In the increasingly fast-paced world, more and more people find it difficult to switch off at night. In the meantime, more than 34 million Germans occasionally suffer from sleep disorders. Here’s what can help.
More than 34 million Germans suffer from sleep disorders, and every tenth worker suffers from the particularly severe form of insomnia. Especially in winter it is difficult for us to wake up refreshed and fit. The short days have an effect on our biorhythm – and thus also on our sleep. We sleep too little and as a result feel tired.
According to experts, seven hours of sleep per night is considered ideal for cognitive performance, general well-being and mental health in middle-aged and older people.
However, having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is not something to be trifled with. Chronic lack of sleep can negatively impact health and well-being in many ways. In addition to a lack of concentration and hecticness in everyday life, a chronic lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, stroke or aneurysms. Last but not least, a new study by the Université Paris Cité shows that too little sleep can also increase the risk of developing multimorbidity by up to 40 percent.
One speaks of multimorbidity when a person has at least two chronic diseases at the same time. Examples are diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, arthrosis, cardiac insufficiency or osteoporosis.
Do you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep? We have summarized the best tips:
First of all, it is important to set yourself regular bedtimes and wake-up times – i.e. to go to bed and get up at the same time whenever possible. While some studies refer to specific times when you fall asleep and get up, Thomas-Christian Wetter, deputy head of the “Sleep Medicine” department, recommends using your own internal clock as a guide. “It is important to adapt the individual sleep window as well as possible to one’s own chronotype – i.e. the inner clock – and then to maintain a regular sleep rhythm,” said the expert to the DGPPN.
Accordingly, during the week and also at the weekend you should either get up early and go to bed or fall asleep late and wake up correspondingly late. You can find out here whether you are the chronotype “lark” (early) or “owl” (late). Once you have found your personal preference, you should use an alarm clock to monitor and maintain your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
Establish a positive evening routine. Routines condition the brain for certain processes and also give the feeling of security, the latter in particular is important for stress management. Routines create security and predictability and help the mind and body to calm down.
Beneficial rituals can be reading in the evening or writing in a diary, a warm bath or a cup of tea. With the latter, it makes sense to always drink the same type. Because our sense of smell and taste can also prepare us spiritually for going to bed. Lavender sprays for the pillow or so-called stone pine pillows, which smell of forest and trees, also have a beneficial effect on “sleep” conditioning.
Before going to bed, make sure that the room temperature is between 17 and 22 degrees and that the room is pleasantly dark and quiet. In addition, the bed should only be there for sleeping. Avoid eating, watching TV, or studying in bed. You should also refrain from using your cell phone and laptop for at least two hours before going to sleep. It has been proven that the blue light that laptops and mobile phones use to generate their brightness wakes us up.
Extra tip: Always make your bed in the morning. There’s no better feeling than slipping into a clean, tidy bed at night.
At night, circling thoughts often keep us from falling asleep. To counteract this, it is advisable to keep a diary in the evening and to write down all the thoughts that fly around in everyday life. It can also be helpful to plan the next day in writing in a few key points. That gives mental security.
Extra tip: Place paper and pen right next to your bed so that you can write down sudden thoughts before you fall asleep or during brief waking periods and fall asleep with peace of mind.
If sleep doesn’t come night after night, Christoph Nissen, head of the “Sleep Medicine” department, recommends consciously building up sleep pressure. That means accepting the situation mentally at first. The sufficient need for sleep (sleep pressure) is consciously built up over the duration of wakefulness (i.e. the duration of being awake) by keeping bedtime short, explains Nissen of the DGPPN. The built-up sleep pressure can then lead to restful sleep again.
If you wake up after a short night’s sleep, get up instead of tossing and turning, brooding, or getting lost in thoughts. This prevents you from associating the bed with frustration and anger from bad sleep, but with a place for rest and relaxation.
If you wake up in the night, try not to look at the clock. US sleep expert Jennifer L. Martin from the University of California points out the problem in a study: “People immediately think about how long they can sleep before they have to get up.” Those affected put themselves in a stressful situation. And when you’re stressed, you can’t sleep.
If you suffer from tiredness and concentration problems during the day after a sleepless night, you should try to take a nap of no more than 20 to 30 minutes in the middle of the day. A NASA study was able to prove that the so-called “power nap” afterwards increases reaction speed by 16 percent and reduces attention spans by 34 percent.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health also proves the healing effect of “power naps”. The 30-minute siesta is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 37 percent. In addition, with the limited nap, they prevent you from being too awake to fall asleep in the evening.
You should also pay attention to your caffeine intake. Experts recommend cutting off caffeine about six to eight hours before bed. It is also recommended to exercise a lot in the fresh air during the day. Even a short “lap around the block” before going to bed can have a beneficial effect on the quality of sleep.
If you have problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night over a period of three months and more than three times a week, you should get professional clarification. Causes of sleep disorders can point to mental or organic diseases such as restless legs syndrome, which require special treatment.
On the other hand, you should only take sleeping pills with the advice of a doctor and then only for a limited period of time. Because even over-the-counter sleeping pills can be addictive and lead to side effects. Alternatives are herbal remedies that can contribute to more rest and relaxation and thus to better sleep quality. Examples are: