Don't Let Insomnia Become a Phobia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

People who live with a phobia may find themselves living life in a way that helps avoid exposure to the cause of their anxiety. But if you live with insomnia, whether you realize it or not, you may be treating your insomnia as if it were a phobia. And as the fear of not being able to sleep grows, it can become very powerful and even take up a large part of the subconscious mind-making sleep even harder to achieve.

Sleep is universal, necessary and cannot be avoided. However, you may end up arranging your entire life around your lack of sleep if you begin to treat it as a phobia. And as with any phobia, coping behaviors are eventually put into place, and will vary by individual.

One coping mechanism for insomniacs who view insomnia as a phobia may be to spend hours upon hours in bed even when they are not trying to sleep. The mindset being that they might get lucky and fall asleep.

Another coping behavior is to avoid anything that increases activity levels. For example, someone who thinks they will not be able to sleep knows they will be extra tired after heavy activity. Since they do not want to feel even more tired than they already do, they may avoid exercise, social activities, and other things that will require them to exert more energy.

The subconscious fear of not being able to sleep can become so severe that it essentially takes over almost everything. When a phobia of insomnia is at its extreme, individuals may even come to change their life goals and plans.

As with any phobia, facing the fear is the only way to gain power over it. You can do this by reducing the coping behaviors that cater to your insomnia. You can also force yourself to behave and make choices as if you have no fear of being unable to sleep at night.

For instance, if you spend an excessive amount of time in bed you should start reducing that time down to a more normal 8-9 hours. Or, if you avoid strenuous activity out of fear of being more tired, you should start increasing your activity level a little more each day.

Taking Back Control

Just like any phobia, facing insomnia and not catering to it can cause anxiety. It can be difficult in the beginning. The key is to take small steps so anxiety levels are kept manageable as the fear is faced and eventually overcome.

As small achievements are made and the coping behaviors are reduced, a sense of control can take place. This enables you to begin truly thinking like someone who does not have insomnia. As the fear subsides, sleep can become easier to achieve (I talk more about behavioral changes that can improve sleep in my free sleep training course).

You may find once your fear dissipates, the insomnia is gone altogether. Others may find that while they are not molding their lives around it, they still deal with the issue. If so, a thorough physical with a medical care provider should be scheduled to get to the bottom of your insomnia.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.