Can Sleep Troubles Be Caused by Fear of The Dark?

September 15, 2012  |  sleep problems

moon in dark sky

Do you usually find yourself awake at night while all others are already in deep slumber?

Do you suffer from a sleep disorder called insomnia?

Well, there are many reasons for this.

Most of the time, sleep problems are associated with sleeping patterns, sleep hygiene and lifestyle.However, recent studies also manifest that these troubles with sleeping may also be associated with the fear of the dark.

What Surveys Say

Researchers from Ryerson University Sleep and Depression Lab conducted a study on 93 college students. They answered a survey that aimed to assess their fear of darkness and sleeping pattern. From the survey alone, they found out that merely 25 percent of the good sleepers confessed that they were afraid of the dark, while a surprising 46 percent of the poor sleepers did.This brought them to the connection between insomnia and achluophobia or fear of the dark.

Eye Blink Latency Test

Aside from the survey, the researchers also ran an eye blink latency test in order to measure the students’ reaction towards sudden sounds when the lights are either on or off.

They measured the speed, the size, and the number of blinks. They did it four times in a virtual bedroom. During the first two times, the light was turned on. During the last two, it was already dark.

At the start of the test, both types of sleepers were startled at the sound. Poor sleepers blinked speedily when they heard the sudden noise. They tended to be more quickly disrupted by the unexpected sound when lights are turned off. Later on, the good sleepers were already becoming accustomed to the unexpected noises, while poor sleepers became increasingly restless and startled at the supposed bumps in the dark. Being able to get used to the noises is a common tendency when there is no fear. The poor sleepers, indeed, became more fearful.

This is where the Reyson University Sleep and Depression Laboratory Director, Dr. Colleen Carney, concluded that fear of darkness or achluophobia may influence the greater stimulation of the poor sleepers once lights are not lit.


Carney stated that in order to treat insomnia associated with fear of the dark, you need to prioritize the treatment of the fear directly. Instead of popping pills for sleep problems, you can do this best by undergoing psychotherapy. During this process a therapist may perform a talk therapy focused on changing the patient’s behavior. This may take a number of sessions before the fear of the dark is overcome.

What Else Can You Do?

If you are afraid of the dark, here are some things that you can do to help reduce your sleeping problem and improve your sleep:

Gradually lessen the light in your room until such time you can already sleep with your lights off. For the time being, you may also want to take sleeping pills. Consult your doctor about it first. Lastly, keep your phone near you. Knowing you have people you can call in case of emergency may help minimize the anxiety.