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3 Facts You May Not Know About Nyctophobia

You may not know what the heck nyctophobia means much less three things about it. Nyctophobia refers to “an abnormal fear of the night or darkness.” This fear goes by many names including achluophobia, scotophobia, and lygophobia. Many people confronted this paralyzing fear as children, whether it was the fear of the boogeyman in the closet at night, the monster surely hiding underneath your bed when the lights went out, or strange noises in the house that kept you up while everyone else slept. But, what you may not know is this:

1. Many adults suffer from nyctophobia.

Around 90% of children in the United States experience a fear of the darkness to varying degrees during their childhood. But, that fear usually disappears by the time they’ve hit the double digits in age. According to a UK survey, 40% of adults polled feel some trepidation about traversing their own homes in the dark. But, at least 10% of those adults are too fearful to even get out of bed to use the bathroom with the lights out.

I am one of those adults. While I am able to get out of bed and use the bathroom just fine, thank you, that’s because there are nightlights placed strategically around the house to make sure that I’m not walking around in total darkness.

A young person huddles on a chair in front of a candle while shadowly ghosts threaten zir from behind.
©2010-2013 Neriak

2. Nyctophobia can affect your quality of sleep.

Recently, researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto conducted a sleep study with 93 undergraduates where participants labeled themselves as either “good sleepers” or “bad sleepers.” Close to half of those who considered themselves bad sleepers admitted to fear of the dark while only a quarter of the good sleepers admitted such a fear. They were then put to the test in the lab when their reactions to noises were tested in both dark and well-lit rooms.

Unsurprisingly, the poor sleepers were more startled by the noises, but only in the dark room. Moreover, they began to show other signs of increasing anxiety the longer they stayed in the dark room. While the study is not definitive, it does demonstrate a correlation between fear of the dark and poor quality of sleep, knowledge which may help with the treatment of insomnia in some patients.

3. Seemingly unrelated nocturnal fears may actually be attributable to nyctophobia.

Do you lie in bed during the night and wonder if you locked all of the doors? Do you worry about burglars? Do you worry about paranormal scares? For some of us, these fears may be attributable to nyctophobia. Those suffering from nyctophobia are not necessarily afraid of the darkness but what the darkness may hide or what may happen in the dark. According to the previously mentioned UK survey, “The biggest worry for those scared of the dark was that they couldn’t see anything, while 45 per cent said they were scared of anything unexpected happening.” I can vouch for that. I frequently sleep with my computer on and my door locked because I worry about something unexpected happening during the night.

Readers, are you afraid of the dark?

By Marena

Marena recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Justice & Human Rights & primarily explores social justice issues in the production & consumption of popular mass media. You may find her creating fanworks, testing her hand-eye coordination with beadweaving, flailing over her fictional faves, reading everything from fanfic to theory texts, or watching low budget sci-fi. You can find her writing on Marena ni yukyats.

5 replies on “3 Facts You May Not Know About Nyctophobia”

I hate the dark. I hate it. I hate living alone and having it be night time, and having to constantly tell myself that I’m the only one, there isn’t anything else there, it’s fine. It’s the number one reason I let the dog sleep on the bed. Nothing is going to sneak up on me with my fuzzy sentry on patrol. That having been said, I probably check the locks on the doors three times before bed, and I leave the window curtains slightly ajar so that the streetlights shine in a little.

This is a hard time of year because it gets dark so early.

Oh gosh, yes to ALL of this. I always check the locks on the doors, always check that the porch lights are turned on, and have at least two nightlights on inside the house and night and my computer on. It’s great that you have a dog for comfort. I do live with a roommate, and knowing they’re here at night does make me less afraid than I think I’d be if I were alone.

And, yes! The sun is setting earlier and rising later. Makes me very anxious.

Oh wow, YES, I totally do that! I feel bad for wing somewhat relieved that I’m not the only adult who does this. Right now, actually, I have mattress and frame in the floor instead of buying a metal frame specifically because then I’m not worried about my feet hanging over at night. I also need to sleep with my closet door closed. No dark chasm, TYVM.

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