Clinophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments


The clinophobia is an abnormal, unreasonable and persistent sleep or go to sleep afraid. Fear can be presented as a specific response to lying down in bed or in general, falling asleep in any situation.

Although it is common to find the denomination of “somniphobia” or “oneirophobia” referred to this problem, the correct term to refer to this condition would be that of clinophobia. Derived from the Greek “klinein” (bed / bed) and “phobos” (phobia, fear).


Although clinophobia is not especially known, it is a surprisingly common phobia, affecting women and men of all ages throughout the world.



As with the rest of phobias, people suffering from clinophobia are mostly aware of the irrationality or excessiveness of the anxiety they suffer. However, they are not able to control the psychological and physiological reactions that occur in their body in response to fear.

If the phobia and the reactions of anxiety and fear remain in the long term; the affected person could have real problems in their general physical and psychological functioning, which can greatly reduce the perception of their quality of life.

Causes of clinophobia

As with other fears and phobias, clinophobia has its origin in the person’s learning history. We understand as a learning history all those interactions that a subject makes with the medium throughout life.

When a person interacts with their environment, they are constantly learning. The associations or results that produce those interactions between the person and their environment, give rise to their learning history.

In this sense, clinophobia can occur when there is an association between the behavior of sleeping and some event or consequence with negative charge, which produces fear and / or anxiety for the person.

For example, a child who urinates in bed may develop clinophobia because of the association between these unpleasant events and the fact of being in bed and going to sleep.

Similarly, an adult could develop this phobia as a result of other problems related to sleep. For example, the syndrome of restless legs, nightmares, etc.

Despite all of the above, the most common cause of clinophobia is associated with severe insomnia problems. Explained from the previous point of view, the association that occurs between the fact of going to bed and not being able to sleep, would cause in this case the state of activation or anxiety before said behavior and therefore the avoidance of it.


Symptoms related to clinophobia usually occur when going to bed and trying to sleep. However, sometimes even the idea of ​​sleeping or trying to sleep can cause the person the effects of the phobia. 

Although the association of fear with sleep may be specific to a particular situation or event, the phobia may emerge before stimuli that are initially harmless, but that somehow represent the initial fear.

The pattern of symptoms that clinophobia presents differs greatly from one person to another, often depending on the degree of severity of the phobia itself. A person may only feel nervous, uncomfortable or agitated before going to sleep; while other people with more severe cases, can get to suffer panic attacks and / or anxiety.

Although there are few cases, some people have stated that during the crisis not only unpleasant symptoms appear, but sometimes they are accompanied by an exacerbation of their senses, even claiming to have reached altered states of consciousness or a greater sense of reality .

The symptoms that occur in clinophobia come from two different routes. On the one hand, there are the symptoms that are directly related to the phobia, the feeling of fear and anxiety.

They can include muscle tension, nausea or dizziness, agitation, tremors, hyperventilation, increased heart rate, feeling of suffocation, dry mouth, dizziness, excessive sweating, inability to speak or think clearly. In the most severe cases, the person suffering from clinophobia may be afraid to go mad, lose control, and even die while sleeping.

The person with clinophobia also presents symptoms not directly related to the suffering of fear, but with the decrease in the quantity and / or quality of sleep that the phobia ends up producing.

In this sense, insomnia problems are the most common result of this phobia. The reduction of the amount and / or quality of sleep, ends up causing in these people fatigue and constant fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration , bad mood, apathy and decrease in physical and psychological health in general.

It should be noted at this point, that insomnia can be both the origin of the problem and a consequence of it.


Clinophobia is a condition in which there are a large number of symptoms, which may also be associated with fear, as well as the consequences that this produces on the quality and / or quantity of sleep.

For this reason, the approaches and treatments cover different fields of action. Below are some of the tools that are most commonly used in the treatment of clinophobia.


It is essential for the person to understand what is happening to them. In this sense, psychoeducation can show the patient how the relationship between fear and its manifestations works.

The patient will be able to understand where the problem originates, how it has developed, what is maintaining it and what can be done to control and improve it. For this, the person should receive all relevant information related to the phobia, its causes, symptoms, treatments, etc.

Techniques for the management of anxiety

At present, there are numerous relaxation techniques that generate excellent results in the control of anxiety, such as diaphragmatic breathing, self-instruction training or progressive muscle relaxation by Jacobson.

In his research, Jacobson confirmed that the state of anxiety that accompanies phobic fear produces a great muscular contraction. The objective of this technique is to achieve a state of general relaxation through muscle contraction and subsequent relaxation.

Thus, it allows us to generate through progressive muscle relaxation, a response (relaxation) that is incompatible with the state of activation and stress that causes fear. The state of relaxation achieved through this practice not only affects the musculoskeletal system, but also allows the relaxation of the central and autonomous nervous system.

Training in this technique also facilitates the person being able to discriminate signals of tension in their own body, in order to be able to control them later.

Systematic desensitization

The systematic desensitization is one of the techniques mostly used in the treatment of specific phobias, combining relaxation techniques with progressive approach to the object of phobia.

When the person has learned to control their activation states (through relaxation techniques) and also knows the way in which phobias develop and maintain (through psychoeducation), this technique allows learning to respond without anxiety to stimuli that initially They provoked fear responses.

The goal of systematic desensitization is the gradual exposure to the object of phobia, combined with the use of relaxation techniques. It is therefore intended that the response of fear decreases using incompatible behavior such as relaxation.

As it is not possible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time, training in this technique allows the person to face the threatening situations gradually. This is your procedure:

1- A list of situations that produce anxiety is prepared

First, a list of situations that are related to fear, such as “putting on pajamas” or “brushing teeth”, “getting up from the sofa to go to sleep” or “closing the door with a key” is prepared.

2- A hierarchy is made with the list

After this, the different behaviors are ordered hierarchically, from the situation that produces the least anxiety to the most, assigning scores from 0 to 10 according to the degree of anxiety and activation that the situation provokes for the person.

3- The exhibition is combined with relaxation techniques

Once this is done, work will begin from the situation that less anxiety and ctivation produces. From that moment, they can begin to combine the exposure to the anxiety situation with previously learned relaxation techniques.

Imagine, for example, that the situation that generates less anxiety for the person is “getting up from the sofa to go to the room”. The session will begin using the relaxation techniques learned.

When the person is relaxed, the therapist will ask you to imagine the situation of “getting up from the couch to go to sleep” in the most vivid and detailed way possible. After a few seconds, the patient must indicate the new degree of anxiety that the situation produces from 0 to 10.

Whenever the score is greater than 0, it will be necessary to relax and expose yourself to the situation again. When the situation is assessed with a degree of anxiety or by the patient on two or more occasions, proceed with the following situation; and so on until the list is completed.

We have already mentioned that systematic desensitization as a technique for the control and extinction of phobias has now positioned itself as the most effective tool and produces the best results.

However, we have also found that people suffering from clinophobia can present a large number of problems related to sleep; since the phobia can be cause, but also consequence of a deficient quality or amount of sleep.

Therefore, it is essential to accompany any treatment in clinophobia of correct sleep hygiene guidelines, which facilitate the restoration of quality and / or quantity thereof.  

Tips to have a proper sleep hygiene

Below is the decalogue of advice to establish proper sleep hygiene.

  1. Get up and go to bed every day at about the same time, or at least no more than an hour apart.
  2. Avoid naps as much as possible during the day. In any case, its duration should never exceed 30 minutes.
  3. Establish a constant “pre-sleep” routine.
  4. Take care of the environmental conditions of the room: light, temperature, ventilation, noise, etc.
  5. Avoid copious dinners before sleep.
  6. Avoid the consumption of tobacco, caffeine and alcohol, especially in the 4-5 hours before.
  7. Avoid tasks that are activating in the final hours of the day.
  8. Use the room only to sleep. Avoid work and leisure in the bedroom.
  9. Avoid the use in the room of televisions, computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc.
  10. Spend some time outdoors every day.
  11. Perform physical activity in the morning or afternoon, but never in the hours before sleep.

What is fear?

Fear is a universal and adaptive emotion. We all experience fear when faced with certain situations or threatening stimuli, whether real or imaginary.

The emotion of fear is what allows us to survive dangerous situations. Although there are also irrational fears and phobias, which are fear responses that are presented to stimuli that are not potentially threatening or dangerous.

Sleep is one of the vital functions of the organism. Participates and regulates a large number of important psychological and physiological processes, such as, for example, the consolidation of memory.

Under normal conditions, a person can spend a third of their life sleeping. Therefore, its importance is vital for the regulation of biorhythms, as well as to ensure a good waking state.

There are, however, a large number of people who have problems related to the quality or quantity of sleep, such as insomnia, sleepwalking, sleep apnea (temporary interruption of breathing during sleep), or night terrors.

Also Read: Atelophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

In a study conducted by the Dávila Clinic (Chile), it was stated that up to 50% of adults who participated in the research had a sleep problem. Knowing them and understanding them will help us overcome them.