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Jellie's avatar

Have you ever been afraid of falling asleep?

Asked by Jellie (6469 points ) June 17th, 2011

So this weird thing happens to me sometimes. I’ll be nodding off into dream land and all of a sudden this fear of going to sleep wakes me the heck up. Then, even though I’m drowsy and tired I keep my eyes open to stop from dosing off. All of a sudden sleep starts feeling like pseudo-death. I get these thoughts in my head which terrify me of closing my eyes and just disappearing from “being awake” for a while. Unfortunately I can’t explain it any better but feel free to ask questions.

I don’t feel like this all the time.. just on some rare occasions. Does anyone else feel like that? Could this be anxiety related?

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16 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

Whoa. That sounds miserable…no, I’ve never experienced that.
I’ve had some mild insomnia (trouble falling asleep) on occasion that I’ve chalked up to anxiety, and often I have trouble falling asleep the first night in a new bed (I travel for work and stay in a lot of hotels)...but never out of fear of sleep.

I never fight to stay awake at night for fear of falling asleep..but then, I see sleep as a HUGE treat. Are you young? I think having a few kids and a lot of sleep deprivation might cure you of this one! ;)

AshLeigh's avatar

It’s usually not falling asleep that scares me. It’s the things I dream of…

Cruiser's avatar

Yes….when I threw up 2 quarts of blood…the emergency room Dr’s and nurses kept telling me to stay awake…yelling at me to not fall asleep…. I was terrified at that moment before I passed out.

Cruiser's avatar

@nailpolishfanatic Holy had a lot to do with me still being here!

trickface's avatar

I’m afraid to fall asleep when I’ve had trouble falling asleep all night, because of nerves ahead of the next day (something important perhaps) and then just as my body finally decides its time to ignore the nerves and go to sleep, it’s like 5am and it would be dangerous to only have a few hours sleep because when the time comes to wake up, having only a few hours makes it impossible to get up for me, and having no sleep at all is generally better because I can keep myself occupied until the time ticks around for the day to begin.

Excuse my bad grammar and sentence structure/variation here, I’ve had a few drinks of the alcoholic nature – Easy sleep for me tonight!

filmfann's avatar

I have been afraid of going back to sleep after terrifying nightmares, but otherwise the only time I have been afraid to go to sleep was when I discovered my apartment infested with cockroaches, and when I asked my sister for advice, she said “Don’t sleep with your mouth open.”

Michael_Huntington's avatar

There are times where after a bad case of diarrhea, I’m afraid to sleep because I’m afraid of unconsciously defecating all over my bed.
I remember after watching the original “Black Christmas” , I couldn’t sleep for a month (I was 8 at the time)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Yes, it used to happen to me often when I was having frequent panic attacks. I was convinced that I was going to have a heart attack if I fell asleep. Illogical, but it really did keep me up on many, many occasions.

dialectical1's avatar

As a child I had a panic attack that involved thinking (with some unintended ‘help’) that my body was in shock & all I knew was that that could result in death. Being sleepy aided the panic attack, making it harder & seemingly scarier – in an existential way – to sleep, being convinced that I might not wake up and those last waking moments were my last conscious ones.

Even if you don’t have panic attacks, I strong suspect that stress, anxiety or repressed psychological stuff you’re grappling with could play a role. [I’m no expert in sleep & have only a strong interest and a bit of (formal & informal) education in psychology]

Something I’ve found in my own life is how surprisingly interconnected nutrition is with stress and even sleep… not having the right balance of magnesium to calcium, for instance, apparently can cause all sorts of stress, health & psychological complications as well as make it harder to sleep. (I find I never fail to get to sleep easily when taking a good magnesium supplement, weirdly enough).

Have you ever heard of the term Ego-death, perchance? I’m definitely not at all an expert on it, but bit of casual research brings up the wikipedia page on it, which mentions sleep deprivation can induce it, & it can also happen on its own. [Feel welcome to do your own exploring, researching (or even verification of citations, if that’s your thing).] The article talks about it as a thing many find desirable (or even worthy of intensive effort), but I’ve heard mention that it can be one of the most existentially terrifying experiences out there, even for those who end up making the changes it can bring about a major part of their lives. I once even found myself in a strange situation where an acquaintance of mine happened to be experiencing something like that, & it’s not something to do ignore while it’s occurring… in the moment or as a pattern in your life, especially one that’s making it hard to do something so simple & vital as sleep! I don’t know how you feel about psychology, but if it is something like ego-death, it may well have the potential to bring wonderful or very serious new dymanics into your depending on your situation & how you deal with it. We are super complex creatures living in complex, constantly shifting conditions, so it’s not untenable that there’s some undiscovered trigger or combination of factors/conditions that might trigger something potentially similar to that for you, even if not necesarily full-blown ego-death.

Honestly, if reading about ego-death resonates with your experiences or intuitions, I’d recommend considering finding a good transpersonal psychologist of some sort if able – or – just to look for a good book/article on ego-death from the perspective of transpersonal psychology or any spiritual or existential school of thought out there that you can find that seems most interesting (or, who knows, deeply appealing. Whatever works for you).

I have no idea what your conception of psychology or spirituality might be, but if you’re open-minded and concerned, or just curious enough, that’s what I’d strongly encourage a friend to do. (And glancing at a book or article really can’t threaten a solid, healthy viewpoint of being human or any possible spiritual/existential beliefs you may have except for those that entail disdaining/fearing everything not within a limited system of conceiving reality. I’ve found occasional reading about ‘weird’ ways of understanding reality to be a great way to explore myself/life/reality, merely challenge my critical thinking skills or to even strengthen my current understanding of ‘it all’ ... and, if my limited grasp on the idea of ego-death is at all correct, you might have the opportunity, if you’re willing, to grow in unexpected, cool or even life-changing ways that many people spend years in meditation or take major drugs to experience. Weird to hear, perhaps, if it’s just an annoyance or trauma for you, especially if you have little exposure to meditation or never had a conversation with someone who’s tried psychedelics. A thinker* very esteemed in widely, not just by Zen Buddhist monks, wrote this excerpt about it; I have yet to read it, but aside from being an advocate of following your own wisdom & insight and conscientously ignoring other’s advice sometimes despite what the world around you thinks, the author’s at least very interesting and at best brilliant (according to many people pretty smart & innovative in their own right) ... so, no one will be at all offended if the writing style or the thinking aren’t what you’re used to or even not your thing, but I doubt it could hurt to skim it :)

* [ Much of the spiritual path he (Osho was his name) & zen Buddhism advocates didn’t particuarly appeal to me right now (in fact, in all honesty, I’m currently a bit annoyed at a friend who can’t listen to my own goals & challenges in life without seeming to spout of some idea or advice relating to Zen buddhism. Nothing against it, just against it being a seeming barrier to connecting with a close friend!)—yet since I’ve read a few quotes & passages he’s written on much more than just Eastern spirituality, I’ve respected & occasionally enjoyed his thoughts & even writing abilities. If you have your own religion, or are a convinced atheist or can’t be described by either, so long as your open-minded you can’t be hurt by reading. And, of course, no one’s advocating anyone leave their current plans (or beliefs) to suddenly try to become a buddhist monk… but hey, if that makes you or whoever happy, & then that’s awesome, especially if no one compromises any part of themself – mind, conscience, will – in the doing, exploring or believing – or not-believing! :) ]

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Sometimes I think how scary it would be if I never woke up again, so yes I do fear it sometimes, but not often. It’s irrational——I’ve been going to sleep practically every night of my life, yet once in awhile I’ll “think” about it and become a bit fearful of falling to sleep.

I’m sure others have had this experience like I have——You are slowly drifting off to sleep, and you “dream” or envision something scary like driving into another car or falling off a roller-coaster, and you “jump” up startled in bed with your heart racing. Yikes.

dialectical1's avatar

That weird ‘jolt’ I’ve experienced a handful of times in my life. The one time I recalled what my mind was doing right before the ‘jolt’, my dream-self was walking down a path and… oddly, immediately before the jolt, it began falling down. The moment when ‘I’ would have normally wacked the ground – and would have been physically jolted had it not been a dream – corresponded perhaps exactly with the moment I jolted awake.

It’d be a major task to figure out how to begin to research an explanation behind that… was it a) just a normal but weird reaction to a dream involving something scary? b) Or was the ‘something scary’ in the dream happening because of / as our brain’s understanding or experience of its own neurological processes? c) Or could the answer – if it’s possible to find one – involve something even more complex than those explanations/categories can classify?

Even option A) would be an interesting way to explore how much of an effect our subconscious can have on our physical processes. But I think it’d be utterly fascinating if it led to exploring how our brain & our experience of our minds and ourselves can be intricately influenced by potentially objectively-observable phenomenon… or how our minds/selves and our physical bodies and brain interact in probably complex and ways that are challenging and quite possibly groundbreaking to just to figure out how to study!

flutherother's avatar

No, I don’t think so apart from driving home late at night when very tired.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yep. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I went through a phase for about a year where I did NOT want to fall asleep. It scared me! It seemed soooo weird. I think because I thought it through to much. Why would any willing go to an unconscious state and lose all control? I outgrew it though.

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