Medical Questions > Mental Health > Sleep Disorders Forum

Fear of dying in sleep

when my sleeping problems first started i would try to go to sleep around 11. I had a fear of falling asleep and when i did doze off for a second, i felt like i was dying and would jerk up in a sitting position in my bed. My heart would be racing and i really did feel as if i was dying. Every time it would happen i would be like this is it, this is for real this time. i had a major panic attack this past summer after one of my best friends died suddenly and i believe this sleeping problem stems from that. i have a major fear of dying in my sleep. I have gotten to the point that i usually just try not to sleep. I'll stay awake until 3 or 4 in the morning, when i have to be awake at 6:30 or 7 for school. this in turn leaves me with only 3-4 hours of sleep a night, which leaves me dragging all day. i also have major fears of illness. I have convinced my self i have a brain tumor because of my headaches that occur often. Every one i know tells me however that they probably occur from no getting any sleep. I'm hoping with time this will all get better over time hopefully sooner than later. Has anyone ever felt like this? or gotten over your anxiety during sleep?? has anyone ever experienced this jerking up in your sleep feeling?
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First Helper User Profile CarolineEF
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replied March 6th, 2009
Fear of dying in sleep
I have exactly the same symptopms. They've just started in the past month or so, but all I can find online is anxiety. I don't feel stressed at all in the day and I like to think I live a quite relaxed life. Sorry I can't help...
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replied March 25th, 2009
Fear of dying in sleep
I have the same symptoms as you...I dont have the fear of dying in sleep ofter..But everytime i get a pain in the body, i think it is something serious like cancer...
And i read that this is called hypochondriasis...
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replied May 21st, 2009
fear of dying in sleep
I know exactly what your going through. I have been going through this since i 9 years old when one of my good friends died in his sleep. I am 18 now and I still get scared to go to sleep sometimes. Not near as much as it used to. I used to do the exact same thing that you did. Every night I would lay in my bed saying, "This time it is real. I am gonna die in my sleep tonight." And then i would wake up the next morning. I learned that you have to just accept it. There is no sense in getting all worked up about something that you can not control. If you are going to die in your sleep, then that is what is supposed to happen. I'm being very blunt but it is the truth. Honestly you do not have anything to worry about. The only time people die in their sleep are from seizures (which you would have to have that disease where you get seizures often, seizures don't just randomly come), overdosing on something, or if you are just old. Our bodies are built to survive. Your body isn't going to shut down because you are asleep. I know that i'm not really saying anything that can help you but just know that it does go away. You will realize that you are getting yourself worked up when it is not relevant. I hope this helped a little and i hope you get over your fear soon. I know exactly how you feel. Just hold on buddy.
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replied September 2nd, 2009
Try CBT or CT
Just thought I'd say I experienced what you mentioned for about 7 years. I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. At the time I was also severely ill. After being diagnosed with Diabetes type 2, anemia, and PTSD, I saw how all these these played into each other. When I first started avoiding going to sleep, I became hynogogic. It means you're body starts to shut down from lack of sleep and your brain thinks it's asleep even though you're awake. This caused me to become psychotic, as would anyone. I was told that I could die from exhaustion. It's really a vicious cycle. The symptoms caused by illness cause psychological symptoms to worsen which caused my illness worsen...and so on.

What really helped me finally get to a place where I'm not literally anxious at the thought of sleep is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You learn what thoughts are behind your fears, what feelings are hidden in them, and then practice techniques to cope and overcome it.

Good luck and take care of yourself, ignore nothing... fear is real but you can get your life back.
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replied February 1st, 2010
i have dreams where i feel as though i'm going to die for real...i have the feeling that if i don't wake up, I will die for real.

Sometimes, I "wake" up in the middle of the night, but only my eyes are able to move, and my body is stiff. I feel as though someone or something is trying to kill me.
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replied February 3rd, 2010
Yavang, maybe you should have a sleep study done. You could have sleep apnea or even be having seizures. At least if you do a study you could eliminate those possiblities and they could catch those incidences you described and tell you what it really is. Hope that helps.
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replied April 9th, 2010
Fear of sleep..
one word... clinophobia. look that up and hopefully it will help you. My friend has this same problem and she was just diagnosed with Clinophobia and the doctor gave her anti-anxiety medication.

hope it helps!
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replied June 30th, 2011
I had and have only rarely from time to time now the same thing, as I drift off to sleep right at the point when im pretty much there or sometimes before I'll suddenly burst out of my sleep violently gasping for breath absolutly certain I am dying. It feels very real and extremly frightening.

This would sometimes happen up to 10 or more times a night to the point I would just give up on sleeping and sit awake till morning

It's not a physical condition but entirely psychological and only started to lessen towards the end of my 20's as previous anxiety disorders and depression I suffered quite badly from in my early 20's started to improve.

Try and come to terms with your own mortality and accept death as an inevitable part of life, if you have this condition you probably feel as though you have died many times already so over time will start to fear it less and hence the problem will subside, also try and be realistic, it is HIGHLY unlikely that a healthy young person with no history of heart, seizure or breathing problems will die in their sleep, the fact that it has happened so many times and you havent died is even more proof of this.

Early 20's can be a difficult time for many young people especially if you have suffered some kind of trauma (such as your friend passing so unexpectedly) you will get better I promise and you have nothing to fear with this problem.
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replied January 29th, 2012
I have just found this site and this has pretty much saved my sanity knowing that other people have this too...this started happening to me after my husband died next to me in bed for no apparent reason...I can completely see why it started happening but I can't stop it and it has been happening for many years now...I get so tired but when I fall asleep I wake up convinced I am dead or about to die...heart pounding, throat feels closed up, etc...I am just about to start CBT so pray this works as I can't take much more of it...some nights it happens over and over again and I get so tired. I was scared of dying anyway so will have to try and address that fear too...wish me luck! X
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replied May 8th, 2012
I have been working since febuary without proper sleep I have been awake for 5 days now I am felling I'll what should I do
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replied October 8th, 2012
I am so glad I'm not the only one going through this! I started getting scared to sleep after I overdosed one night on MDMA. I'm scared my heart will stop or my brain will shut down. I have seen a cardiologist and was told my heart was fine, but I'm still freaking out every night that this is my last moment of life! I close my eyes and I feel like I am reliving the night I overdosed. And since I get little to no sleep, l get mood swings and I get horrible anxiety about everything. It's ruining my relationship with my boyfriend since I keep him up almost every night and my relationship with my family is going down hill, too
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replied October 11th, 2012
Experienced User
Hello, you can give yourself psychological hint to calm down. Best wishes.
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replied November 10th, 2012
Some times people dont realize it could be caused by trauma For me when a child I was raped in bed so I believe this fear later was sub conscience mind reliving a panic state of being If we were raped /traumatized in a bedroom it would relate to fears of going to bed /sleep
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replied December 21st, 2012
i feel sorry for you all. my problem is im convinced im going to get stressed then cant sleep at all. eventually ending up with death from lack of sleep
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replied December 21st, 2012
Advocate for children and victims rights
Please dont feel sorry for me I have awareness and am stronger person today NO PITY PLEASE I am a survivor and advocate My fear of going to sleep was when I was younger I have insomnia but that is different from fear of falling asleep Unless my insomnia is subconscious and I dont realize it is still the case of my sleep disorder
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replied April 21st, 2013
i have the same my grandpa died in his sleep and after my mom told me that i worry really bad he had heart issues and he was 40 my uncle just died from cancer he was really sick but because of my uncle death im so scared to sleep i was fine last week but now it started again
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replied April 22nd, 2013
Community Volunteer
Hi amandanicole22...When I was younger I use to worry that I would just plain die...I wanted to grow old..Now looking back at this I realize that no matter what happens that we can't change what is going to happen...When you really think about it we could be walking down the block and part of an airplane could fall on us...We have no control...A tree could suddenly fall or anything can happen...

Now I am older than dirt and I laugh at all the times that I have spent worrying that I would ever hit 65....Here I am near 76 and my husband 77 and we are having the time of our life...Honey, nothing changes as you age...Don't fear it as really the one thing you are fearing is growing old...And no, you will not die in your sleep...

Good luck and have a wonderful life...I sure have...I send you my love...

Caroline...
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replied August 9th, 2013
I am getting this at the moment I jave the fear that I will die in my sleep im almost 20 but the worse part is I have to young children one is 2 years almost 3 and my other is almost 1 I get the fear of dying in my sleep and my daughter coming into my room and finding me before my mother or partner. What can I do to stop this please I am ay my wits end it gets to the point that I get my youngest out of the cot and go downstairs or like last night I went into my mams bed with my oldest child and my mam please help..
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