Clinophobia (fear of sleeping): causes, symptoms and treatment

Clinophobia is an irrational phobia, people with the disease feel an unwarranted fear of sleeping or going to bed.. This fear can manifest as a concrete response to bed rest or, more generically, to sleep in any setting.

    What is clinophobia?

    This phobia is also often referred to as “onirophobia” or “somniphobia”, although they have distinct nuances. The term clinophobia refers to the fear of going to bed and comes from the Greek klinein (bed) and phobos (fear).

    While fear of going to bed is generally not a well-known or studied disorder, we are dealing with a very common phobia that affects people of all ages and from all social and cultural backgrounds.

    As with the vast majority of phobias that humans suffer from, people with clinophobia are aware that their fear of falling asleep is unwarranted and causes them irrational anxiety. however, they cannot handle those psychological and physiological sensations their brain produces in response to fear, So that they enter a vicious circle.

    If this phobia is left untreated and continues over time, the person can start to worsen both physically and psychologically and their well-being can be seriously threatened.

    the causes

    As is often the case with most phobias and fears, clinophobia arises from certain events in an individual’s learning. The associations that the person makes with their environment give rise to their learning history, and in the case of these patients, they may have associated some negative feelings with the behavior of sleeping or going to bed. It generates fear, anxiety and eventually leads to phobia.

    Several traumatic childhood events can eventually lead to this phobia. For example, a child who gets wet in bed (bedwetting) may develop clinophobia by connecting these two events to low self-esteem and unpleasant sensations: lying down to sleep and involuntarily urinating during sleep.

    In adults, nightmares, bruxism, restless legs syndrome, certain types of sleep breathing disorders, and other psychological and medical conditions can also lead to clinophobia.

    However, the truth is that the most common cause of clinophobia is related to chronic and severe insomnia problems. Also due to the psychological association, those affected associate lying down with the bad psychological experience of insomnia, a situation that causes anxiety and therefore avoidance.


    Symptoms of this phobia usually appear at bedtime or in bed, when trying to fall asleep. Anyway, there are cases where the mere thought of sleeping can generate anxiety and nervousness.

    The most common symptoms are restlessness, nervousness, and discomfort around bedtime. In more severe cases, those affected can suffer from severe anxiety and even panic attacks.

    In isolated cases, some patients have reported that during nervous breakdowns associated with clinophobia, they may experience symptoms such as sharpening of their senses, even stating altered states of consciousness.

    As with any phobia, fear and anxiety are the two most common symptoms. Also note: nausea and dizziness, restlessness, muscle tension, hyperventilation, hot flashes, tremors, dry mouth, dizziness, sweating, confusion … In severe cases, the affected person may be afraid of losing control or even die while sleeping. .

    Of course, patients also experience lower quality and quantity of sleep, and this phobia may be correlated with medical issues, such as insomnia, listlessness, decreased quality of life … in that sense. , it is necessary to emphasize that insomnia can be both the cause of the problem and a consequence of the phobia.

    Treatment and therapy

    Clinophobia is a phobic disorder in which a number of persistent symptoms appear, related to fear and anxiety., As well as the effects they generate on the quality and quantity of sleep. Hence, it is also common to be associated with problems with insomnia.

    In this sense, different therapeutic approaches seek to combat the phobia from different angles. Let’s get to know some of the most common forms of therapy and tools used to treat clinophobia.

    1. Anxiety management techniques

    It is more and more common for people to practice relaxation techniques. Some are very straightforward and have great effects on anxiety management. Breathing techniques and other techniques proposed by psychologists have been of particular interest in this area.

    2. Psychoeducation

    If the patient is fully aware of the psychological and physiological mechanisms behind their irrational fear, it will be easier for them to understand the ways in which they are able to reduce their discomfort and fear.

    With this tool, the patient is able to understand the causes of the phobia, how it was generated, what factors limit his ability to overcome it and lots of psychological tips to deal with it. To this end, the patient must be provided with all relevant information related to clinophobia.

    3. Systematic desensitization

    Another effective technique for treating specific phobias is systematic desensitization. It is a combination of relaxation techniques with a progressive approach to the object, situation or context that is causing the phobia.

    This technique allows you to go to bed without the presence of anxiety and the bad feelings that were associated with this behavior.

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