Somniphobia is a fear of falling asleep. It can occur if anxiety about sleep turns into an extreme fear or phobia. Certain situations, such as night terrors or sleep disturbances, can trigger somniphobia.
Regular sleep is important for a person’s health and well-being. However, for individuals with somniphobia, it can become a source of concern.
Some experts may refer to the condition as hypnophobia. Somniphobia disrupts the natural rhythm of rest and rejuvenation, leaving people feeling distressed and exhausted.
Several factors can bring about somniphobia. For some people, it can lead to significant health problems that require medical treatment. Despite its effect on a person’s quality of life, somniphobia remains underdiagnosed and misunderstood.
This article outlines the causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and possible treatments of somniphobia.
No data is available on the frequency of somniphobia in the general population.
Unlike general anxiety, where the feelings of fear may be broader, specific phobias are focused on particular triggers. This can lead to a heightened fear response.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions, affecting 30% of adults at some point in their lives. Around 8–12% of U.S. adults live with specific phobias.
People with somniphobia have an
Symptoms of somniphobia may include:
- trying to avoid sleep for as long as possible
- thinking about sleep constantly
- difficulty concentrating on anything because of worrying about sleep
- mood changes
- experiencing physical symptoms of panic, such as sweating, labored breathing, racing heartbeat, and nausea
The long-term effects of specific phobias, such as somniphobia, can vary in severity and impact. Contributing factors include the person’s circumstances and level of avoidance behavior. If left untreated, these factors may adversely affect a person’s overall well-being and quality of life.
Potential long-term effects of specific phobias include:
- psychological distress
- social isolation
- substance use disorder
- relationship issues
- reduced quality of life
Phobias can persist for many years in
Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing somniphobia. Individuals with a history of other mental health conditions may be more susceptible to somniphobia. The presence of an anxiety disorder could lead toward developing sleep-related fear.
Research suggests that risk factors for specific phobias include:
- being female
- having major depressive disorder
- experiencing trauma involving partners
- having various chronic diseases
- having substance use disorder
Past traumatic experiences might also contribute to the development of somniphobia. This can include issues related to:
The exact causes of somniphobia are not yet fully understood. However, phobias generally seem to arise from a combination of psychological,
Past traumatic experiences — particularly those related to sleep disturbances — may influence the development of somniphobia.
A distressing event during sleep, such as a recurring nightmare or night terror, might create a conditioned fear response. This could lead a person to associate sleep with danger and lead to heightened anxiety around bedtime.
Additionally, somniphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often coexist. An older 2014 study noted that fear of sleep may be a PTSD symptom related to hypervigilance and nervous system changes.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) is the standard reference mental health professionals use for diagnostic purposes. According to the
- marked and persistent fear
- disproportionate fear or anxiety
- immediate anxiety response
- avoidant behavior
- effect on daily life
- fear and avoidance that persist for at least 6 months
- no other mental health issue causes the symptoms
Individuals should seek assessment and evaluation from a qualified mental health professional to receive a formal diagnosis.
Doctors may suggest the following treatments for somniphobia:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT helps people become more mindful of their thoughts. This can help them to understand how thoughts influence feelings and behaviors.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i)
- relaxation techniques
- sleep hygiene education
- stimulus control
- cognitive awareness
- sleep consolidation practices
Generally, it is an effective and safe way to treat sleep-related problems.
This therapy provides a safe and controlled way to help people manage what triggers their fear. A standard treatment for specific phobias, it aims to reduce anxiety and avoidance behaviors associated with sleep-related situations.
During exposure therapy, individuals work with a trained therapist to develop a hierarchy of fear-provoking sleep-related scenarios, from less anxiety-inducing to more challenging.
Healthcare professionals advise caution when taking medications for somniphobia. For example, while beta-blockers can help with the physical symptoms of anxiety, a potential side effect could be that they can lead to insomnia, which may lead to more anxiety in some people.
People who fear sleep should seek help from a doctor, especially when it begins to:
- affect their daily life
- cause distress
- interfere with their ability to maintain healthy sleep patterns
Persistent anxiety surrounding bedtime and avoidance of sleep-related situations need professional evaluation. Promptly seeking help can be beneficial if somniphobia leads to physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, or heightened stress levels.
Early intervention and diagnosis can help healthcare professionals offer effective treatment to address the underlying fears and anxieties associated with somniphobia.
Besides professional treatments, individuals can use self-help strategies. Some measures that may help include:
- establishing a relaxing bedtime routine
- incorporating relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or mindfulness
- maintaining a sleep-friendly environment
Read about tips for sleeping better.
Support from friends, family, or support groups can provide a valuable source of encouragement and understanding for individuals dealing with somniphobia.
Open communication about sleep-related fears or anxieties can help to develop a supportive environment and reduce feelings of isolation.
Resources for healthy sleep
To discover more evidence-based information and resources on the science of healthy sleep, visit our dedicated hub.
Somniphobia is the fear of sleep. It is a specific phobia related to anxiety. Without treatment, the condition can lead to psychological and physical challenges.
Early recognition and intervention are key to managing somniphobia effectively. Psychotherapeutic approaches include CBT and exposure therapy. These therapies may help individuals manage their fears, challenge negative thought patterns, and gradually desensitize themselves to sleep-related situations that lead to anxiety.
By seeking help from qualified mental health professionals and implementing self-help strategies, individuals can develop coping mechanisms to regain control over their sleep-related anxieties.