Table of Contents
Sleep disorders are common. According to studies, an average of 15 percent of adults suffer from a sleep disorder that requires treatment. Sleep disorders are not the same as sleep disorders: there are, for example, difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), different types of daytime sleepiness (hypersomnias), sleep-related movement disorders (such as the restless legs syndrome) and sleep-related breathing disorders (e.g. the sleep apnea syndrome). Read more about the causes and forms of sleep disorders and what you can do about it here!
Description: Problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep, feeling excessively tired during the day
Symptoms: Depending on the type of sleep disorder; in addition to fatigue, for example headache, memory problems, eating disorders, grinding of teeth, limb movement disorders, breathing disorders, sleepwalking
Causes: stress or unfavourable sleeping conditions, but also mental, organic or neurological diseases, medicines, drugs
Tips: Ensure good sleep hygiene (regular bed times, comfortable bedroom temperature, no coffee or alcohol in the evening), do not want to force sleep, relaxation techniques (yoga, meditation, etc.), medicinal herbs (teas), sleep-promoting baths
When to the doctor? With persistent sleep disorders; if there is a massive burden on sleep disorders; for tiredness and lack of concentration during the day. The first point of contact is the family doctor. If necessary, he will refer you to a specialist.
Sleep disorders: description
Short-term sleep problems over a few days, almost everyone has once in stressful phases of life, during an illness (e.g. cough, “nose closed” with a runny nose) or due to stressful situations. Most of them are harmless.
It is different from “real” sleep disorders. These are sleep problems that occur over a more extended period (from three to four weeks) and significantly impair the person’s performance. They can be physical as well as psychological. You should, therefore, have the cause clarified.
Sleep disorders are widespread and not trivial. Chronic sleep disorders, in particular, can severely restrict the person’s daily health and performance, impair his social skills and lead to accidents.
Sleep disorders: how do they express themselves?
Experts distinguish more than 80 different sleep disorders, which can be divided into eight main groups according to the type of complaint:
- Insomnia: This includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty sleeping through the night, awakening early in the morning, and chronically restless sleep. In addition, those affected complain, for example, of tiredness, problems with attention or memory, impaired mood, tension, headaches and/or worries about the sleep disorder. Insomnia is one of the most common forms of sleep disorders. They can be triggered, for example, by psychological stress (e.g. financial worries) or drug abuse (such as excessive use of sleeping pills).
- Sleep-related breathing disorders: They include, for example, various forms of sleep apnea . This leads to breathing interruptions at night, which means that breathing pauses for a short time – often unnoticed by the sleeping person.
- Hypersomnias of central nervous origin: In these sleep disorders, those affected primarily suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day, although the nightly amount of sleep is not reduced and there is no circadian rhythm disturbance (i.e. a disturbance in the individual day-night rhythm). Hypersomnias include, for example, narcolepsy (sleeping sickness) and daytime sleepiness due to traumatic brain damage or as a result of drug or substance abuse.
- Circadian sleep-wake rhythm disorders: such rhythm-sleep disorders can be triggered, for example, by changing time zones (jet lag), shift work, organic diseases or drug or substance abuse. They lead to insomnia and massive daytime sleepiness.
- Parasomnias: These are episodic interruptions to sleep caused by unusual physical phenomena or behaviours such as sleepwalking, nightmares, nightly moans, sleep-related eating disorders or repeated, unconscious voiding during sleep.
- Sleep-related movement disorders: The sleep disorders are caused by simple, mostly stereotypical movements. A common sleep-related movement disorder is restless legs syndrome (RLS). Other sleep disorders in this category include periodic limb movement disorders and night-time teeth grinding.
- Isolated symptoms, norm variants, unresolved problems: This category includes all sleep-related symptoms that are on the borderline between “normal” and pathological or that cannot yet be clearly classified as normal or pathologically from a scientific point of view. Examples: Short sleepers (need less than five hours of sleep per 24 hours), late sleepers (usually need more than ten to twelve hours of sleep per 24 hours) and strong, repeated muscle twitches when falling asleep (twitching asleep). Primarily snoring and speaking during sleep are also assigned to this category, although they usually do not disturb the sleep of the person concerned – but that of their neighbours.
- Other sleep disorders: This means all sleep disorders that cannot be assigned to any of the other categories, for example because they have not yet been adequately examined or have characteristics of different categories of sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders: what can you do yourself?
Sometimes a physical or mental illness is the cause of sleep disorders. In such cases, their treatment by the doctor is of course the top priority. In these cases, you can also do something to help prevent sleep disorders.
This applies even more to sleep disorders that are not based on a disease, e.g. if stress, inner restlessness or unfavourable sleeping conditions are the cause of difficulty falling asleep, difficulty sleeping through or waking up early in the morning (insomnia).