Sometimes referred to as “sleep dread,” somniphobia is a specific type of anxiety or fear related to sleep that typically increases as bedtime approaches.
Fear of sleep isn’t just an inconvenience — it can also affect your mental and physical health. So, if you’re wondering why am I scared to sleep? (and your anxiety is getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning), read on to learn about the signs of somniphobia and effective ways to cope with this condition.
Like other types of phobias, somniphobia can be very stressful and lead to serious consequences, most notably sleep deprivation, says sleep expert Wendy Troxel, PhD, a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation and author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.
Indeed, chronic sleep loss is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, depression and other cognitive issues, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Signs of somniphobia resemble the common symptoms of anxiety or panic, Troxel says. The main difference is timing: Somniphobia symptoms specifically occur close to bedtime, while trying to fall asleep or in the middle of the night, she explains.
Experts don’t really know what causes somniphobia (or other phobias, for that matter), Troxel says. But one thing is for certain: You’re more likely to experience somniphobia if you have anxiety or a sleep disorder, or if you have a family history of phobias or other mental health disorders, Troxel says. For instance, sometimes somniphobia appears to arise in response to a difficulty with sleep. “Most often we see this in individuals who have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, who over time, after not sleeping well, develop anxiety around their ability to sleep soundly at night,” Troxel says.