me and thank you.
How to Start But Ahhhh…. I can’t stay alone at home most probably at night. I feel like some one is following me or someone is available around me. If by hook or crook I sleep I will get bad dreams or thoughts. So I always try to keep light lamp on. I tried not to worry but as time goes my fear goes up.
Help me Please
June Lee says
I don’t have somniphobia but I do wake up sometimes in the middle of the night for no reason. I know it sounds weird but usually it’s difficult to go back to sleep and when I do, I wake up in the morning with severe, debilitating pain in my legs and I usually lay there till it stops which can take at least fifteen minutes. I really don’t know what is wrong with me or how to start looking for a name for my condition so I end up delaying my sleep until 2 a.m. because the less I get somehow, the less pain I have in my legs and the better my day is since I can wake up and leave my bed like a normal person. But this has led me to become more forgetful and lazy since I get at least four hours of sleep when I’m supposed to have more, being a high schooler. I don’t know what to do about all of this and it’s really troubling.
Noah Sun Hall says
Perhaps its for lack of magnesium. I get muscle cramps if i ever forget to take my magnesium pills, so that may help you, too! Two pills a day/600 mg will most likely do the trick.
I fear sleeping because I am afraid I won’t hear my children or husband if they need me.
I fear sleeping because I don’t know when I will fall asleep and when it all turns dark.
I have the exact same fears. I am with you. You are not the only one.
When I was 12, I would get sleep paralysis regularly, maybe once every 2 nights. While I was having an episode of sleep paralysis, I would see things, shadows of things often. These things would walk around my room, staring at me, some would even touch me or climb over me. All of this led to my irrational fear of sleep, it was so bad, I wouldn’t sleep until I collapsed from exhaustion.
This is one of two causes of my own somniphobia, also apparently known too as Nightmare Anxiety Disorder. Like, that is actually a diagnostic psychiatric disorder according to the DSM’s and ICD. So I can feel for ya!
Justin, I know this is 3 years old and you may not get it ever. But reading that struck me hard. The same thing happened to me every night for years when I was small, around 4 years old to 10 or so. I don’t remember when it stopped. I also rarely remember my dreams now. I would like to speak to you more if possible?
I have a fear of being unconscious. I developed this anxiety many years ago and have lived with it for 30 years but it was just manageable. In the last 4 days this fear has become too great. When i am unconscious or sleeping i am not thinking about those I love. I have become scared of being asleep. This is very bad because we have to do it. I believe there is a cause of this fear for everyone that has it. That means that everyone can be resolved of it as well. There are millions of people who don’t have this problem so it is curable. I am actually terrified of sleeping and i believe there was a cause and that there is a cure to this. It has cost me my job and causes me debilitating anxiety during the day. Because of this I am not going to tolerate this much longer. Because it is so scary for me in the last 4 days I am determined to cure this. If I do I promise I will be back on here with advice for those suffering this horrendous mental health condition.
Exactly the same thing for me. Started more than 20 years ago for me. The thought of not being conscious terrifies me so much that at times I resorted to slapping myself to stay awake. I could manage falling asleep with music when I was in college. But so slowly it got worse. Now I need to have something audible on tv. I just watch it and hope to fall asleep suddenly.
I’m not afraid of sleeping per se but the loss of control of my consciousness and the surrender to the unknown. For some reason listening to rocks music like progressive, alternative, etc helps me a lot to sleep, boring TV shows, YouTube and what not basically helps as well. Sometimes I wont have the fear but some other times when I’m deep in my thoughts and have the time and space to think the fear creeps back. So I listen to music and videos to help me distract from thinking further. Even now it’s 5am and I still can’t sleep even though I’m tired.
I was somniphobic, I have now got past my phobia but am left with insomnia as a result.
I became somniphobic as a result of deteriorating mental health because at the point of falling to sleep I wasn’t in control of my thoughts so began to fear releasing that control to relax into sleep.
This built up an unhealthy sleep pattern where I would stay awake until I was so tired that my mind and body would just shut down and I would crash.
A course of CBT and meds got me past my mental health crisis but I cannot get passed being unable to first fall asleep, and once I do, stay asleep. Now the only time I get any real sleep is when I reach that crash point.
Rosalie Bluestein says
Ive had the fear of sleep for years. It comes back and goes away. It was in remission now its back. My doctor took me off of the only medication that worked. My fear is that I will not wake up. or control my mind and dreams. There is nothing more scary than this to me.
Yeah.. I’m only 12 and I’ve never heard of this but last night my sis was already asleep and it was 2 in the morning.. so I turned of the tv and laid down.. then I started freaking out thinking I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning.. and that my little brother who is my best friend and is more important to me than life itself.. was gonna find my body.. and then I was afraid I was gonna leave him because I wasn’t gonna wake up.. so I turned on the light and just sat there crying.
I know this thread is old but I’m so sorry to hear that. I suggest that if it persists, you tell your parents before it gets too bad. Lots of luck sweetheart.
I’ve been having sleep paralysis for about 2 years now and it happens all the time. Before I eventually fall asleep I think about sleeping and it freaks me out because I never know when I’m going to fall asleep & when I’m going to wake up. Sometimes while I’m thinking, I’ll get sleep paralysis because I won’t move for about 10-15 minutes & I don’t even realize it. I’ve always thought I was just being silly but I guess not..
I don’t have sleep paralysis but I feel something similar. The moments before I fall asleep I start having these vivid visuals where I know im awake then even I fall asleep. While im sleeping I have these very lucid dreams which wake me and I remember them, this happens 4 to 6 times a night and sometimes they are scary. Waking up is just as bad because ill wake up tired and going back to sleep is worse. Thoughts on my experience?
i feel the same, I’m now scared to fall asleep, because I don’t want to have nightmares
i feel exactly the same way
I have the fear of sleep, I don’t want to be unconscious. Please help
I feel the same way you do. But it does help me to know God is watching over me since I am a Christian . My dad has been praying for me which helps. I will pray for you and you can for me as well if you would like. Find a good Christian to talk this over with and pray with you. Being a Christian will help you if you are not already so but this can still bother a Christian too which is why I am on here and writing to you since you are exactly like that which bothers me about the being unconscious. Maybe having good Christian radio on softly might help too. God bless you and keep you.. Bob
Philip spence says
Do you think that you could please tell me when this page was last edited. I was also wondering if I could use some content for a project in school.
Thanks for your interest in my website.
This article was last edited on 2014-04-07.
You’re very welcome to cite my work as long as you remember to give credit.
Sleep apnea might be a cause
I am afraid of sleeping and won’t allow myself to sleep or would do my very best not to fall asleep. I am afraid of dreaming about things i don’t like and afraid of not waking up. I have history with panic attacks and anxiety disorder. Now I’m even developing an anxiety for illness, and would see a doctor more than once a month and check up every symptom I might have.
Jacqueline Conley says
I feel the same exact way. I’m terrified I’m gonna stop breathing, my heart will stop beating, or I’m gonna have a dream I don’t want, or having a dream where I know I’m dreaming in my dream and can’t wake myself up. But mostly just that I’m gonna stop breathing.
I developed my fear of sleeping when I was twelve. I had dreams where I was floating in space and after waking up my body wouldn’t move. It was as if when I slept I was as light as a feather, and when awake as heavy as lead.
T. L. says
I had those dreams as a child into my adulthood. I can’t sleep because I am afraid of dying in my sleep. It’s getting worse as I get older. I’m 53.
I have sleep phobia I think that when I fall asleep I will die.. I am only 20 years old now. I already did all checkups but all the doctors said that I am alright.. Mostly after eating or late night I feel that I am going to die.
I don’t necessarily ‘fear’ sleep, I just simply won’t allow myself to. My dad died in his sleep and I guess I’m afriad the same thing will happen to me. I don’t know if this is basically the same thing, but I wish I wasn’t like this. It’s making me fail in school and forget so many things. It seriously sucks.
Relinquishing ALL control and remaining helpless ..what’s not to be fearful of? I get freaked because it feels like I’m on death row waiting for my lights to be switched off by someone else’s hand…feels like I’m at their mercy. Don’t know what will help :/
I’m only 15 and i have a fear of falling asleep incase i take a panic attack and cant scream or move for help. I always have nightmares and its always the same kind of nightmares and sometimes i just think if i fall asleep im going to die. I can’t tell anyone because my family is going through alot right now, i dont want to put more pressure on them. But i have school and i have to study and im falling behind a good couple of years. I can’t study due to tiredness.. Like i want to sleep but i’m too scared to and i don’t know what to do.
After seeing/dreaming whichever you want to call it a demon floating above me, feeding on me, I have a fear of dying in my sleep. I can’t sleep in the dark, I have had people sit and watch me sleep, I have gone to my moms and crawled in bed with her, I have even gone to the ER and had them hook a monitor to me so that if I died, they could save me!
I went through one of these phases. I feared every time I went to sleep I wouldn’t wake up again. Although I have not experienced what you’ve went through. Opening the bible helps with feelings of helplessness. In particular the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Open it to the book of Psalms where God’s name is.
You need to look up sleep paralysis, one of the things mentioned in this article, if you already haven’t. I’m 90% certain from your statement that’s what you suffered/suffer from. If you “wake” up with sleep paralysis, as I often do, just DON’T open your eyes.
I am starting to form a fear of going to bed due to pain that I have every night from peripheral neuropathy. I know it’s stupid but sometimes I don’t even go to bed at all.
I have a HUGE fear of sleep. Mostly because of the nightmares I suffer from. Every single day I have nightmares and I hate it. It’s been going on for months now. My family can’t know because we don’t have any money for help. Idk why I’m telling you all about this but I just feel like I have to get it off my chest.
If you know what the nightmares are actually about, you should try to face whatever it is you’re afraid of. That’s what I did, and my sleeping hours have nearly doubled since. If you don’t remember when you wake up, then you should sleep alone in a dark room. Then, as soon as you wake up, try to think of the last thing you remember feeling, asleep or awake. It’ll help you remember. My parents won’t get me actual help. I don’t understand why.
Eathan Snow says
I don’t usually have bad dreams, but when I do. I prefer dos equis. Sorry I had to make a the most interesting man in the world joke. But when I do, they’re really twisted. Almost to the point where I want to put myself in a mental hospital. If you want to see how bad my inhumane side gets, just watch Frankenstein’s Army from 2013 with the Russians during WWII. Then imagine worse. A brief thought will cross your mind when thinking how dark the movie is before watching it, believe me, if you already get nightmares, don’t watch it. You will never sleep again. But now I’ve lost track now….my ADD started kicking up….well then. Okay I’m good now. Or nah. Okay, so as you can see, my mind is very dark, almost too dark. But when we sleep, our minds become much more advanced than when awake. To the point where we are geniuses. But this also means we abandon our human morals in our sleep simply because existence wants to f with us and say that you can’t have a good thing with having negative consequences. I won’t bother you with that explaination because you think about it, you know it’s true. Now I’ve lost track again….Okay, so now I’m at my solution. The post says that anxiety causes these nightmares or something like that. I don’t remember because it took a long time to type this. So what I’ve discovered is that the reason why I don’t have nightmares often is because I know how to make fun of myself. I do it all the time. I make long penis jokes and I make small penis jokes about myself. I just don’t really care what people think about me all too much. But also keep in mind that I’m in High school, but one of the top 5 in Georgia. I’m also a songwriter and a singer myself. So try channeling your fears and dark sides through your own way, maybe that will help.
I don’t have a fear of sleep as such… but I don’t allow myself sleep though I am really tired and it is three in the morning.. as if I would be wasting my time if I sleep.. as if I were missing on something… this is terribly torturous…
It’s not mentioned here, but that is another cause of somniphobia. Basically, you’re afraid of sleep as you think it would waste time. That is one of the reasons I have it, as well as fear of losing control and nightmares.
Deanie Martin says
i concur i’ve felt this way since i was a child