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Understanding Clinophobia: The Fear of Going to Bed

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 4/8/2011

Clinophobia is by its nature in the class of phobias that may be more common than we think because some people don’t want to admit having it. Since this phobia stems from fear of going to bed, clinophobics tend to be embarrassed by their irrational, but intensely acute fears.

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    Definition and Ramifications of This Sleep-Related Phobia

    Clinophobia is an irrational and illogical fear of going to bed that is nonetheless intense and acutely palpable to anyone who suffers from it. This phobia is intrinsically intertwined with a gamut of fears related to what might take place during sleep - from nightmares to actual death.

    The name clinophobia is derived partly from the Greek word "klinein" which means to bend, slope, or incline during sleep, and "phobos" which of course means fear. The clinical definition of a phobia is a specific form of an anxiety disorder that has a significant and almost always negative impact on a person's life. Someone who suffers from a phobia is able to intellectualize that their particularized fear is abnormal and unrealistic, yet they’re still unable to control their response to it without undergoing appropriate treatment.

    Clinophobia Comparatively speaking and to the average person, the object of the fear in clinophobia appears more benign, abnormal, and far-fetched than the concern harbored by someone with a phobia regarding snakes, spiders, or even agoraphobia. Yet when you delve deeper into what is reality for a clinophobic, you can easily see how exhausting and pervasive this trepidation must be since going to bed is necessary every single day of life. Spiders and snakes can easily be avoided with a modicum of effort but going to bed is never an avoidable situation in a 24 hour cycle. The fact that eventually they will have to go to bed can be a nagging, uncomfortable thought that pervades their waking lives.

    Clinophobics may fear sleeping itself or a myriad of negative consequences they imagine could happen while asleep, including death. So they will avoid going to bed, but when they do will wake often during the night and could therefore develop insomnia.

    Image credit/McKenna Speith/Flikr

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    A Look at Possible Causes

    The origins of clinophobia in a person can most often be traced back to some sort of trauma that left an indelible mark. Since the human brain is largely an association-making machine, the trauma that occurred is forever linked with sleep and the fear that something similar might happen again is at the core of the anxiety. Terrifying nightmares as a child, some horrific incident that once took place while the person was sleeping, a medical condition, or even just knowing that someone they knew once died in their sleep could all be causes of this disorder. The thought that an airplane could crash into their home while they’re asleep, that a fire could break out, or an assailant might slit their throat, are all examples of what clinophobics might be afraid of.

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    Symptoms of Clinophobia

    The fear of going to bed can manifest itself like many of the common symptoms of phobias do, but it’s always important to note that symptoms may vary from person to person. The following is a list of some of the most prominent physical symptoms as a result of the anxiety and dread related to going to bed:

    • A Dry Mouth
    • Heart Palpitations
    • Numbness
    • Breathlessness, Dizziness
    • Muscle Tension and Discomfort
    • Hyperventilation, Trembling
    • Feeling Sick
    • Unable to Think or Speak Clearly
    • Feeling Out of Control of Fear Response
    • Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster
    • Rapid Heartbeat
    • Full Blown Panic and Anxiety Attacks

    While this disorder can cause turmoil and unrest in a person’s life there are plenty of ways to cope or even overcome the anxiety with the help of trained mental health professionals and finding the most effective types of treatments for phobias. Good sleep is something we all need so get help if you need it because it could lead to even worse trouble down the line.