Somniphobia (Hypnophobia, Sleep Anxiety)
Somniphobia (also called hypnophobia, sleep phobia, or bed phobia) is an abnormal fear of sleep or falling asleep. It is sleep anxiety or phobia that does not allow patients to sleep peacefully due to fear associated with sleep.
People suffering from somniphobia usually experience anxiety, panic attack, depression, or irregular heartbeat during the night or during their bedtime.
Somniphobia and insomnia are conceptually different but somehow related. Suffering from insomnia, the patient is unable to sleep not because of fear; but simply because he has some trouble falling asleep.
While, in the case of somniphobia; the patient cannot sleep out of some sort of fear related to sleep. In the case of insomnia, the element of ‘fear’ is missing. Insomnia might occur because of extreme happiness or some sort of tension.
Anyhow, somniphobia needs proper treatment that we would suggest in this write-up.
However, before that, it is pertinent to discuss some prominent causes and impacts of this sleep disorder.
Causes of Somniphobia
The causes associated with somniphobia are mental or psychological. Moreover, it is our bad experiences that shape this disease or make it worse.
Fear of Supernatural Entities
Someone suffers from insomnia because he has an irrational fear of supernatural things, spirits, or ghosts. He has developed a belief that while he is sleeping, these entities visit his house/room and haunt him. The core reason behind this belief might be the horror movies, dramas, or novels that the patient is habitually addicted to. Thus, these have shaped or reinforced his belief and fear of supernatural things.
Similarly, another reason might be sleep paralysis that the patient has experienced while he was asleep. The patient might have suffered from sleep paralysis once in life, but he has developed this belief that he will face sleep paralysis again if he would fall asleep.
In a quite similar way, frequent nightmares that we see during our sleep can also be the reason behind somniphobia or fear of sleep. This factor is quite common in children. Being unable to differentiate between dream and reality, they become afraid of sleeping due to nightmares.
Furthermore, sleep apnea (breathing disorder during our sleep, irregular breathing) can also be the reason. Due to this medical condition, the patient might become afraid of falling asleep just because he thinks he would choke and die during sleep.
Whatever might be the reason in your case; the end result is you are unable to sleep. Having sleepless nights will have multiple adverse impacts on you.
Impacts of Somniphobia
Somniphobia impacts a person both physically and mentally in a number of ways:
- It adversely impacts mental and emotional health; i.e. lacking focus and concentration while working, accompanied by mental distress and fatigue.
- Chronic physical impacts like body pain and fatigue are associated with tiredness, restlessness, and mild fever.
- Distress and panic attacks; associated with darkness and bedtime.
- Sleep deprivation is of course an offshoot of somniphobia.
Treatment of Somniphobia
First and foremost, a cliché as it goes, ‘you must kill a fear by facing it’. You can remove any sort of fear associated with sleep by facing it. For example, you are afraid of nightmares, or ghosts that haunt you in your imaginations; go face them. The more one runs away from something, the more it becomes scary for him.
So, you need to change your mindset from that of avoiding fear to facing it. There is nothing out there physically that needs treatment; rather everything is running in your head, in your imaginations. It is your belief that you will die because of sleep apnea. You need to change your beliefs. By facing your fears yourself, you will conduct exposure therapy for your fear on your own.
However, doctors/psychologists recommend various therapies to cure this psychological disease.
Exposure therapy is a technique used to treat anxiety disorders. It involves exposing the patients to their fear or source of their fear but in a safe environment under due care of medical professionals.
In the case of somniphobia, psychologists discuss with their patients their fear and make them imagine that they are sleeping peacefully. It might also involve showing them pictures of people sleeping comfortably.
Further, patients are encouraged to take short interval naps in a sleep lab under the observation of medical professionals. Thus, facing the fear of sleep by actually sleeping will make a positive impact on the patient.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients to identify and change the destructive thought patterns that are actually causing problems.
For example, if someone is unable to sleep due to the fear of nightmares; with CBT, his thought patterns or beliefs associated with the nightmares will become more realistic; i.e. nightmares are just dreams and have no reality. Almost everyone has nightmares but they are not impacting their lives and minds. Ultimately, his fear of nightmares would no more be there.
Lastly, psychologists might prescribe medicines or drugs to such patients. Although, no medicine can treat phobias, yet those drugs would be helpful in treating anxiety helping the patients sleep peacefully for long intervals.
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