Nyctophobia, fear of the dark, is characterized by an irrational, burdensome worry of what lies in the dark or what could happen in the dark. Although children are the biggest population who suffer from nyctophobia, some of these children will grow up to continue suffering from nyctophobia as adults. There is a small percentage of adults who fear the dark after watching a horror movie or witnessing a traumatic event. This overwhelming fear of the dark usually keeps the nyctophobic person from falling asleep and getting a good night’s rest.
Symptoms of Nyctophobia
What triggers the symptoms of phobias may differ, but the symptoms themselves are generally similar, like:
• Feeling of panic or panic attack
• Shaking or trembling
• Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
• Feeling hot and sweaty
• High heart rate
A nyctophobic person may put nightlights in all rooms and try to avoid going outside at nighttime.
Avoid Watching Horror Books, Shows, and Films
The images portrayed in such media can get stuck in your head, haunting you as you lay in bed trying to fall asleep. Why put yourself through that? Abstaining from scary imagery will help you get that good night’s rest you need to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Get a New Mattress
Making your bed too comfortable to start worrying about what’s out there in the dark is a great solution to nyctophobia. A new mattress, plush pillows and luxurious bedding can distract any dark-fearing man, woman or child to ease into a good night’s sleep. The best mattresses can really help, and it’s useful to read some reviews first.
Before falling asleep, try some relaxation exercises to take your focus away from the unknowns in the dark. Deep breathing, simple yoga postures, and progressive muscle relaxation are great ways to relax yourself. To practice deep breathing, sit comfortably with your eyes closed and breathe deeply. Focus on each inhale and exhale and your physical body sensations. When your mind wanders, accept the distraction, let it go, and return to focus on your breathing. Engage in a series of simple yoga postures before going to bed. Simple stretches is all you need to feel more relaxed and ready for sleep. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, lie down comfortably on your back with your eyes closed. Start from your toes and work your way up to your head, activating one muscle group at a time and holding the tension before releasing and moving on to the next muscle group.
If your nyctophobia is crippling, you can seek a mental health professional to help you with your fear. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to work well for those who suffer from nyctophobia. Using this method, the therapist will guide you in challenging your unrealistic beliefs about the dark and replacing these thoughts with positive imagery. Systematic desensitization also works where you will face your fear by working through your thoughts and symptoms while sitting in a dark room with the therapist. You will start out by enduring it for a short period of time, lengthening the time period gradually until you are “cured.”