Therapeutic fields / Insomnia
Sleep represents a basic human need. It is used not only for physical but also for psychological regeneration. Depending on age and individual needs, people need about six hours (elderly), eight hours (adults/adolescents) and twelve hours (infants) of sleep per night.
There are various types of sleep disorders. The most frequent sleep disorders fall under the term “insomnia” (subjectively perceived sleep deficit or sleeplessness). Insomnia may be differentiated into two type
- Difficulty falling asleep: when overactivity of the wakefulness centre in the brain delays the process of falling asleep, however, one can sleep through the night relatively undisturbed afterwards.
- Difficulty staying asleep: with frequent or premature wakening.
In principle, sleep disorders always arise when the sleep/wakefulness centre in the brain cannot turn off because it is flooded with external or internal stimuli. The causes are manifol
- Unhealthy lifestyle, e.g. change in the sleep/wakefulness rhythm due to shift work or travel, consumption of substances that stimulate the central nervous system (e.g. caffeine), a lack of physical activity, rich meals in the evening that are difficult to digest, sensory overload (e.g. watching television too long) or street noise
- Psychological stress: e.g. stress, increase in professional demands, personal worries or deaths
- Organic disorders: e.g. pain, itching, cardiac insufficiency or difficulty breathing
- Change in lifestyle: e.g. avoidance of sensory overload from television in the evening, foregoing the use of stimulants, moving to a quieter residence, etc.
- Physical measures: including a hot bath before going to sleep (for nervousness), ear protectors, etc.
- Psychotherapeutic approaches: e.g. increased physical activity during the day, autogenic training, relaxation exercises, therapeutic processing of underlying conflicts, etc.
Besides the various non-medicinal measures, there are a number of drugs for sleep disorders. Some are available over-the-counter for self-treatment and others only by prescription. Sleep medications can be divided into three group
- Over-the-counter herbal or homeopathic preparations: a rather weak effect
- Prescription sleep medications from the group of antihistamines (e.g. Benocten): medium-strong effect
- Prescription sleep medications: strong effect
One should note with all three groups that medications do not eliminate the actual cause of the sleep disorders and, therefore, their intake should be for a limited amount of time. Whether or not a person takes a sleep medication depends on how greatly a person’s sleep and state of well-being during the day are affected.
A physician should be consulted for chronic sleep disorders lasting longer than two to four weeks.