The causes of nyctophobia can be debilitating. Not only do they debilitate, but they can also prevent one from functioning in their day-to-day life. Being afraid of the dark can affect people of all ages. But if we learn how to deal with that, there are strategies you can put into place to get the sleep you deserve
What is Nyctophobia
Nyctophobia is when someone is afraid of the night or when darkness falls. This term describes the symptoms of anxiety and depression a person feels. It’s when they feel complete fear, which is excessive and affects their day-to-day life.
Although being afraid is part of childhood development, some adults will fall into the type of phobia as well. When someone’s concern for fear becomes overbearing, our hyper-protective mechanism can be designated as nyctophobia.
Who Does Nyctophobia Affect
Most kids are afraid of the dark. Have you ever noticed as a parent that if you turn off the light of a young child’s room, what is their reaction?
Kids have a wild imagination. Can you imagine all the monsters they must conjure up as they try to sleep? All those thoughts are floating around in their head of their toys being taken away, getting kidnapped, or their parents dying.
These fears prevent children from falling asleep. Their brains equate darkness with frightening thoughts of unlimited potential.
But having nyctophobia isn’t only limited to children; adults can suffer from it as well. Ryerson University did a study and found that nearly 40% of people who responded were afraid to walk around in their house when the lights went out.
10% of these individuals indicated they would not even get out of their bed to go to the bathroom at night because of their intense fear of what darkness brings. These adults went from poor sleeping as a child to an even poorer sleeper as an adult.
What Are The Causes Of Nyctophobia
The causes of nyctophobia are many, even though it may seem that being afraid of the dark is hired wired into us, it’s actually not. It’s a learned fear, usually comes from our childhood. I remember as a child, I could not see what was happening once the lights were turned off. This brought on an intense anxious feeling which would not resolve; always, I would run to my parents’ room.
It’s a common fear many of us have. Most of us outgrow it as we become adults. Now I can’t sleep with even a single light peeking through. But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for all adults.
Watching scary movies as a child, played a considerable role at bedtime. They weren’t even overly frightening movies, just my wild imagination gone crazy. I was assuming things where there was nothing to assume. My biggest fear as a child was when the closet got left open. No matter how much I would try to close my eyes, there was always something coming out of the closet to get me.
I don’t even remember how I got the courage to go to my parents’ room. Of course, most times, my mom would come to my room to close the closet. This usually helped me to settle down. As I grew up, I learned there really wasn’t anything in the closet except my clothing.
Of course, when I had kids, it was the same cycle starting again. So as you can tell, many different situations will begin an intense fear of darkness. But what I’ve shared with you isn’t the only situation; some people could have trauma from their childhood. This trauma could involve abuse, being locked in the closet, or being ignored by a parent when a child was experiencing fear.
Symptoms of Nyctophobia
As people who have nyctophobia move from childhood to adulthood, their symptoms can change quite a bit. Often children who have nyctophobia will cling to their parents, maybe even have a favorite blanket. Adults who have this phobia will often exhibit anxiety or intense thoughts of terror of being left in the dark.
- Feeling of choking
- Rapid heart rate
- Trouble reading
- Anxiety or panic
- Deep Desire to Run Away
- Attachment disorder to inanimate objects
- Feeling crazy
- Letting fear take over
- Losing control
Children or adults who experience nyctophobia can often also, as a side effect, have insomnia. Because they have night terrors or nightmares caused by the stress of this phobia, they will often wake up at night. Many times going back to sleep becomes impossible.
Their constant reassurance to themselves that there’s nothing under their bed or in their closet will often leave them feeling tired during the day time. Because their brain is working overtime, dealing with daytime activities can actually become a hindrance to them.
They become frustrated and are unable to engage in life due to the extreme exhaustion of not being able to sleep. This can lead these individuals who have a fear of the dark to become isolated and suffer from depression.
Treatment For Nyctophobia
Although there are several treatments that you can do professionally as well as at home, I will share the top five that I have seen the most effective for my clients. These treatments work not only for adults, but children can benefit from them as well.
1. Challenge your anxiety or fear
Hearing a crashing sound at night can bring on some deep intense fear. Having a way to deal with that anxiety or fear will do away with what thoughts the fear is conjuring up. You need to know that sometimes our thoughts can play tricks on us. For instance, if you hear some banging at night, it could just be raccoons rummaging for food.
My daughter often hears scratching in the ceiling of her room. At first, she was afraid, but then we figured out since we live on a farm, of course, there’s going to be mice running around. You will need to make sure that you check your facts before you or your child starts making assumptions.
2. Meditate to a state of calmness before sleep
By meditating, you can calm down your mind, the part of you that runs wild with the imagination. Pretty amazing with our mind, we can create anything we want, be it fear or winning at something we desperately want.
One thing I would recommend as an adult don’t drink coffee after 3 PM, for children no sugar after 5 PM. Both of these contain chemical elements that will keep a person up. The best thing to do is to listen to quiet music or even have a white noise machine, which will help to induce sleep. The idea here is to bring deep relaxation to mind. Avoid watching TV shows, which will produce fearful thoughts later.
By avoiding stressful activities, you enhance your chances of falling asleep by 80%.
3. Use a soft glow nightlight
It’s a known fact that being in the darkness provides a deeper and more restful sleep. People who leave lights on in their hallway or have a nightlight that shines extra bright at night will have a hard time falling or staying asleep.
By using a soft glow nightlight, peace of mind can be attained. Our mind knows that a light is on, yet it will not bother your sleep because of its softness. As you get used to sleeping with a soft like, eventually, you can even turn that light completely off to experience sleeping in full dark. Read my review on nightlights; you can even get some that can sit on your end table.
4. Make your room Zen
By creating Zen in your room, you can make it a place of rejuvenation and recovery. To create peace in your room, you need to have cheerful colors, as well as warm, decore, which will help you think of good things as you fall asleep. In your child’s room, it would be great to have bright colors.
Another thing I would suggest keeping a peaceful room is to make sure that it is free of clutter. Often the pile of clothing in the corner can create thoughts of monsters jumping out. The recommendation here is only to keep in your room the items that you deem most necessary. The less furniture you have in your room, the fewer thoughts of fear of seeing shadows.
5. Do talk therapy with a professional
This is something which I have found helpful for many of my clients. Doing talk therapy may bring up what causes them to be afraid of the dark. I have to tell you that I deal with clients who dealt with abuse of all kinds. Once we deal with the sensitizing event (the original trauma which caused the fear), my clients often become desensitized, which leads to experiencing better sleep at night.
Talk therapy is helpful because the client will often talk themselves out of fear. They start to recognize what their concern is based, and once the recognition takes place, they have nothing to fear. This type of therapy works for both children and adults.
Final Thought On The Causes Of Nyctophobia
Now that you know the causes of nyctophobia can be dealt with in many different ways, hopefully, you find that this anxiety of nighttime can be alleviated.
Let me know in the comments below how you deal with being afraid of the dark.
Reading is my favorite thing to do. But other than reading, I enjoy discovering new techniques on how to do something in simpler methods. My daughter likes to call me the Renaissance woman. So I do have to live up to the name.
One of my main issues is sleeping, so I’m always searching for new ways to get a good night sleep, I’m more than happy to share them with you.
My posts are either geared towards pain or self-help. Pain posts because I suffer from ongoing cancer pain. In the past 6 years of my fight with cancer, I have learned many ways to deal with pain, especially when going to bed.
The self-help posts come from my work as a mental health counselor for over 15+ years. My background in counseling training is from UFV and RRU. I also have personal trainer certification from IFA, so I might throw in some exercise posts as well.