Somniphobia (Fear of Sleep): Symptoms, Causes, & More

April 2, 2024 | Casper Editorial Team

Fact checked by Jonathan Eilenberg, CPE

Somniphobia is an intense fear of sleep. People with somniphobia may fear sleep due to nightmares, sleep paralysis, or generalized anxiety. This fear can lead to difficulties with focus, concentration, and overall health.

Sleep isn’t always as simple as lying down, closing our eyes, and turning off our brains. Daily stresses or illnesses can keep us awake despite our best efforts to get our nightly recovery. But for people with somniphobia, restful sleep can be even harder to achieve.

Somniphobia is a phobia or intense fear of sleep. In addition to anxiousness before bedtime, someone with somniphobia might experience difficulty concentrating, a faster heartbeat, or even a queasy stomach. What’s more, this sleep phobia can affect anyone—from elementary school kids to adults with restless legs syndrome.

In this article, we’ll comprehensively break down somniphobia, from somniphobia symptoms and causes to treatments. We’ll also include practical tips for this specific phobia and strategies from the sleep experts at Casper to reduce sleep anxiety, sleep dread, and fears to help achieve the sleep of your dreams.

Understanding Somniphobia Symptoms

Somniphobia is a challenging condition because it combines the physical and mental symptoms of a phobia with behavioral habits that counter healthy sleep.

The common physical symptoms of phobias like somniphobia include1:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • A more rapid or uneven heart rate
  • Stomach pains or vomiting
  • Difficulty catching breath
  • Uncharacteristic shivering or shaking

Someone with somniphobia will also often exhibit the following behaviors1:

  • Avoiding going to bed for as long as possible
  • Procrastinating bedtime with other activities, such as video games or cell phone use
  • Struggling to be present during the day due to intense worrying about sleep
  • Experiencing mood swings or irritability throughout the day

Long-Term Effects of Somniphobia

Although therapists can treat most phobias successfully, the severity of somniphobia may vary from person to person. In cases where somniphobia cannot be treated or avoided, the condition can leave lasting adverse effects on your mental and physical health. 

While researchers don’t know a ton about the long-term effects of somniphobia specifically, we can learn from the long-term effects of similar phobias, which can include2:

  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Lowered quality of life
  • Psychological distress

Sleep Anxiety vs. Somniphobia

Sleep anxiety is often confused with somniphobia, but the two conditions are distinct in the type of fear that prevents healthy sleep.

  • Sleep anxietySleep anxiety is fear or worry about going to sleep. If you have sleep anxiety, you typically feel apprehensive about not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, resulting in fear about not getting the quality rest you need.3 Sleep anxiety can create a harmful cycle: anxiety causes sleeplessness, and the resulting sleeplessness causes further anxiety, which in turn causes sleeplessness repeatedly. (It may be possible to overcome sleep anxiety with effective relaxation techniques and adjustments to bedtime habits.)
  • Somniphobia – Somniphobia usually involves a more intense fear than sleep anxiety. With somniphobia, you may fear that something terrible is going to happen to you if you fall asleep or that you shouldn’t sleep because you need to stay alert and watchful.3

The Possible Causes of Somniphobia

Sometimes, knowing the cause of a phobia can help us address it at the source. Unfortunately, experts aren’t yet certain what causes somniphobia. However, if we examine the nature of phobias and the common fears and traumas related to sleep dread, we can speculate on what may cause or worsen somniphobia.

How Phobias Form

Phobias don’t usually have a single cause. They can result from a particular incident or trauma, or may develop early in life as a learned response from a sibling or parent.4

Many phobias often develop during childhood and are more likely to occur if a close family member also has them.2 However, it isn’t clear if this is due to genetics or shared life experiences.

Some of the most common phobias include4:

  • Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • Claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces
  • Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places
  • Social phobia – fear of social situations

Phobias can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, gender, race, or social background. Some people go to great lengths to reconfigure their life around avoiding their phobia. In contrast, others may find other methods of coping with the frequent distress if contact with their phobia is unavoidable. 

Common Sleep-Related Traumas and Fears

Fear of sleep is a common phenomenon for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An estimated 50 to 75% of PTSD patients report frequent nightmares, and according to a 2014 study, those who reported frequent nightmares also reported greater fear of sleep.5

For others, fear of sleep can be associated with the following factors1:

  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep paralysis
  • A fear of passing away once you fall asleep

When distressing events happen involving sleep, such as frequent nightmares, this can lead to an association of bedtime with danger, and further exacerbate the fear of sleep. 

Nightmares can be distressing even without somniphobia. If you’ve ever had a particular nightmare and wondered about what it could mean, there are patterns you can research about the causes and meanings of anxiety dreams

Diagnosing Somniphobia

Do you have a feeling you or a loved one might be wrestling with somniphobia? Your healthcare provider can properly diagnose the condition by ruling out other potential contributors to your poor sleep quality.

Here is a list of determinations a doctor might need to make to confirm somniphobia1:

  • Does fear regularly affect your sleep quality?
  • Does the fear regularly distract you from daily tasks?
  • Has the fear lasted for more than six months?
  • Does your fear interfere with your relationships or daily life?
  • Does your fear bring about other physical symptoms?
  • Does your fear negatively impact your mental or emotional well-being?

Can Children Get Somniphobia?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 50% of children will experience a sleep problem.6 While phobias may often start developing during childhood, it’s rare for a child to be diagnosed with somniphobia. Since only 4% of parasomnias, or sleep disorders, persist beyond adolescence, the best course of action is often parental reassurance, proper safety measures, and a consistent sleep-wake schedule.6

However, children can and often do experience fear of sleep. Signs that a child is afraid to sleep may include1

  • Excessive crying around or before bedtime
  • Heightened fear of being alone during bedtime
  • Insistence upon sleeping in a caregiver’s room

To help kids feel more comfortable and excited about bedtime, a dreamy new mattress can help. Check out our full guide on how to choose a mattress for a child to know what features to look for to ensure your child gets the very best rest. 

Methods of Treatment for Somniphobia

Having somniphobia doesn’t doom you to a lifetime of difficulty sleeping. Like other phobias, it’s completely possible to overcome somniphobia. Types of treatments your medical provider may recommend are exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medications for better sleep. 

  • Exposure therapy – Used by therapists to treat a variety of simple and complex phobias, exposure therapy is the gradual exposure to the source of the fear.4 By interacting with the animal, object, place, or situation that causes anxiety in brief, tolerable doses, we can build up our resiliency to the fear. In the case of somniphobia, this treatment option might start with thinking about a restful night’s sleep and eventually working up to short naps.1
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment option that involves working with a therapist to challenge distressing thoughts and learning techniques to lower anxiety symptoms.1 Talking to a therapist can often help us identify and work through our fears, even when they are sleep-related.
  • Medications – Medications to help mitigate the anxiety and other symptoms of somniphobia are often prescribed alongside one of the above therapies. For example, beta-blockers can reduce physical aspects of anxiety, such as a racing heart, while benzodiazepines are sedatives that can help you relax and decrease symptoms in the short term.1

Preventing Somniphobia

Phobias can develop in anyone, so there isn’t a guaranteed method to prevent somniphobia from affecting you or a loved one. The best way you can protect yourself is to instead focus on developing proper sleep hygiene and healthy sleep habits—something we’re experts in at Casper.

Here are some actionable and effective bedtime routines for adults to manage a healthier sleep schedule and better sleep hygiene:

  • Stay active during the day—regular exercise can relax the body and mind
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the hours preceding bedtime
  • Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed

Conquer Somniphobia with Casper

Somniphobia, like any serious phobia, should not be taken lightly. But unlike other phobias, sleep is not a situation you can avoid with careful planning or vigilant resistance. Sleep is essential for our health and well-being, and avoiding sleep may only make the symptoms of the phobia worse.

Casper can help make sleep enjoyable and approachable, even for those who have sleep anxiety or somniphobia. Experience the comfort of finding your perfect mattress that suits your individual sleep style and preferences. Upgrade to a pillow that can help you wake up refreshed and pain-free, and sheets that cocoon you in comfort and cool your worries throughout the night.

For help deciding on the perfect sleep products for you, chat with one of our dedicated Sleep Specialists today.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. Somniphobia (Fear of Sleep).
  2. Medical News Today. What to know about somniphobia.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Sleep Anxiety.
  4. NHS. Overview – Phobias.
  5. JCSM. A Psychometric Study of the Fear of Sleep Inventory-Short Form (FoSI-SF).
  6. American Family Physician. Common Sleep Disorders in Children.