Sleep disorder – causes? What helps?


Many of us know this: You can’t sleep a wink even though you’re tired. Then they start thinking, tossing and turning in bed and waking up all the time. During the day you are exhausted and can’t get anything done. If you often have nights like this, here is information on causes and treatment options. You can also learn what you can do yourself to sleep better.

At a glance

The technical term for a sleep disorder is insomnia. With simple "sleeping rules you can do something about it yourself.

With a conversation, a physical examination, a sleep diary and questionnaires, insomnia can be detected. Additional examinations can help to find the reason.

Experts recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as the first treatment before doctors offer medication. However, prescription drugs should only be used for a short time.

Insomnia – What is it??

Everyone has a bad night’s sleep. But about 6 out of 100 people have sleep problems: they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. They don’t wake up refreshed in the morning. When that happens at least three times a week for a month, experts call it a Insomnia.

Affected people think a lot about their sleep disorders in bed at night. They are tormented by thoughts such as "I really need to sleep now, otherwise I won’t be fit tomorrow". During the day they then worry about the lack of sleep. A vicious circle can develop.

Many affected people suffer considerably from insomnia or feel that their everyday life is impaired by it.

What are possible causes?

Many circumstances can promote or trigger a sleep onset and sleep through disorder. Examples include:

stress, such as at work or in private life

Caffeine, alcohol or drugs

Physical or mental illness, such as pain, stroke, depression or dementia

Medications, such as certain antibiotics, blood pressure medications or asthma medications

Personality traits, such as perfectionism

Nighttime rumination or sleep habits, such as an afternoon nap, can contribute to sleep disturbance becoming permanent.

Does insomnia make you sick?

If you sleep badly, you can become mentally ill. Insomnia can be especially depressive.

In addition, sufferers have a higher long-term risk of high blood pressure, heart attack or heart failure. It is not yet clear whether too little sleep makes you fat.

How to diagnose insomnia?

During the interview, your doctor will ask questions about pain, illnesses, medications, stress, working hours, or sleep patterns, for example. This includes whether you drink alcohol or take intoxicants. Your answers will help to find the reason for your complaints. Physical examinations, sleep diaries or questionnaires provide additional clues.

Small portable devices are available to track bedtime and sleep patterns. Measurements with apparatus in the sleep laboratory can provide further information in certain cases.

Treatment options

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. That’s why experts recommend CT for adults as a first step.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is available as individual, group or online therapy. It consists of many components. Among other things, you learn how to relax or get tips on how to sleep better. In addition, techniques to help break negative thinking loops.


Your doctor can offer you medication if KVT does not work well or is not possible. However, these can cause side effects. For example Benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine-like agents quickly become addictive. Also Calming antidepressants can be considered for insomnia. According to experts Benzodiazepine-like agents Or antidepressants improve sleep, but only if they are taken for a short time. Because of the available data and possible side effects, they cannot currently make a general recommendation for long-term treatment.

The benefits of herbal remedies containing valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, or hops have not been well established to date. Therefore, experts do not give any recommendation for this.

Other methods

These include, for example, mindfulness, acupuncture, aromatherapy, exercise, homeopathy, light therapy, massage, meditation, music therapy or yoga. However, their benefits have not been sufficiently proven by studies so far.

What can I do myself?

Before starting treatment, perhaps these rules alone can improve your sleep:

You should not drink beverages with caffeine after lunch, such as coffee, black tea or cola.

Drink little or no alcohol before bedtime. A "nightcap" or "after-work" beer are not good sleep aids.

Choose meals that are as light as possible in the evening.

Try to be physically active on a regular basis.

Let the day end in a relaxed way. Refrain from mentally or physically strenuous activities before going to bed.

Find your personal sleep ritual and create a pleasant sleep environment.

Don’t look at the clock if you can’t fall asleep or have woken up during the night.

The following procedure can help against the nocturnal carousel of thoughts and sleep disturbing behaviors. The technical term is Stimulus control:

  • Do not lie down in bed at night unless you are really tired. Important: The bed is only for sleeping or having sex.
  • If you cannot fall asleep, get up again after 15 minutes and leave the bedroom. Do not go back to bed until you are drowsy. You can repeat this procedure if necessary.
  • Always get up at the same time in the morning. Avoiding a nap in between.

You can get more tips and support in self-help groups.

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