Somniphobia: How Can Fear of Sleep Affect Your Life

A number of things terrify certain people, including insects, heights, clowns, and a host of other things. When the fear becomes irrational - a phobia occurs. Somniphobia is the fear of going to sleep. There are several reasons why people might develop somniphobia. This article will discuss what somniphobia is, what causes it, and how it is treated.

Key takeaways:



Somniphobia is the fear of sleep. A phobia is a fear, and somnia is the state of being asleep. When someone has a phobia, they feel dread and anxiety around the feared event—in this case, going asleep or falling asleep. Fear of sleep may be triggered by a fear of darkness, a fear of having nightmares, a loss of control when sleeping, or a fear of not being able to be vigilant during sleep.

There is currently no information available regarding the prevalence of somniphobia; however, approximately 12% of people suffer from a specific phobia. Phobias are a part of the anxiety disorder family and require a diagnosis from a healthcare professional.

Symptoms of somniphobia

When someone has somniphobia, they will feel a great deal of fear right before they go to sleep. They may also avoid sleeping altogether, sleep during the day, sleep with the lights on, or sleep in a location other than their bedroom, like the restroom. People with somniphobia are often afraid they will die in their sleep. They could get insomnia as a result of this.

People who have fears often realize that their feelings are irrational, but that does not make their feelings any less real or important. Those with somniphobia may experience different symptoms when trying to sleep, including:

  • Racing heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Increased breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Nausea
  • Constantly thinking about sleep
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Tingling sensation on the skin
  • Delaying going to bed
  • Distractions while in bed, such as TV
  • Mood swings

Causes of somniphobia

There is no specific cause that leads to developing somniphobia. Most often, somniphobia develops after certain anxiety regarding sleep occurs. Anxiety conditions that can contribute to developing somniphobia include nocturnal panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder.


Somniphobia isn’t diagnosed as an actual fear by a mental health professional until it causes a disruption to your everyday life. Your mental health professional will make a diagnosis based on specific diagnosis criteria outlined by the American Psychiatric Association.

This diagnosis criteria includes:

  • The fear of sleep lasts longer than 6 months
  • It is persistent and excessive
  • You have consistent anxiety regarding sleep
  • It impairs your relationships
  • You avoid sleeping
  • It impairs your daily life
  • Other mental health issues have been ruled out

Specific phobias, like somniphobia, are more likely to develop in people with other anxiety disorders. Moreover, it is more prevalent in women, those struggling with drug addiction, and trauma survivors. If other members of the family suffer from anxiety disorders or phobias, the likelihood of developing a particular phobia increases.

Children may experience somniphobia as a reaction to being afraid of sleeping in the dark or just the monsters under their beds. When it is time for bed, kids may act out and refuse to go asleep. They might be afraid to wake up in the middle of the night and may not want to sleep in their own bed. If your child is struggling with sleep or is scared of sleeping, speak with your pediatrician for more help.

Life impact of somniphobia

People tend to run away from their fears; for those who are afraid of clowns or heights, this is easier than for those who are afraid of sleeping. If you have somniphobia, you may not sleep at all, which can be detrimental to your general health.

People who suffer from somniphobia may experience disruptions to their natural sleep cycle, which can leave them feeling drained and fatigued during the day. A prolonged period of sleep deprivation can lead to major health issues and negatively impact an individual's quality of life.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to elevated levels of stress and anxiety during the day. Additionally, it raises the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and a few types of cancer.

Long-term phobias, like somniphobia, can cause mental and physical distress in their sufferers. It may result in diminished quality of life, substance misuse, and social isolation. Luckily, there are options for treatment if your fear of sleeping is keeping you from getting enough sleep.


Treatment options for somniphobia

Treatment for somniphobia is similar to treating other fear diagnoses. A qualified mental health professional or psychiatrist will often prescribe a combination of counseling and medication to treat phobias:

  • Therapies. Cognitive-behavioral, exposure, imagery, and rehearsal therapies
  • Medications. Benzodiazepines and beta-blockers

Outside of professional treatment, there are certain measures you can take to try and relieve some of your phobia symptoms:

  • Sleep hygiene. Make sure you stay on a sleep schedule, block out light, noise, and other distractions that may keep you from sleeping.
  • Reduce caffeine. Do not drink excessive caffeine throughout the day or close to bedtime.
  • Stretching. Stretch before bed to calm your body.
  • Meditation. Take a moment to focus on deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.

Somniphobia is an irrational and intense fear of going to sleep. This can occur for many reasons but is often associated with anxiety disorders such as PTSD, sleep paralysis, or night terrors. There are treatment options available for people with somniphobia. If you think you have somniphobia, you should speak with your healthcare provider for more treatment options.



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