A sleep problem is when there is too much or too little time between sleeping, it's difficult to fall asleep, or the sleep is frequently interrupted and thus not restorative. Clear signs of a chronic sleep disorder include not getting a complete night of restful sleep for three or more nights per week over a time period of at least one month and feeling exhausted or irritated during the day.
There are different forms of sleep disorders: Sleep experts distinguish between over 80 different forms of sleep disorder, the most common being:
Insomnia: A disorder related to falling and/or staying asleep. Those affected have difficulties falling asleep, frequently waking up at night and then finding it difficult to get back to sleep. People who suffer from insomnia often wake up too early in the morning. With long-term persistence of the sleep disorder, those affected complain of daytime sleepiness, increasing irritability and limited productivity.
Hypersomnia: Hypersomnia, also known as somnolence, includes disorders with increased daytime sleepiness. This results in unintentionally falling asleep or nodding off during the day and the feeling of being permanently sleepy. Somnolence often develops in conjunction with mental illnesses or pronounced sleep apnoea.
Parasomnias: During sleep, disturbances such as sleep walking, sleep talking, nightmares or grinding of teeth occur. This type of sleep disorder typically occurs episodically. Parasomnias are subdivided into four categories:
Sleep apnoea: Sleep apnoea includes sleep-related breathing disorders that can cause sleep problems where dangerous interruptions to breathing occur during sleep. Typical symptoms of sleep apnoea include snoring and fatigue. The cause is mostly narrowed airways, not infrequently due to being overweight.
Circadian sleep-wake rhythm disorders: This disorder often develops in the form of jetlag or among shift workers. The sleep-wake rhythm is difficult to predict accurately and the person affected finds it difficult to go to sleep at "normal" times.
Restless legs syndrome: Those affected suffer from a sleep-related movement disorder. This is manifested by unpleasant abnormal sensations in the legs and is often felt as a pulling or tearing pain, or as tingling.
People who don't sleep enough often suffer from psychological effects. Diminished mental performance is just the start. It can also make us increasingly irritated and moody, possibly leading to personality disorders or even suicidal thoughts. Sleep disorders equally have a negative impact on our body, impairing muscle tension, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and even our hormones and metabolism.
Stress, depression and other illnesses can be causes of sleep disorders. People who try to tackle these with medication can often even cause the opposite effect since these remedies sometimes only work in the short term. The consumption of alcohol and nicotine as well as a bad sleeping environment in the form of an unsuitable mattress, noise disturbances, too much light or even the wrong indoor environment in the bedroom can caused disturbed sleep.
People who do sport not long before going to bed do just as little good as someone who eats meals that are hard to digest too late in the evening. Your should therefore allow yourself and your body at least two hours' rest before going to sleep. You don't have to forego eating in the evening – a light meal is always allowed.
◾ Feeling sleepy during the day
◾ Not feeling rested after sleep
Lack of sleep can have a variety of physical and mental consequences. According to studies, a lack of sleep leads, among other things, to an impaired metabolism of carbohydrates. Blood sugar levels increase and production of the thyroid hormone (insulin) gets confused. This also favours a resistance to insulin, for example, which triggers diabetes.
Other effects include:
People who go for more than 24 hours straight without sleep suffer from severely impaired cognitive performance. This roughly corresponds to an alcohol level of 0.85 per mille. 48 hours of sleep deprivation can also lead to hallucinations and memory loss.