Nowadays, more and more people suffer from insomnia or do not feel rested enough after sleeping, for example because they only get a small number of hours of sleep. There are many reasons for this. The need to sleep is a drive that is vital for us humans and fulfills important functions. Scientists found out that too little sleep limits people's mental performance, makes them ill and increases the risk of obesity . The American sleep researcher Jerome Siegel (University of California, Los Angeles) even assumes that sleep is a protection for both humans and animals: it is supposed to prevent us from not loitering at dangerous times, namely at night, because there are dangers lurking here.
Other functions of sleep
Sleep is used to relax the body and mind. During this time they regenerate. Sleep is also an important mechanism for the brain: it enables it to store and process what it has learned and experienced during the day. The brain reshapes during sleep and new nerve connections are created. In addition, restful sleep is important for our immune system. While this runs at full speed during the day, it can be regenerated by our body during sleep. Regular, healthy and restful sleep also keeps our metabolism in sync. This minimizes the risk of developing diabetes or obesity.
Causes of sleep problems
There are dozens of causes of sleep problems. Some even require medical therapy, for example if the person concerned suffers from breathing pauses during the night or from excessive snoring. One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is stress. Most people know this all too well: stress at work, money problems, discrepancies in the relationship, worry after worry. It takes hours to fall asleep, then wakes up again after a short time, dozes off again and is then usually awake again before the alarm clock. This type of sleep disorder is normal in psychological stress and is usually over within a month. Not infrequently, however, the sleep problem takes on a life of its own and you not only ponder over your worries, but your thoughts revolve around the problem of not being able to fall asleep. A vicious circle quickly develops and chronic sleep disorders develop.
How is a sleep disorder diagnosed?
Experts speak of a sleep disorder when the following criteria are met:
- You sleep poorly at least three times a week for more than four weeks,
- The lack of sleep has a negative impact on everyday life. If you suffer from insomnia for more than four weeks, you should visit your family doctor.
He checks whether there is a physical or mental illness behind the suffering. Among other things, he will do a blood count to rule out a disease of the thyroid gland, for example. In addition, many general practitioners ask those affected to keep a so-called sleep diary in order to get a better overview of the existing problem. A referral to a sleep laboratory can also be helpful. Here, the sleep of those affected is observed and measured so that, for example, breathing stops at night can be diagnosed. As soon as the family doctor has ruled out possible diseases, he can make the diagnosis "primary insomnia". This diagnosis denotes insomnia that is not caused by any physical or psychological complaints.
Helpful tips to get back to a restful sleep
Unfortunately, there is no panacea for chronic insomnia. But you can use the following tips to lay a good foundation for falling asleep well and then being able to enjoy your sleep.
- If possible, the bedroom should not be heated, because you sleep better in a cooler room. You should also switch off light sources and ensure peace and quiet. Using TV to help you fall asleep should be taboo.
- As you make your bed, so you sleep. An old saying that has an important meaning in the literal sense: the sleeping mattress used should be cozy and comfortable. The head and back must be adequately supported. In a specialist shop for mattresses, competent employees will help you choose the right mattress.
- Since both our bodies and our minds are creatures of habit, you should not only avoid watching TV, but also avoid eating in the bedroom. This is a signal to body and mind that this room is a place of rest and relaxation.
- It is advisable to develop a sleeping rhythm, because it is best to stick to it on days off and at weekends. Sleeping at regular times makes it easier for the body to fall asleep.
- rituals! With the help of certain rituals, you can signal to your body that bed rest is imminent. A hot bubble bath, tea, a good book or meditation are suitable as rituals.
- Exhausting sports units should not be placed in the last four hours of waking hours. However, relaxing walks are recommended.
- Difficulty falling asleep and restless sleep are some of the causes of heavy eating, coffee, smoking and alcohol. After 20:00 you should only eat light food.
- If you try to introduce a sleep rhythm and you want bed rest to take place earlier in the evening, then it is advisable not to take a nap after 3:00 p.m., otherwise the rhythm of your main sleep will get out of joint.
- Many people continue to work after work - mentally, certainly one of the most common reasons for insomnia. Keeping a diary can help here: You can write down your thoughts and feelings and “check them off” in your head.
- Another tip is the 20-minute rule: If you lie in bed for 20 minutes without being able to fall asleep, you should get up again. The best thing to do is read a page or two in your book or have another cup of tea. But you should definitely not work or turn on bright lights. This would be counterproductive, as it would signal the brain again that waking hours are beginning and falling asleep would be prevented all the more.
When it comes to sleep, quality comes before quantity . It doesn't depend on how long you sleep, but on whether you are able to perform during the day and feel fit and well rested.