What is somniphobia?
Somniphobia is a fear of going to sleep. Symptoms include anxiety around bedtime, with panic attacks before and during attempts to sleep. Obvious complications include the ill effects of sleep deprivation: diminished awareness, irritability, and other assorted health problems that result from an unrested body.
Many doctors simply consider somniphobia a symptom of anxiety disorder, but many somniphobia sufferers report feeling just fine emotionally during the day. It is only when they go to sleep that the anxiety rears its head.
Like all phobias, the fear isn’t usually rational. Some sufferers carry a fear that if they go to sleep, they will die and never wake up! The fear may have nothing to do with their actual health either: aside from their sleep loss and anxiety, they may be just fine. A common motivator for somniphobia is a previous string of nightmares, and a resulting fear that going to sleep will result in more nightmares.
No matter what the motivation, anxiety fuels every phobia, and the key to treating somniphobia or any phobia is to reduce or eliminate the anxiety. Some phobias can be left untreated. But if somniphobia’s preventing you from sleeping soundly, it’s a phobia you definitely need to treat! If a leaky pipe is spraying water all over your patio, you don’t grab towels and just mop it up. You fix the pipe so it doesn’t leak all over the patio anymore. Likewise, sleeping and anti-anxiety medications aren’t going to cure the anxiety. Addressing the root cause of the anxiety of stopping or reducing it will. Think of somniphobia as a weed, and anxiety as the soil and roots from which the weed grows. You don’t just cut the weed at the surface to stop it: you have to uproot it.
Seek out resources on treating anxiety. Discover and develop techniques to help your relax, and you will take the first step to conquering your somniphobia. Take up meditation. Cut down on caffeine. Seek out a therapist.
And seek out the motivation for your phobia:
Are you worried about nightmares? Find out what can trigger nightmares and eliminate those triggers. Are negative events and life patterns reappearing in your nightmares? Try to solve those problems in your waking life, so they don’t dwell on your mind after you’ve gone to bed. Seek out a therapist if the nightmares involve bad memories of past events and you struggle to reconcile them with yourself.
Do you worry about dying in your sleep? Think about this: What makes you believe you will die in your sleep? Are you in good health? Are you suffering from health problems? Maybe you worry about dying in your sleep because your health isn’t good, so a logical first step is to improve your health and, in turn, decrease the risk of dying in your sleep. Aside from trying to address those health problems, keep in mind that sleep helps most health problems, and not getting enough sleep can usually make them worse, so going to sleep only helps you, rather than hurts you. Plus, sudden death in one’s sleep is very uncommon. As long as you’re in good health and practicing healthy habits, it’s not worth worrying about.
And most of all, relax! Worrying about your condition only piles on more anxiety and makes it worse. Anxiety breeds more anxiety, and anxiety is the root cause of all phobias.
I leave you with one anxiety management technique and a list of helpful materials: