Somniphobia (Fear of Sleep)

Somniphobia is an intense fear of sleep. People may worry throughout the day about not being able to sleep. This worry can cause difficulties with focus or concentration. Often, somniphobia arises from a fear of having nightmares or experiencing sleep paralysis. People who’ve experienced trauma may also be more likely to develop somniphobia.


What is somniphobia?

Somniphobia is the extreme fear of sleep. People with somniphobia may worry or obsess throughout the day about how they can avoid sleep. They may be afraid of what happens when they do fall asleep, such as having a nightmare or sleepwalking.

Somniphobia is a type of specific phobia. Specific phobias are intense fears related to specific objects, situations or animals. Most people with specific phobias know the anxiety they feel is extreme compared to the actual threat the fear poses. Still, it can be difficult to manage anxiety symptoms.


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What is the difference between somniphobia and sleep anxiety?

Somniphobia and sleep anxiety both involve worry about falling asleep. People with sleep anxiety may feel anxious because they struggle to get enough sleep. People with somniphobia often experience more intense fear, such as worrying that something bad will happen to them when they fall asleep.

Who might get somniphobia?

The most significant risk factor for somniphobia is a history of parasomnia. Parasomnias are chronic sleep-related problems, such as nightmares or sleep paralysis. People who have a parasomnia may feel anxious about going to sleep. They have this worry because they fear re-experiencing the sleep problems.

Other sleep disorders such as insomnia also increase your risk. You’re more likely to develop somniphobia if you have:


How common is somniphobia?

Experts don’t know exactly how many people experience somniphobia. Research does show that more than 40 million adults in the United States have a chronic sleep disorder. And more than 12% of adults in the U.S. have a specific phobia. Specific phobias are twice as common in women they are in men.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes somniphobia?

Experts don’t know exactly what causes somniphobia. Many factors can contribute to a fear of sleep. For many people, the fear of sleep stems from:

  • Fear of dying in your sleep.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Nightmares.
  • Sleep paralysis.

People who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also more likely to develop somniphobia. PTSD often causes night terrors, sleepwalking or other sleep disturbances that can lead to a general fear of sleep.


What are the symptoms of somniphobia?

The main symptom of somniphobia is intense distress when you think about or try to sleep. You may:

  • Avoid going to bed for as long as possible.
  • Feel irritable or have mood swings.
  • Leave lights or the television on when you try to sleep.
  • Struggle to concentrate throughout the day because sleep-related worry is so intense.

Phobias can also cause physical symptoms. In severe cases, you may have a panic attack. A panic attack is a sudden or unexpected rush of anxiety that causes physical symptoms. You might experience:

Children who are afraid of going to sleep may also:

  • Cling to caregivers.
  • Cry uncontrollably.
  • Get up multiple times throughout the night.
  • Have tantrums.
  • Resist going to bed.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is somniphobia diagnosed?

If you suspect you have somniphobia, tell your healthcare provider. They may ask you questions to confirm or rule out the condition.

They may ask if the fear of sleeping:

  • Affects your sleep quality.
  • Distracts you from your daily tasks.
  • Has lasted six months or longer.
  • Interferes with your relationships, work, school or other responsibilities.
  • Leads to persistent stress or anxiety.
  • Negatively affects your emotional or physical health.

Management and Treatment

How is somniphobia treated?

Often, somniphobia treatment is similar to treatment for other specific phobias. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Exposure therapy is often the most effective phobia treatment. It involves working with a therapist to gradually get used to the fear. With somniphobia, you may imagine getting a good night’s rest and work your way up to taking short naps.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves talking with a therapist about the fear. CBT helps you identify and work through sleep-related fears. Your therapist teaches you to challenge distressing thoughts to lower your anxiety symptoms.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) may be particularly effective if somniphobia stems from trauma. During EMDR, you remember traumatic events while being stimulated by rhythmic movement. You may be able to process trauma without being overwhelmed by memories.

Is there medication for somniphobia?

Some medications may reduce sleep-related anxiety symptoms. Often, your healthcare provider prescribes medications along with therapy. You may take:

  • Beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal®) or atenolol (Tenormin®). These medicines can reduce physical anxiety symptoms, such as heart racing.
  • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax®) or lorazepam (Ativan®). These medicines are sedatives that may help decrease symptoms short-term.


How can I reduce my risk of somniphobia?

There isn’t one way to prevent somniphobia. You may increase your chances of sleeping better by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Your healthcare provider may call these habits good sleep hygiene.

You may:

  • Avoid using tablets, smartphones or televisions at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and limit processed foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol, which can affect sleep cycles.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark environment.

Outlook / Prognosis

Are there long-term effects of somniphobia?

Long-term lack of sleep can lead to health problems. Consistent sleep deprivation can increase your risk of:

Many people with somniphobia may also misuse substances to try to fall asleep. Untreated somniphobia may increase your risk of drug addiction (substance use disorder), overuse of marijuana or alcoholism.

Is there a cure for somniphobia?

There isn’t a single cure for somniphobia. With treatment, some people’s symptoms go away. Others learn to manage the condition long-term. To reduce somniphobia symptoms, speak with a healthcare provider about treatment options.

Living With

What else should I ask my healthcare provider?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What’s the most likely cause of somniphobia?
  • Are my symptoms related to somniphobia or another condition?
  • What are the treatment options for somniphobia?
  • Will somniphobia ever go away completely?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Somniphobia is the intense fear of sleep. People with this phobia may be afraid of having nightmares, experiencing sleep paralysis or dying in their sleep. Often, people who have somniphobia try to avoid going to sleep for as long as possible. Chronic lack of sleep can increase your risk of health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure. With treatment, many people manage somniphobia symptoms and finally get some rest.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/30/2022.

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