Somniphobia – fear of sleeping. Causes, symptoms, consequences and treatment


A long enough, quality sleep is an integral element of good health. It is considered to be a basic human need, just like eating, drinking or breathing. Most of us associate sleep with something very pleasant – with relax, blissful rest and forgetting about the problems of daily life. These days, when we live very fast and have so many expectations placed on us, a long enough sleep is pretty much considered a luxury that not everyone can afford. There are people, though, who associate the very thought of falling asleep with paralyzing fear that makes it impossible to function normally. Where does the pathological fear of sleeping comes from and what is somniphobia?

The dangers of somniphobia

The phobia’s symptoms occur not only right before falling asleep – in many cases the Fear arises already during the early evening hours and increases as the night time approaches. Besides the fear itself, the following might be present: nausea, dryness in mouth, stream of thought, breathing difficulties, or even panic attacks. The first reaction of a person suffering from somniphobia is to limit and eventually to completely avoid sleep.

After some time, the insufficient amount of sleep starts having not only physical but also mental consequences. A person suffering from the phobia feels constantly fatigued, their resistance and ability to concentrate drop significantly. Then comes the feeling of irritation, which leads to deteriorating relations with others (including loved ones) or stress related to lower work performance.

This downward spiral might lead to even more serious disorders – Neurosis or depression. Due to the dangers to the body that might appear as a result of long-term sleep deficiency, a person suffering from somniphobia should really contact a psychologist. Trying to deal with the problem on your own, like by taking sleeping pills, might cause more damage than good.

What is also important is to determine the cause – if it exists – of the phobia developing.

First symptoms of somniphobia

During the initial stage of the illness, a person suffering from it might function fairly normally during the day. The first feelings of fear at the time develop as it gets darker and the bedtime approaches. Of course the type and severity of symptoms of somniphobia depend on individual traits, but the most Common symptoms before sleep are:

  • palpitation,
  • increased pressure,
  • excessive sweating,
  • aching limbs,
  • aching stomach,
  • short breath,
  • nausea,
  • headaches.

Curing the fear of sleeping

If the problems with falling asleep occur for a longer time, it’s a good idea to visit a psychologist who will determine the causes and start an adequate therapy based on that. Throughout its duration, the treating physician helps control the emotions and fight the illness. Pharmacological treatment might Support psychological sessions by temporarily suppressing the symptoms, but that’s certainly not a way to cure the disease.

It needs to be kept in mind that the drug withdrawal symptoms might be bothersome. Psychological and pharmacological treatments can also be Supported at home, through rituals that make it easier to fall asleep, like going on a walk, green tea, or reading before sleep. What is very important in treatment is Support of the loved ones.