The darkness is supposed to bring us to sleep, but it can also rob us of it. Because it can cause fear and make life, especially sleep, really difficult for some.
There is something mystical about darkness. When it comes, our biological clock tells us it’s time to sleep and dream. But it is also the stuff of nightmares, of countless scary stories and horror stories. A certain basic fear of the dark is quite natural. According to the Robert Koch Institute, it is practically the normal state, especially in children. In about 20 percent of children it is extremely pronounced, but usually disappears again.
But some people can’t get rid of them even in adulthood. In a survey by the American magazine Glamor in 2017, around eleven percent of those surveyed said they were very or very afraid of the dark – which can then lead to sleep disorders. Why such anxiety disorders can occur and what can be done about it, the experts have summarized on “healthdigest.com”.
The fear of the dark is a primal fear
Everyone knows the feeling of fear in the dark – at night in a lonely alley or maybe while camping in the great outdoors. The horror film also plays with this primal fear. Because that is exactly what it is, according to the explanations of the psychologist Simon Rego on “healthdigest.com”. In ancient times, our ancestors had every reason to be afraid at night and therefore to be particularly careful and vigilant. At night, when visibility was severely impaired, the risk of falling prey to nocturnal predators, for example, was a very real one.
So the fear was natural and vital. In the course of evolution, we have evolved – we have (largely) lost our body hair, our brain has grown and our intelligence has increased. And although today we normally no longer have to fear threats in the dark, the archaic fear has remained. Most people have this under control, but some develop into an anxiety disorder.
The anxiety disorder robs some people of sleep
The pathological fear of the dark is called achluophobia or nyctophobia. With people who suffer from it, one thing above all happens: As soon as they are deprived of much of their visual perception in the dark, their minds begin to fill the darkness with fear-driven fantasies.
It’s the same as having a child afraid of the monster under their bed. Suddenly invisible threats lurk everywhere and the body reacts to them as it did in primeval times: It prepares itself, for example by expelling adrenaline, to run or fight for its life – or it freezes with fear. The fear reaction is pure stress and relaxation or peaceful sleep is out of the question in such a state.
Everyone has to find out for themselves what helps against fear
The degree of achluophobia varies from person to person and can have numerous causes – these are often traumatic experiences in childhood, for example when the parents did not address the child’s fears. Severe cases can only be treated with psychotherapy. In milder cases, according to the psychologist Kathrin Domschke, there is also help for self-help on “geo.de”. For some, relaxation exercises or autogenic training work before bed.
In addition, you can try to “make friends with the darkness”, for example by stepping on the balcony before going to bed or looking out the window and trying to consciously allow positive and beautiful impressions and experiences. It can be a magnificent full moon that bathes the city in its silver light or a beautiful starry sky. Everyone has to find out for themselves what exactly works for whom. And we all have one thing in common: Nobody can get rid of the fear of the dark completely.
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