Somniphobia is a medical term used to describe the fear of sleep. This condition is a type of anxiety disorder and is most common among children. These children usually outgrow the fear of sleeping as they get older, although somniphobia may follow some into adulthood. Symptoms of this disorder often include feelings of panic, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat. Treatment for somniphobia varies and may involve counseling, hypnotherapy, or the use of prescription medications.
The fear of sleeping or, more accurately, the fear of losing control while asleep, may develop for a number of reasons. Those who have experienced a traumatic or abusive childhood may be particularly prone to developing this disorder. Adults may experience somniphobia due to stressful situations at home or at work. Those who suffer from other anxiety disorders may have a higher risk of developing somniphobia.
Many of the symptoms associated with somniphobia are the same as with other anxiety disorders. These symptoms may include feelings of impending doom or panic, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Dry mouth and excessive sweating may occur during an attack as well. There is usually an underling fear of going insane or not being able to exhibit self-control in addition to the fear of being harmed or losing control of self during the sleep process.
There are several treatment options available for those who have received a diagnosis of having somniphobia. Prescription medications may be used alone or in combination with other treatment options. Sleep medications may help the patient get to sleep and stay asleep in spite of the fear. Additional medications may be used to help manage feelings of extreme anxiety.
Psychotherapy is a common method of treatment for somniphobia and often involves counseling as well as the use of prescription medications. The counseling portion of treatment is designed to help the patient discover the underlying reasons for the fear of sleep and learning to cope with any emotions that develop due to that realization. Medications can sometimes be discontinued after a significant amount of progress has been made, although this decision should be made only with physician consent.
Some patients with this disorder may benefit from the use of hypnotherapy. This process involves a state of deep relaxation, a condition that may allow the patient to respond to suggestions made during hypnosis. Some health care professionals believe that hypnotherapy may help the patient gain more control over emotional well-being and subconscious responses.