The alarm clock always rings thwice…

“Snoozing”, i.e. delaying getting out of bed, is a kind of national sport and, for many people, it is impossible to imagine a morning routine without it. Especially during the winter months or after the clocks have changed, as has just occurred, it is more difficult to get up and your normal sleep rhythm is thrown off-balance. Sleep seems to be less restful. If this condition persists over a longer period of time, this is known as a sleep disorder. Find out what you can do about this insomnia and how you can regain control of your sleep here.

The natural day/night rhythm

There are many types of sleep disorders. Whether you lie awake for a long time while falling asleep, wake up several times during the night, or do not feel rested and fit in the morning – all these symptoms are referred to as insomnia if they occur more than 3 times a week or several times over a longer period of time and impact how a person functions during the day. Humans have a natural, hormonal and psychological day/night rhythm that enables us to be productive during the day and to rest at night. One of the most important factors for this rhythm is sunlight, which enables the body to regulate the sleep hormone melatonin. As sunlight decreases in the winter months, your natural rhythm can be disturbed and could develop into a sleep disorder due to the clock changes, shift work or being under a lot of stress.

Proper sleep hygiene

Restful sleep is subjective. While one person might be fully rested after 6 hours of sleep, others need to sleep longer to feel fit. The most important thing is how you feel during the day. However, the factors that promote restful sleep are the same for everyone. Where you sleep should be as dark, cool and quiet as possible and you should only retire there when you feel really tired. Constantly changing your bed time usually has a negative effect on the rhythm. This also applies to people who rise late at the weekend. An evening routine can also prepare the body for sleep and should not include any sports or strenuous activities. Some people feel tired after drinking alcohol, but it can affect sleep architecture and shorten REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), which is very important for rest.

Medicinal therapies

If all these sleep hygiene measures do not help to restore restful sleep or are not possible due to external circumstances such as shift work or jet lag, the body can be supported with medication. After all, untreated sleep disorders can have negative effects on the psyche, body and general well-being. You should start with sleep-inducing preparations such as herbal remedies or over-the-counter sleep aids, such as antihistamines. Herbal preparations often have few side effects but they also only have a low potency. In addition, valerian, hops and similar preparations usually have to be taken for a period of 2 weeks before a calming effect occurs, meaning they are less suitable for acute cases. However, due to their availability as teas, they can be integrated successfully into the evening routine.

Those affected who want to treat their sleep disorders quickly due to shift work, constantly changing bed times and time differences when travelling are often well-advised to take first-generation antihistamines. These medications, which can be sold over-the-counter in pharmacies, have a significantly stronger sleep-inducing effect than herbal remedies and work within 15-30 minutes, even in acute cases. As with herbal remedies, the sleep architecture is only minimally affected. They can also be administered as drops, which means you can tailor the dose of the sleep aid. You should not take these preparations for more than 2 weeks at a time as they are only intended for acute cases.

If sleep disorders persist for more than 2 weeks, patients who do not see an improvement with sleep hygiene measures or herbal remedies should contact a doctor. If necessary, the doctor can clarify the sleep disorders more precisely and prescribe stronger, hypnotic medication that can improve the quality of sleep again where required. With all medicinal therapies, however, care must be taken not to keep taking them for too long in order to avoid becoming dependant on sleep aids.