I’m a 20-year-old female who is afraid of the dark. When I’m alone in a dark room or a closed space, I get extremely scared. I always sleep with the lights on, but then again I struggle to fall asleep in a bright environment. If I force myself to sleep in the dark, I get sleep paralysis. I went to the doctor and I was prescribed ‘Clonazepam’ for a week. When I took the medicine, I fell asleep sooner and I didn’t get scared. But after a week, it all started again. —SK
Answer by Dr Rishav Koirala, Psychiatrist at Grande International Hospital
First, the information you provide here is limited, and we need more detail to exactly know what it is that may be causing your problem. It appears you are suffering from fear of the dark, also known as nyctophobia.
With phobias, there are many features that align with anxiety. It can lead to anxiety disorder, thus, your anxiety needs to be checked by a specialist to provide medication accordingly.
Sleep paralysis could be an outcome of anxiety and stress. You may be putting yourself in a stressful and anxious state when you force yourself to go to sleep in the dark. So your phobia may be the reason for the sleep paralysis.
On a personal level, you can practice anxiety-relieving techniques like mediation, stretching exercises, yoga, cardio, aerobics, etc. Also try to avoid coffee if you are a coffee drinker, because it can trigger anxiety and lead to sleep disturbances.
There are specific treatments designed to cure this and medication is one of them. Clonazepam is prescribed as a short-term anxiety medication, and it won’t help you in the long run. So you cannot depend on it.
There are also therapies for phobias. There is the exposure therapy, where you’re made to face your fear using different techniques. It is different from facing your fear on your own which might be traumatic.
So visiting a psychologist or a specialist is the best thing you can do right now to calm your anxiety and to face your fear.