“Having trouble falling asleep, not staying asleep, snoring, walking up and down with tingling legs, dozing off several times during the day – sleep problems have numerous causes”
Scientists are constantly gathering new insights into what good sleep does us:
- Learning while you sleep – because our brain not only creates mental order at night but also processes freshly recorded information more intensively.
- Lose weight while you sleep – if you have a good night’s sleep, you lose weight more easily. Stay young and beautiful while you sleep – our grandmothers already knew that.
- In addition to mental and physical fitness, the plus points of good sleep are a strengthened immune system, mental balance, and better organ and metabolic functions.
Many of us know this: you can’t fall asleep even though you’re tired. Then you start thinking, tossing and turning in bed, and waking up all the time. During the day you are exhausted and get nothing done. If you often have nights like this, you can find information about causes and therapies here. You will also learn what you can do yourself to sleep better.
Sleep Disorder (Insomnia) – what is it?
Everyone sleeps badly, but around 6 out of 100 people have trouble sleeping: they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. They don’t wake up refreshed in the morning. When this happens at least three times a week for a month, experts call it insomnia or sleep disorder.
Affected people think a lot about their sleep disorders in the evenings in bed. You torment yourself with thoughts like “I absolutely have to sleep now, otherwise I won’t be fit tomorrow”. During the day they worry about the lack of sleep. A vicious circle can arise.
Many of those affected suffer significantly from insomnia or feel affected by it in everyday life.
What are possible causes?
Many causes can promote or trigger difficulty in falling asleep or sleeping through the night. Examples are:
- Stress, for example at work or in life
- Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, smoking or drugs
- physical or mental illnesses, such as pain, stroke, depression, or dementia
- Medications, such as certain antibiotics, blood pressure, or asthma medicines
- Disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle due to jet lag and shift work
- Personality traits, such as perfectionism
- hereditary predisposition
- Nocturnal rumination or sleeping habits, such as naps, can contribute to insomnia becoming permanent.
- heart and circulatory disorders
- Respiratory, lung diseases
- Heartburn , gastrointestinal diseases
- Chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic joint diseases, osteoarthritis
- headache , migraine
- Hormonal influences, for example during menopause
- thyroid disorders
- urinary urgency, kidney disease, prostate disease
- Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Does insomnia make you sick?
If you don’t sleep well, you can become mentally ill. Above all, insomnia can cause depression.
In addition, those affected have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, or heart failure in the long term. It is not yet clear whether too little sleep makes you fat.
How do you diagnose insomnia?
During the conversation, your doctor asks questions about pain, illness, medication, stress, working hours, or sleeping patterns. This also includes whether you drink alcohol or take intoxicants. Your answers help to find the reason for your complaints. Physical examinations, sleep diaries or questionnaires provide additional information.
To record sleep times, there are small portable devices. Measurements with devices in the sleep laboratory can provide further information in certain cases.
Therapies for Sleep Disorder
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. As studies show, it helps with permanent insomnia. The effectiveness lasts long after the end of therapy. Therefore, professionals recommend CBT as the first choice for adults.
CBT is available as individual, group, or online therapy. Among other things, you will learn how to relax or receive tips on how to sleep better. Techniques also help break negative thought loops.
Your doctor can offer you medication if CBT does not work well or is not possible. However, these can cause side effects. For example, benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine-like drugs can quickly become addictive. Sedative antidepressants can also be used for insomnia.
According to experts, benzodiazepine-like drugs or antidepressants can improve sleep, but only when taken for a short time. Due to possible side effects, they cannot be used for long-term treatment.
The benefits of herbal remedies with valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, or hops have not yet been well proven. Therefore, experts do not recommend it.
These include, for example, mindfulness, acupuncture, aromatherapy, exercise, homeopathy, light therapy, massage, meditation, music therapy, or yoga. However, their benefit has not yet been sufficiently proven by studies.
What can I do myself?
Before you begin treatment, these rules may be able to improve your sleep:
- After lunch, you should avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, black tea, or cola.
- Drink little or no alcohol before bed. A “nightcap” or “after-work beer” is not a good sleep aid.
- Choose light meals in the evening if possible.
- Try to be physically active on a regular basis.
- Let the day end relaxed. Avoid mentally or physically strenuous activities before going to bed.
- Find your personal bedtime ritual and create a pleasant sleeping environment.
- Don’t look at the clock if you can’t fall asleep or if you wake up during the night.
The following procedures can help against the nocturnal merry-go-round and sleep-disturbing behaviors. The technical term is stimulus control :
- Only go to bed at night if you are really tired. Important: The bed is only for sleeping or for sex.
- If you cannot fall asleep, get up after 15 minutes and leave the bedroom. Don’t go back to bed until you’re sleepy. You can repeat this procedure if necessary.
- Always get up at the same time in the morning. Avoid taking a nap in between.
Insomnia: when to see a doctor
Anyone who sleeps poorly should pay attention. If no tangible triggers such as stress or an infection can be found for acute sleep problems, it is important to track down other possible causes, especially if the sleep disorders last longer.
If you have not been able to get a continuous, restful sleep three nights a week or more for at least a month and feel tired and powerless or nervous and irritable during the day. Even if you have the impression that you are sleeping well, but suffer from severe daytime sleepiness, this is often an indication of a disturbed night’s sleep. In all of these cases, you should definitely see a doctor.