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How to Sleep Better by Yourself When Scared (19 Ways)

Stephanie-Abi-Zeid.
  • This article has been written, researched, and medically reviewed by Stephanie Abi Zeid (Embryologist, Andrologist, B.S, MSc) for maximum factual accuracy and to ensure unique content.

Sleeping alone can be scary and the fear itself may actually stop you from getting to sleep.

I have personally experienced this many times when sleeping alone after a break-up, the death of a family member, having moved to a new house, or when sleeping in a different place like a hotel when away from home.

So how can you sleep better by yourself when you’re alone and scared?

The best ways to get to sleep when alone and scared include: increasing security measures in your home or sleeping space; having a mobile phone nearby; make your sleeping space calm and welcoming; avoiding scary/exciting media; and relaxing with meditation or music.

In the rest of this article, I expand on these points to give you a complete list of 19 techniques that you can use to help you get to sleep when you’re trying to sleep by yourself and you feel uneasy.

But as always, consult with your doctor if your insomnia persists to get the best possible treatment for your needs.

Also, if you’re uncomfortable at night due to your mattress being old, worn out, or not well-suited to your body type, then check out my list of the best mattresses for insomnia to see my personal top picks.

Related: try these 13 techniques to sleep better when restless.

19 Ways to Sleep Better When Alone and Scared

Here are 19 techniques to help you to sleep better when you’re by yourself and feeling scared:

1: Boost Your Home’s Security For Peace of Mind

Home Safety Tips from an Ex-burglar | Anglian Home Improvements

Sleeping alone can be scary when you don’t feel secure in your sleeping space.

I recently moved house and for the first few nights, I didn’t sleep properly because I didn’t know the area and I was worried about being the target of a burglary (discover 17 ways to get to sleep after a burglary here).

This fear was heightened when I had some shady individuals knocking on my door asking me if I wanted to buy cleaning products at a huge markup (erm… no I have access to a supermarket!) – plus they told me they had just come out of prison – so I was a bit on edge (not to mention they came around twice to the house over the week, looking at both the front and back doors).

So to help me sleep better, I initially placed an iron bar next to the side of my bed just in case I had to spring into action!

But honestly, I don’t really want to go to prison for whacking someone over the head.

So here are some more effective preventative ways to boost your home’s security so that you can sleep better when alone and scared:

  • Lock all of the doors and windows securely.
  • Close the curtains to prevent potential thieves from seeing what’s on offer for them.
  • Leave the lights switched on downstairs to make it look like someone is awake.
  • Install home security systems, alarms, cameras, doorbell cameras, and smart locks.
  • Have a torch or flashlight nearby.

Just knowing that your home is secure before going to bed can help to reduce your fears and allow you to sleep better if you are on your own.

Check out the video above for some excellent insights and home security tips from an ex-burglar.

2: Keep Your Phone Nearby to Get Help Quickly

Having your mobile phone nearby can make you feel safer as you fall asleep.

Make sure you charge your phone fully but do not leave the phone connected to the charger overnight because this can damage the battery and reduce its lifespan.

Put your phone on your bedside table to keep it within your arm’s reach in case you need it.

However, switch your mobile’s screen to night mode to reduce the emission of blue light, which suppresses your body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy [1].

Personally, I have a habit of switching my phone off at night just to make sure that it doesn’t wake me up, but you may prefer to leave it on for quick access if required.

3: Make Your Bedroom Non-Threatening to Ease Fears

When you’re sleeping alone and you’re worried or emotionally upset (such as after a breakup) your bedroom might start to feel hostile and threatening.

So taking the time to make your bedroom feel comfortable and safe before you go to bed can help you to relax and get to sleep faster.

For example:

De-clutter the room and put away anything lying around that isn’t where it is supposed to be.

When it’s dark, your eyes can play tricks on you.

Therefore, keep things in their usual place to avoid picturing and imagining scary things in places where there really is nothing to be seen.

If you are afraid of mirrors, this fear tends to kick in at night when it’s a bit darker because it is hard to feel safe when their reflections are obscured and scary.

Consider covering the bedroom mirrors or move them to a wall that’s not facing your bed and avoid hanging them directly over your head.

Furthermore, consider changing the bedding to plush fabric and simple patterns to give a polished, brighter, and softer appearance to the bed.

You can also add a fluffy rug to make the space more cozy and comfortable.

4: Switch on a Soft Nightlight to Induce Calmness

Sleeping in complete darkness induces the release of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.

However, if the dark discomforts you, then consider keeping a dim light on by the side of your bed.

Adjusting the lighting inside your bedroom can help to ensure a comfortable sleeping environment.

You can even have a nightlight in the bathroom or the hallway, rather than in your bedroom to give yourself a sense of subtle calm and awareness.

Make sure the light isn’t too bright and it’s positioned away from your face so that it doesn’t stop you from getting to sleep.

However, if you can’t sleep with a light on, wear an eye-mask, install blackout shades to block out external light, and leave a flashlight on your nightstand, so you can grab it quickly whenever needed.

If you need total darkness to sleep, then check out my other article here that provides 19 ways to make your bedroom pitch black.

5: Avoid Watching Scary or Exciting TV Shows

Personally, I HATE horror movies – so I won’t watch them at all!

But even if you are an avid watcher of scary movies, true crime stories, or violent TV shows then it’s best to avoid watching them before bed if you are going to sleep alone because the mental imagery and physical excitement can make it harder to fall asleep [2].

What you watch affects what you dream about and how well you sleep.

So watch a funny movie or a pleasant video that makes you laugh out loud and happy, as laughter can decrease your stress and cause your body to release feel-good hormones. 

6: Focus on Positive and Rational Thoughts

I’m an over-thinker.

So as soon as my head hits the pillow, my mind goes into overdrive and it makes it very difficult for me to get to sleep quickly.

These OCD thoughts are the main cause of my insomnia.

So when I can’t stop thinking, I try to at least make my thoughts positive and rational, rather than based on fear and worry.

Here’s an example for you to try:

When you get into bed, think of your loved ones and the beautiful memories you cherish together. 

Visualize a scenario that makes you happy and engages all your senses so that it becomes impossible to think about other thoughts – this could be a favorite activity, a relaxing vacation, a calm place, a favorite meal, or anything that calms your mind. 

Repeating positive affirmations around being alone and scared such as “ I feel safe when I sleep in my own bed”, “my fear is not real”, “the muffled voices and creaky floor sounds are just the sounds of nice people in my building”, can help diminish your frightful thoughts [3]. 

The more positive thoughts and feelings you produce, the less power your scary thoughts will have over you. 

7: Keep a Journal to Unload Your Worries and Fears

Nelda Shorts | James Pennebaker | How to Write Expressively and Heal Yourself

I used to write creatively and keep a journal as a child.

I found that it used to really help me de-load and express my worries and fears in a healthy manner.

But even as an adult, writing in a journal can help you understand your emotions, worries, and fears that arise at night [4].

Acknowledging your fears and writing them down on paper helps you develop courage.

Do not worry about spelling or grammar, but let the words, ideas, and drawings flow freely.

Seeing your thoughts reflected on paper helps you to release toxic thoughts from your mind so your brain can go to sleep worry-free.

Some people write down their negative thoughts, and then immediately destroy them by tearing up the paper.

This exercise allows you to let go of what keeps you awake at night.

Writing down your positive thoughts, journaling about happy events, or creating a to-do list can also reduce the chance of your thoughts straying towards the negative.

Another strategy is the Pennebaker Writing Technique – watch the video above to learn about this expressive writing method.

8: Listen to Relaxing Music or Binaural Beats

The DEEPEST Healing Sleep | 3.2Hz Delta Brain Waves | REM Sleep Music – Binaural Beats

I personally find that listening to binaural beats helps me to relax and get to sleep (listen to the video above with your earphones in – it’s one of my favorites).

But if that’s not to your taste, then you can listen to any type of relaxing music that you like before bed to help ground you and help you to sleep better when you’re alone and feel uneasy.

Soft zen music can be soothing and provides a good distraction from frightening thoughts and other noises.

You can also pick your favorite song and play it on a speaker or through headphones to dance and sing along –  this will make you feel happy, safe, and comfortable to sleep by yourself when scared.  

Of course, I would recommend that such energetic activities are done a few hours before bedtime to ensure that you’re not over-excited and can’t sleep!

9: Use a White Noise Machine to Block Out Unsettling Sounds

10 HOURS BROWN NOISE Noise Blocker for Sleep, Study, Tinnitus , Insomnia

I find that unexpected noises can be quite startling and scary – even the sound of someone walking past on the pavement late at night can make me uneasy.

So when you’re scared to sleep by yourself, you may benefit from some background noise – especially if you’re accustomed to sleeping with other people in the house or right next to you.

Creating some white noise can give your brain something to focus on and listen to as you lay down in bed alone.

Use an ambient noise generator, a fan, or soothing sounds – like ocean waves, a crackling fireplace, or other types of instrumental music – if you don’t want to sleep in silence.

You can actually purchase white noise machines designed with an array of different sounds or download mobile apps that come with relaxation sounds and/or white noise to help you get to sleep.

You can also tune your TV into a channel you don’t normally watch that provides a hum of human voices, so you don’t feel alone and scared.

Alternatively, you can listen to the brown noise video I have provided above (it works great for blocking out lower frequency sounds).

10: Build a Support Network With Your Neighbours

If you don’t know your neighbors then this can put you on edge.

It’s always nice to feel like you have someone to turn to in case of an emergency.

That’s why it’s generally a good idea to introduce yourself to the people who live around you so they can keep an eye out for you. 

Do not be afraid to ask for support. 

I personally felt a lot safer once I’d introduced myself to my neighbors shortly after moving in; they were really friendly and in turn, they would come to visit me occasionally – making me feel safer both during the day and at night.

11: Adopt a Pet for Company

If you feel lonely and you like animals, then you can try getting a pet like a cat or a dog to keep you company at night and calm you down.

Sleeping with your pet can reduce your stress, increase your sense of security, and warm your bed. 

Dogs not only comfort you, but they even add a bit of security to your home. 

You can even train your pet to sleep wherever is most comfortable for you -such as at the foot of your bed – so they don’t wake you up.

Of course, you need to remember that a pet brings with it responsibilities that you must be able to meet – dogs especially can require a lot of commitment.

12: Sleep With a Body Pillow for Comfort

Lots of therapists recommend sleeping with a body pillow because hugging something, even if it’s a pillow, can sometimes help you feel safe and comforted.

Sleeping with an oversized teddy bear or a stack of throw pillows can fill the void of your empty bed to some degree.

They can also sometimes ease aches and pains, helping you sleep better. 

U-shaped pillows, for instance, are designed to support your head, neck, and arms, giving you more comfort throughout the night.

Some extra-large pillows can involve your whole body to make you feel cozy and relaxed.

13: Sleep Under a Weighted Blanket

Sleeping under a weighted blanket can promote a feeling of reassurance, safety, and comfort within you.

When the heavy blanket wraps around your entire body, it feels like you’re being hugged gently by someone you love.

This can boost the release of chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin – all of which can generate feelings of calm and well-being.

Sleeping with a weighted blanket can also help relieve stress and anxiety and allows you to sleep more comfortably throughout the night [5].

Click here to learn more about sleeping under a weighted blanket.

14: Talk to Your Friends to Ease Anxiety

Sometimes being alone and feeling isolated from the rest of the world at night is what intensifies the scary feelings.

It’s important for your mental and emotional health that you take the time to talk to people you care about.

Try to schedule regular phone calls, video chatting, or text messages with friends in the evening.

Talking to people virtually will help calm your nerves and diminish fears.

I personally find it better for my mental health to physically see my friends each day due to the social connection and sense of belonging that it builds.

15: Distract Yourself to Deflect From Worry

It can be easy to start ruminating when you’re alone. 

To avoid negative thoughts, find a relaxing distraction that will occupy your mind until you feel sleepy. 

Try reading a book, cooking a light meal, doing the dishes, or binge-watching a series – avoid anything too exciting or scary before you head to bed.

Personally, I like to watch something on Netflix that’s light and doesn’t involve too much thought – Friends is always a good option for me.

16: Relax With Meditation

Full-Body Relaxation and Guided Breathing Meditation | for Bone Deep Sleep – Rest and Restore

Meditation can help you get a restful night by deemphasizing future problems that may be causing fear and anxiety. 

Slow and deep breathing exercises can help to lower blood pressure, alleviate muscle tension, slow down your heart rate, and ease the body into sleep. 

Light physical exercises and/or yoga before bedtime can also help you fall asleep faster, and have less sleep-related anxiety.

If you’ve never tried to meditate before, then try listening to the guided meditation for sleep video I’ve included above.

17: Take a Warm Bath to Trigger Sleep

Taking a warm bath before bed is a good way to decompress and get into a calm mood for the night.

A warm bath helps with sleep because your body temperature increases while you are in the bath and then lowers after the bath. 

A lower body temperature helps you to fall asleep.

To enhance the calming effects of a warm bath, try incorporating some essential oils or scents associated with relaxation such as chamomile and lavender.

18: Avoid Stimulants and Heavy Meals Before Bed

Avoid eating a heavy meal right before you go to bed, as this can decrease your comfort.

In addition, avoid all stimulants such as coffee, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Stimulants keep your brain awake, which can make it harder to stop worrying and calm down at night.

Check out my guide to getting to sleep after consuming caffeine here.

19: Get Therapy for Ongoing Sleep Issues

If it becomes too difficult to sleep by yourself due to particular issues and fears, consider seeking the advice of a trained therapist.

A trained therapist will help you put together a plan to reduce your anxiety and panic symptoms, so you become more comfortable sleeping alone.

You can also read my guide to getting to sleep with intrusive OCD thoughts here too.

How Being Alone and Scared Affects Sleep

Research suggests that loneliness and sleeplessness might be intertwined.

If you are home alone and scared, your sleep may be affected in the following ways: you may be up for hours, tossing and turning in bed, covering your face with extra blankets, ruminating about your worries, and checking your cell phone to feel safe. 

This anxiety at night can keep you from falling asleep.

The symptoms of being alone and scared include: 

  • Trouble breathing normally.
  • Racing heart rate.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Sweating.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Hot or cold flashes.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Feeling paralyzed and powerless.
  • Inability to talk.
  • Insomnia.
  • Waking up from nightmares.

The Fear of Sleeping Alone is Caused By Insecurity

The cause of the fear of sleeping alone varies from person to person, but the most common reason is an underlying feeling of being unsafe, alone, or general insecurity.

For some, it’s a safety reason due to scary movies and crime stories, perhaps on account of worrisome thoughts or fear of what may occur while they’re asleep.    

If you live with any kind of anxiety or panic disorder, you may be more fearful of being alone, especially at night.

Some people even have a fear of sleep itself, known as somniphobia.

For many people, sleeping alone simply becomes an issue when it’s not what they’re used to.

If you’ve just moved to a new house or traveled to a foreign country, you may feel unsettled for the first few nights. 

This is known as the “First Night Effect,” which only allows the right hemisphere of your brain to rest while the left hemisphere stands watch. 

If you’re used to sleeping and cuddling with your partner every night, your body produces oxytocin, which suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol [6]. 

However, if you recently broke up or lost your partner or spouse this can destabilize you and negatively affect your sleep.

(Click here to see 20 ways to get to sleep after an emotional breakup).

Even people who are still in relationships can have anxiety and trouble sleeping if they’re away from their partner for a few nights. 

Some adults and children are simply more susceptible to fears, possibly due to their genetics.

The Fear of Sleeping Alone in the Dark is Due to the Unknown

The fear of sleeping alone in the dark is mainly due to fear of the unknown – caused by not being able to see what’s around you or clearly identify what’s making noises – although phobias and past experiences can be influential too.

Darkness is essential to sleep because the absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest.

However, for some people with insomnia, the real reason they can’t sleep may be due to a fear of the dark.

Fear of darkness often starts in childhood between the ages of 3 and 6.

At this age, you may also begin to fear imaginary and supernatural creatures, including witches, monsters, and ghosts. 

One study investigated the effects of darkness and noise in good and poor sleepers [7]. 

They gathered the participants in one bedroom with headphones on. 

When the bedroom was lit, all participants responded the same to the noise. 

But with the lights off, poor sleepers were more alert by the sound, blinking more rapidly.

Based on the study’s conclusion, you often fear the dark because you cannot see what’s around you. 

In fact, your imagination can play tricks on your senses, so anything you imagine or hear that is new, big, loud, or different can feel scary at first.

Other reasons why you may be scared of sleeping alone in the dark include: 

  • A frightening event that had previously happened in the dark.
  • Exposure to scary information.
  • Exposure to horror movies, crime TV, social media, and violent news.
  • Observation of a fearful reaction in others.
  • Scary warnings.
  • Phobia linked to genetics.

Conclusion: Focus on Security and Relaxation

The most effective ways to sleep better when alone or scared are that of increasing the security of your home or sleeping space, and then taking measures to calm your body and mind through meditation and music.

Beyond this, you should consider talking to a doctor or sleep therapist if you are still having problems getting to sleep.

And if your mattress is uncomfortable, you should get a new one so that you’re not tossing and turning at night – click the button below to see my top rated mattresses to combat insomnia now.


Sources and References

[1] Newsom, Rob. “How Blue Light Affects Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 2020, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/blue-light Accessed 8 June 2021.

[2] Braff, Danielle. “Movies may cause special effects on the body.” Chicago Tribune, 2011, https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-xpm-2011-06-22-sc-health-0622-movies-impact-on-body-20110622-story.html Accessed 8 June 2021.

[3] Raypole, Crystal. “How to Craft and Use Affirmations for Anxiety.” Healthline, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/affirmations-for-anxiety Accessed 8 June 2021.

[4] University of Rochester Medical Center. “Journaling for Mental Health.” URMC, 2021, https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4552  Accessed 8 June 2021.

[5] Mullen, Brian. “Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket.” Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, vol. 24, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65-89  Taylor and Francis Online, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05 Accessed 8 June 2021.

[6] Sleep Advisor. “Trouble Sleeping Alone? Learn How to Rest Better Solo.” Sleep Advisor, 2020, https://www.sleepadvisor.org/cant-sleep-alone/ Accessed 8 June 2021.

[7] Thrasybule, Linda. “Can’t Sleep? Could Be a Fear of the Dark.” LiveScience, 2012, https://www.livescience.com/20869-sleep-fear-dark-insomnia.html  Accessed 8 June 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

No part of this article or website provides medical advice – always consult with a qualified medical professional for such guidance.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main image: ‘Girl Sleeping Alone in Her Bedroom’ by GCShutter (Getty Images Signature) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.

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