For the past eight months, whenever midnight strikes, an overwhelming fear envelops you.
Your chest tightens, your heartbeat races, and just the thought of climbing into bed sends you into a full-blown panic.
You’re one of those people who has vivid, unforgettable nightmares. The kind where someone’s chasing you, or you die in a freak accident and wake up, unable to move your limbs.
But you can’t drink a fifth energy drink and stay awake again tonight. Your body aches, and you can’t focus on anything except the nightmares you’re trying to avoid.
Somniphobia is a form of extreme anxiety that revolves around an intense fear of falling asleep or even just getting into bed. It’s inevitable that you’ll fall asleep, but you desperately need long periods of uninterrupted, quality rest. Let’s take a look at a few ways to quell this phobia, so you can get a proper night’s rest.
The importance of sleep
Quality shut-eye is critical for our physical and mental health.
When we rest, our body repairs and refuels itself. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve our cognitive process, memory, energy levels, mood, and so much more.
But for some people who are afraid to fall asleep or who can, but then constantly wake up all night or experience nightmares, this lack of rest can negatively impact their outlook and overall well-being.
Sleep and your physical health
When we go to sleep, our body works hard to repair its cells. This is the time when our system fights the effects of oxidative stress, lowers our blood pressure, and restores our energy levels.
When you’re too afraid to sleep, and as a result, can’t do so, your body won’t get the downtime it needs.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation can make us more susceptible to the following conditions:
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Weight gain or obesity
- Chronic fatigue
- Hormonal imbalances
- Higher glucose levels or eventually Type II Diabetes
Sleep and your mental health
Have you ever noticed that when you haven’t achieved quality sleep, much less a sufficient amount of it, you’re left dealing with brain fog, irritability, and a lack of motivation?
We need sleep to help with the following:
- Mental alertness
- Clear thinking process
- Maintenance of short-term and long-term memory
- Executive functioning
- Stable mood
Somniphobia and anxiety
What is somniphobia?
Somniphobia is the intense fear of going to bed or falling asleep.
This severe form of anxiety can take many different forms, including fear of bedtime or falling asleep, a fear of dying whilst asleep, or impending dread of nightmares.
Unfortunately, the verdict’s out when it comes to nailing down a specific cause for somniphobia. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be a risk factor, in addition to sleep paralysis, vivid nightmares, or Thanatophobia (the fear of dying).
You may experience both physical and psychological symptoms, which may include:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Panic attacks
Six helpful strategies to help you find relief
If possible, try to determine what may be causing your fear of falling asleep.
Of course, this isn’t always doable, but if you can, unpack what part of going to bed scares you. Is it because of nightmares? A fear of dying in your sleep? Is it your room? Or the bed itself?
Here are six ways you could find relief:
Keep a dream journal. This could help you spot recurring themes or subjects in your pre-bedtime thoughts and later in your nightmares. Also, experts argue the act of writing/journaling and reflecting on your fears and anxiety can be calming.
Revamp your sleep space. Make your room and bed as comfortable and inviting as possible. In many ways, this is a form of self-love––allowing you to feel at ease in your, arguably, most intimate space.
If you’ve been wanting to change the wall colour or splash out on a premium-quality duvet, pillows, candles, or an essential oils diffuser, then doing so would be a positive investment in your own comfort, and may put you more at ease once bedtime rolls around.
Avoid overconsuming alcohol or caffeine. Doing so, especially before bedtime, can exacerbate your anxiety and sleeplessness. According to the American Addictions Center, alcohol can alter our serotonin, GABA, or dopamine levels, which can make our anxiety even worse.
Listen to relaxing music. Many of us have a go-to, stress-relieving song, singer, or playlist that makes us feel calmer. Try listening to a relaxing playlist for an hour before bed. This could include your favourite artists or even a new mash-up of sounds like natural ocean or wilderness tunes.
Music therapist Bob Huffman, with the University of Michigan Medicine, explains how music can be healing. "It brings up memories. It takes us back to places and times that we remember fondly. And it's healing in that way. Music has a way to let us express our feelings and emotions where sometimes words fall short."
Consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist to discuss a treatment plan that may include:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy
- Exposure therapy (where you’ll gradually face your fear with the help of a professional)
- Anti-anxiety medication such as a Benzodiazepine or BETA blocker
Take a natural adaptogen or sleep aid supplement. Did you know there are numerous, all-natural adaptogens (stress-relieving/anxiety-reducing) or nootropics (cognitive enhancers) that can help you cope with anxiety and all those sleepless nights?
Natural nootropics for better sleep
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) comes from a blooming plant that’s part of the ginger family. Its primary active ingredient, Curcumin, is an antioxidant and antiinflammatory touted for its calming effects.
Can it relieve my anxiety, so I can sleep?
The curcumin in turmeric can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. In particular, research shows it can impact our dopamine and serotonin, two key players when it comes to our sleep quality, mood balance, and overall well-being.
How should I take it?
Besides enjoying it in a delicious curry dish or a teaspoon in a mug full of warm milk before bedtime, or in a speciality latte, you can also find Turmeric in capsule form at most health and wellness shops, worldwide.
Used as a tonic and calming agent for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) comes from the leaves and/or roots of this flowering evergreen shrub.
One of the purest forms of Ashwagandha comes from the roots alone, as in KSM-66 Ashwagandha. Its toxin-free form can deliver maximum benefits compared to other Ashwagandha supplements on the market.
Sometimes called poison gooseberry, Indian Ginseng, or winter cherry, this plant grows in India, several countries in Africa, and across the Middle East.
Can it relieve my anxiety, so I can sleep?
Because Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it can help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety by lowering our cortisol levels, it may be able to help you relax by taking the edge off enough for you to fall asleep.
It may also help you fall asleep sooner and remain asleep throughout the night.
How should I take it?
Ashwagandha is available in many forms, including: capsules, powder, liquid extract, tincture, and as a gummy.
If you aren’t keen on taking a capsule, you could consider purchasing the powder form and spooning one to two teaspoons into your morning or pre-workout smoothie or later in your lunch-time soup or stew. An average dose weighs in at approximately 500 mg daily for up to 3 months.
Ready to wage war on your fear and get the sleep you deserve?
No matter how many sleepless nights you endure, you may find comfort in knowing that you will eventually fall asleep.
Your body needs to do so for survival. But when it comes to somniphobia, these aren’t exactly comforting words.
What could bring you relief, however, is an all-natural calming sleep aid that may relax you enough to drift into a peaceful slumber.
Earths Secret’s Sleep Complex blends five, all-natural, vegan-friendly supplements that can help you relax before bedtime and help you stay asleep longer throughout the night: affron Saffron extract, Montmorency tart cherry, Organic Passionflower, Organic lavender, and Organic chamomile.
Extreme anxiety about falling asleep may be out of your control, but choosing a premium, all-natural supplement to combat it is well within your grasp. Do what you can, one step at a time, starting with a science-backed supplement at your bedside.