I’m Afraid Of Sleeping Away From Home: My Nights From Hell

Last updated by Katie M.

I’m going on vacation soon, I’m really looking forward to it, but there’s one small problem, I’m unable to sleep outside my home. Between the fear of the dark and the fear of the unknown, far from my usual cocoon, my nights turn into a nightmare, without me even closing my eyes!

My nights on red high alert: why I can’t sleep anywhere else

I arrive in a hotel room, at my holiday destination, or at my friends’ country home, and I’m thrilled, but when night falls, and it’s time to go to bed, I turn into a bedroom survivalist. 🤯 I survey, I watch, I observe. The door double-locked, ok. Light switch, bedside lamp, or night light nearby, ok. Check under the bed, ok. Three trips to the bathroom, ok. And after all that, I’m still unable to sleep. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a 4-hour journey, an hour and a half in the pool, or 6 glasses of wine and a good dinner, I can’t get to sleep.

To begin with, I'm scared of the dark and when it’s dark in an environment that’s unknown to me, it’s even more worrying. The slightest noise turns my stomach, and profound silence stresses me out. So I start thinking about all those people who get killed on holiday, you know, those people in TV series! 😱 What happens is that I’m hypervigilant. Well, the left half of my brain is hypervigilant.

👉 It’s a reflex inherited from our ancestors when they were susceptible to attack during the night by animals or other humans. If I reason with myself, I know that there’s little chance of me being attacked in this charming little beachside flat, but my survival instinct prefers to keep an eye out and so do I.

And when the next day comes

Sometimes when it’s 5.30 or 6 am, and I’m still not asleep, when the first light of day appears behind the shutters, I feel reassured and grab a few moments of sleep. Not enough. The day after the first night away isn’t the worst, it’s the day after that’s more complicated. My brain’s hypervigilance is gradually extinguished, and I finally fall asleep, no more reassured, but exhausted… literally!

How to sleep better away from home?

There aren’t really any solutions to make sleeping away from home easier, but at best, I’ve put a few tips in place:

  • 👉 I take my own pillow. The smell, the feel, the fabric, the softness, I know everything about my own pillow, and it has a way of reassuring my brain.
  • 👉 I take a night light with me. It’s one of the first things I bought to make my time in the maternity ward easier (it was one of my must-haves for a good post-natal experience). I don’t know how I did it before, but since I’ve used night lights, I take them whenever I have to sleep away from home. If I wake up in a panic, I turn it on for a while and I can get back to sleep more easily, reassured by the soft light.
  • 👉 I watch a TV series or listen to the radio. So yes, I know that the blue light emitted by screens isn’t good for your sleep as it prevents the production of melatonin, but watching a TV series on my phone is a good way for me to have light and a busy mind. The only condition is that you have an understanding partner!

If you also have trouble sleeping anywhere other than your home, you should know that it’s no big deal 😉. You need to tell yourself that because if you worry for several days before the big night, you’ll never be able to enjoy your days and bedtime might turn into an anxiety attackSet up your own reassurance techniques. If you have to look under the bed, at the back of the cupboards or put a chair in front of the door, do it and remind yourself that night can seem bad, but is still restful. And even if you don’t believe it at the time, you’ll end up falling asleep!

Editor’s note: where does this fear come from?

This fear of sleeping away from home may reflect inner insecurity or difficulty letting go outside a familiar and secure environment. If this fear has persisted since childhood, it may be interesting to find the cause, perhaps a fear of abandonment by sleeping somewhere else? Determining the origin will help to overcome it. Cognitive and behavioral therapies, CBTs, give very good results, so don’t hesitate to contact a psychologist.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!
#BornToBeMe

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Article presented by Katie M.

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