The dark can trigger thoughts of scary images from books, films and video games, making it difficult to turn off our bedroom lighting and peacefully drift off come bedtime. Despite what people often think, fear of the dark can affect adults just as much as children. Our research found that 72% of adults in the UK are scared of the dark, with 52% saying it influences their behaviour at night-time. In this post, we look at why we are scared of the dark and what we can do to overcome that fear. We also take a look at the scariest movies of all time for you pop-culture fans out there.
Why are we scared of the dark?
Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a Professional Sleep and Dream Analyst, says we fear the dark because “it takes away our ability to see danger, therefore, we are forced into a state of unknowing and uncertainty and our built-in fight or flight instincts start to surface. It is innate in human nature that bad things can be waiting for us, hidden in the dark. That’s why villains emerging from darkness is such an effective image used in films. It resonates deep in our souls!
So, our fear of the dark is instinctive, and we are programmed to avoid the dark as we see it as unsafe. It isn’t surprising that many of us can’t shake our fear of the dark even beyond childhood, it’s normal.
How does the dark influence our behaviour?
In our research, we asked people how the dark influences their behaviour at night-time, and we found some interesting responses. 1 in 10 (11%) say they still sleep with a light on every night, and 16% are scared to sleep with their feet out of the duvet in case something grabs them. Some go a step further to protect themselves from the threats that come with darkness; we discovered that over 3 million adults in the UK even sleep with a weapon by their bed.
You can find a full list of responses below:
- I keep my phone next to me – 22%
- I can’t sleep with my feet out of the duvet – 16%
- I sleep with a light on – 11%
- I get the feeling something is watching me – 7%
- I am scared to go to the bathroom at night – 6%
- I get the feeling something is chasing me – 5%
- I keep a weapon next to me – 4%
- I get into bed with my kids when I’m scared – 4%
Our data shows that a lot of people struggle at night because of their fear of the dark, with some even feeling like they’re being watched or chased.
How does the dark affect our sleep?
The dark doesn’t just affect our behaviour; it can also impact our sleep quality. We asked people how often they wake at night because of fears associated with the dark. This is what we found:
(% of people who wake up because of the following)
- Hearing unexplained noises (75%)
- Feeling like something is in the room (46%)
- Scared by a horror film (43%)
- Feeling like you’re being watched (41%)
- Feeling like something touched you (36%)
- Feeling like something is under the bed (26%)
There aren’t many things creepier than waking up feeling like something is either in the room with you, watching you or touching you. The dark brings on many freaky thoughts, and this only gets worse if you felt it was a good idea to watch a horror movie before bed.
With horror films leading to many sleepless nights in the UK, it’s only natural we wanted to dig a little deeper. We asked people which horror films and characters specifically kept them up the most, helping us put together a list of the scariest movies of all time. You can find the ultimate horrors below:
(% who said it was the film that affected their sleep the most)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street / Freddy Kreuger – 8.6%
- Paranormal Activity – 8.5%
- Chucky – 8.4%
- IT / Pennywise – 8.3%
- Candy Man – 6.2%
- Dracula – 6.1%
- The Conjuring / Anabelle – 5.7%
- The Exorcist / Pazuzu – 5.2%
- Misery / Annie Wilkes – 5%
- The Ring – Samara Morgan – 4.8%
- The Silence of the Lambs / Hannibal Lecter – 4.8%
- Halloween / Michael Myers – 4.7%
- Hellraiser / Pinhead – 4.5%
- The Shining / Jack Torrance – 4.3%
- Saw / Jigsaw – 4.2%
The horror film that kept people up the most in the UK is different between cities. London, Belfast, and Birmingham are terrified of clowns, with Chucky coming out on top. Manchester and Leeds were disturbed by Paranormal Activity, while Sheffield and Glasgow have sleepless nights because of Misery.
If you want to find out You can find out the film or character that scares your city the most, check out the graphic below:
7 Tips for Conquering Your Fear of the Dark
Nyctophobia is the technical term for an age-inappropriate fear of the dark that can cause someone to avoid certain activities and situations. Lack of sleep can have a real impact on your day-to-day asit can affect your mental abilities, emotional state, and lead to health problems. While sleeping with a light on offers a short-term solution, we have put together some advice that could help you conquer your fear and get that all-important shut eye.
Like many fears, brief moments of exposure to the root of the fear can help you overcome it. Therefore, short, non-threatening exposure to the dark could help you slowly overcome your fear of it. Spend some time in dark rooms in small, incremental doses, a process known as desensitisation. This should be done under professional supervision.
Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga can help with fears and anxiety. Try being aware of the air entering and leaving the nose, focusing on taking deep, slow breaths.
Repeating a Coping Phrase
A coping phrase can be a useful way to reassure yourself when in the dark. Repeating a phrase like, “It is dark, but I am safe”, can help reduce anxiety and stop your mind from wandering
Focusing on a Positive Image
Concentrating on something positive could stop you from thinking about potential scary images associated with the dark and help you overcome any negative feelings. A beloved pet or happy memory are two examples.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This one is good for people who struggle sleeping because of their fear of the dark. The technique involves lying or sitting and imagining each part of the body starting to relax in turn.
Sharing your fears and discussing them with someone can be a very easy way to help overcome them. Remember, 72% of adults in the UK are scared of the dark, you’re not alone.
A Bedroom Makeover
Surrounding yourself with items and furniture that make you happy will make it easier to concentrate on positive thoughts. We have a selection of merchandise from some of the most popular franchises in the world. Check out our Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel and Disney collections and conquer your fear of the dark with some of your favourite film characters.
While we know our advice will help you overcome your fear of darkness, we would never underestimate the positive effects a good light can have. Check out our range of lighting and find bedside and wall lights themed on Iron Man, the Millennium Falcon and more!