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Understanding Fears Within - Somniphobia

Welcome or welcome back.

Hello readers,

Welcome or welcome back. In one of the earlier articles, through a series of details, images and videos, we understood how fear works. Also, that fear is one of the primitive ways of survival which we as living beings have developed over the period of time based on our surroundings and threats that lurk around it. For example, when in the woods, though our peripheral vision is not as strong as many other creatures, we are able to sense the presence since at such times we become more attentive to what’s going on around us as compared to when we are working in an office surrounded by known group of people and familiar elements.

During this evolution of fears, there are a lot of such which are mostly considered to be irrational as they seem to be exaggerating the response. However, the majority of them, if not all, have some deep rooted reasons often based on real life experiences one has had which could have induced them. These fears in clinical terms are collectively known as phobias. In this article, we will be looking at one such phobia related to sleep that haunts more people than you think. Also, we will try to understand it through a simple mental exercise.


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Insomnia:

Most of us are familiar with the term insomnia. It is often referred to when a person is not able to sleep. However, it is also overused and often incorrectly or under false pretenses. For example, a lot of people prefer to work at night, especially when they’re doing something that needs creativity which can be achieved by focusing on the task solely without any distractions. This is since during night time the environment as a whole is calm with lesser noises and even social distractions.We often associate such behavior with insomnia, since humans are largely expected to diurnal working efficiently during the day time and rest after dark. But such people who are comfortable working during night times, usually, rest during day time or take short naps in between work like Nikolai Tesla.

This may not be the case with all, though. The fear we are going to discuss in this article can be considered to be one of the major reasons behind insomnia.

Inability to Sleep

Why do you need to know its origin at this point? the phobia related to sleep we are talking about is called Somniphobia. Any individual suffering from this, feels extreme anxiety due to some object or situation which he or she considers to be dangerous while he’s asleep. Such anxiety doesn’t let a person sleep at all, despite being physically and mentally exhausted. This phobia in some cases is inherited or acquired through family member’s fears, or gained through some traumatic personal experiences like terrifying recurring nightmares, or even as a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) especially in people who have worked or are working in dangerous environments which constantly presents life threatening situations like that in military.

While some of the reasons behind Somniphobia seem reasonable, some may sound irrational to non-sufferers. In order to understand their situation, we will do a quick mental experiment.

Quick Mental Exercise

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Imagine you are sitting all alone by yourself in a room or in nature. Next, think of an object or situation or creature in the presence of which you feel uncomfortable or afraid. Now, close your eyes and try to feel that object or creature right beside you, so close you can feel its energy on your skin. Did you get the chills? This is the kind of experience people suffering from Somniphobia have, but they anticipate it to happen during their sleep at which time we are most vulnerable.

Effects of Somniphobia:

Sleep is an essential part of our routine during which our bodies rest, relaxing the muscles and neurons while also regaining the energy to get up and perform more efficiently later. Since one suffering from this phobia doesn’t get enough shut eye, they can experience a lot of adverse effects, physically as well as mentally like the ones listed below:

  • Lack of focus
  • Decreasing quality of work
  • Decreasing productivity
  • Constantly feeling exhausted and tired
  • Reduced metabolism
  • Heightened risk of Heart Attack
  • And many more.
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Russian Sleep Experiment

Below is a short video of adverse effects 5 people had experienced during the Russian Sleep experiment where they were deprived of sleep for days while being fed regularly.

Symptoms of Somniphobia:

As we discussed above, the person experiencing this feels greater anxiety and panic. Hence the symptoms are very similar which are mentioned below:

  • Palpitation (faster heartbeats)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • And other such.

Ways to Cure Somniphobia:

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Somniphobia, like many others, is treated mostly using a couple of types of therapies.

  1. Exposure Therapy: This is one of the most commonly used and effective therapies as per many sources and studies with success ratio of upto 90% in treating phobias. During this therapy, professionals, first of all, identify the primary cause of such behaviour in their patients - object or situation. Afterwards, they expose the patients to those objects or situations step-by-step while increasing the intensity or proximity in real life or virtually. While doing so they help the patients to rationalize their understanding of the object or situation thereby slowly decreasing patients’ anxiety levels at each stage. This cycle continues until patients are mostly comfortable in the presence of those things or scenarios.
  2. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: This is another form of therapy which has often proven to be as effective in curing such conditions. During its sessions, similar to previous therapy, professionals identify the reasons behind birth and growth of such phobias in their patients. Later, through various stages, they help patients understand and become comfortable with those objects or situations by restructuring their thought processes, feelings as well as responses towards the stimulus until patients are entirely gained a positive approach.

While these two types of therapies are majorly used, there may be cases where professionals opt to go for medication.

Stay Vigilant and Act Fast

Thus, though Somniphobia can be deadly, there are ways to cure it. Hence, if you, or anyone you know is suffering from this or demonstrating similar symptoms when it comes to sleeping, please approach the professionals as soon as possible.

Content in this series of articles is for knowledge sharing and spreading awareness only.


Regards

Until next time.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 NISARG MEHTA

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