Getting enough sleep is critical for your physical, mental, and emotional health. But drifting off to sleep isn’t easy for everyone, especially those new to sleeping solo. For some, just the thought of spending the night alone feels scary or sad.
If you have trouble sleeping solo, you’re not the only one. This article will explore the most common reasons for this problem and give tips to make solo sleeping easier.
Why can’t I sleep by myself?
There are many reasons why people have trouble sleeping by themselves, according to Shelby Harris, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine and the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis. She explains some possible causes:
“Those who routinely have nightmares might be afraid to fall asleep at night even if they’re tired,” says Harris. “Same goes for people who have had some sort of traumatic incident and are fearful of sleeping alone.” If you feel stressed about enduring a night alone, you might have trouble relaxing enough to fall asleep.
Anxiety disorders can interfere with your ability to fall asleep alone, says Harris. In general, the symptoms of anxiety—a pounding heart, irritability, and racing thoughts—make sleep difficult. If you have a partner who gives you a sense of calm and comfort at night, the anxiety and sleeplessness might also worsen when that person is away.
Grief is a whole-body experience, whether you lost someone due to death, divorce, or separation. And grieving someone you love—especially a partner — can make it hard to fall asleep, according to Harris. “The grieving process can cause increased anxiety, depression, nightmares, and sleep disorders—all of which impact sleep,” she explains.
Sleep and hormones are closely intertwined. High cortisol—aka the “stress hormone”—can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. On the other hand, melatonin—aka the “sleep hormone”—plays a vital role in regulating your sleep schedule. Sometimes, struggling to sleep solo is rooted more in hormone issues than loneliness or fear. If you suspect a hormone imbalance, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Are you a creature of habit? “Some people just simply get used to having someone to spoon with or to snuggle next to,” says Harris. Any change in your sleep environment can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. If you’re newly single or your partner is out of town, it might take some time to adjust to sleeping solo.
How to sleep better alone
Sleeplessness can be frustrating, but you’re not alone. Regardless of why you’re struggling to sleep solo, Harris has some tips to help you get some rest:
Create a comforting nighttime routine
If you’re struggling with anxiety about falling asleep, a predictable nighttime routine can help. Harris says routine helps relax your body and mind, which might help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.
“Try to start winding down 30 to 60 minutes before bed,” she suggests. “During this time, you can read, journal, practice mindfulness, listen to a podcast, or anything that helps quiet your mind.”
Try a meditation or sleep app
A sleep app won’t cure grief or anxiety but it can help calm your mind. Sleep and meditation apps are often designed to promote self-awareness and prepare your body for quality sleep.
Sleep with a body pillow
“This can be really useful for that feeling of someone else in bed,” says Harris. In the absence of a bed partner, a body pillow allows you to snuggle up against something solid and comfortable. Physically hugging a body pillow might help you get more comfortable and drift off to sleep even when alone.
Consider a pet
There’s a reason why dogs are often called man’s best friend! If you’re missing the physical warmth of a bedfellow, you might enjoy cuddling with a cat or dog in bed. For some people, having an animal in the house also promotes feelings of safety and security.
Find a therapist
You don’t have to struggle through sleeplessness alone. If you’re dealing with nightmares, anxiety, or grief, consider talking to a board-certified sleep specialist, cognitive behavioral therapist, or another mental health professional. Harris says talking to a professional can help you learn strategies that will quiet your mind even when there’s no one else around at night.
Why do I not like sleeping by myself?
There could be many reasons why you struggle to sleep alone. Possibilities include grief, anxiety, or plain old habit.
How do I get over my fear of sleeping alone?
Start by identifying the root of the problem. Then make sure you’ve created a sleep-friendly environment and routine. Next, try deep breathing exercises or meditation before bedtime. If your fear of sleeping alone is starting to disrupt your life, consider talking to a medical or mental health professional.
The fear of falling asleep is a real condition known as somniphobia or sleep dread. Learn more about somniphobia and how to treat it.