Sleep disorders – why is treatment necessary?
Almost everyone occasionally complains about sleep disorders, such as problems falling asleep or staying asleep. As long as such a sleep problem occurs only once in a while, it is not a cause for concern.
It is different if it is a sleep disorder. If there is a reduced quality of sleep or lack of sleep over a longer period of time, health is at risk. In addition to massive limitations in performance, there is also a risk of serious illnesses.
Why sleep is important for health?
Restful sleep as well as the right duration of sleep is extremely important for all bodily functions. During sleep, numerous functions of the body are greatly reduced. Meanwhile, other functions (regenerative processes) are running at full speed.
It is mainly the brain that is extraordinarily active during sleep. It controls all the functions that occur during nighttime sleep so that the body can recover optimally.
Sleep cycle with five sleep phases
From the time we go to bed until we wake up, we go through 4 to 6 sleep cycles every night. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and consists of these 5 sleep phases:
- Falling asleep phase,
- Light sleep phase,
- 1. Deep sleep phase,
- 2. Deep sleep phase,
- Dream sleep phase.
The first four phases are so-called non-REM phases. However, the dream sleep phase is called REM phase, because we dream particularly vividly in this sleep phase and our eyes move quickly during this phase.
REM stands for rapid eye movement, which means fast eye movements.
What happens in the deep sleep phase?
Although all sleep stages are important for restful sleep, the two deep sleep stages are the most important stages. Meanwhile we sleep very deeply.
The muscles are particularly relaxed. Brain activity, breathing, heart rate and body temperature are reduced to a minimum.
Body and mind experience maximum relaxation and the renewal of the body‘s cells runs at full speed.
In the deep sleep phase the organism secretes growth hormones.
These in turn are absolutely necessary for the regeneration and renewal of the body’s cells, so that the body remains healthy.
In addition, the brain stores newly learned knowledge in the long-term memory during the deep sleep phase.
All of these processes can only be fully completed if we are able to sleep undisturbed during the deep sleep phases and enough sleep cycles are repeated.
While it is common to wake up several times during the night. But this does not affect the quality of sleep, as long as it is only a short wake-up and the sleep can be continued directly.
Common reasons for sleep disorders
Problematic, however, are longer periods of wakefulness or disturbances caused by parasomnias that interrupt sleep.
Parasomnias are behaviors or unusual physical phenomena that negatively affect the sleep process.
If there is a sleep disturbance, reasons for this include
- sleep apnea syndrome (pathological snoring),
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS),
- Bruxism (grinding of teeth at night),
- Jet lag syndrome (sleep disturbances when time zones change),
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome,
- nocturnal calf cramps
or external disturbances (e.g. B. light, loud ambient noise, uncomfortable mattress).
Shift work or too short a sleep duration can also be other factors that cause sleep problems or even serious sleep disorders.
The consequences of sleep deprivation and non-restorative sleep
If night sleep is not restful, massive symptoms can develop after only a few days. Fatigue as a result of sleep deprivation affects quality of life the very next day.
Concentration disorders and reduced performance may occur. If a sleep disorder persists, it drastically increases the risk of serious illnesses.
Possible diseases as a result of sleep deprivation and reduced sleep quality include z. B.:
- Cardiovascular diseases,
- Heart attack,
- High blood pressure,
- Metabolic disorders,
- Diabetes mellitus.
Furthermore, the immune system is weakened, so that the susceptibility to infectious diseases increases.
Sleep disorders promote mental disorders and increase the risk of developing depression. In addition, numerous other health consequences can occur.
Take sleep disorders seriously and treat them
If it is often difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep and you do not feel rested in the morning, this should not be taken lightly.
The first step is to check whether sleep is disturbed by external factors, which are often easy to switch off.
If the TV is on, bright light is shining into the bedroom, or disturbing noise from the street enters the apartment at night, suitable countermeasures can be taken.
- Try sleep mask and earplugs.
- Switching off electrical appliances such as TV sets and smartphones.
- Place the cell phone at least one meter away from the bed.
- Use blackout options for the window.
- Move the bedroom to a room in the apartment away from the main street.
If you have a sleep disorder, it is also recommended to improve your sleep hygiene and introduce relaxing evening rituals to better switch off and promote sleepiness. A walk or a soothing relaxing bath in the evening promotes inner peace.
If these measures do not succeed in returning to a healthy and restful sleep, a sleep protocol can help to uncover further causes for the sleep problem.
Further, the family doctor should be consulted, who will examine for possible physical causes. Numerous organic diseases can also trigger a sleep disorder.
If necessary, the family doctor refers the patient to a sleep laboratory, where numerous examinations are carried out over several nights in order to diagnose, for example, the dangerous sleep apnea syndrome, the restless legs syndrome or nocturnal grinding of the teeth.
These impairments often remain unnoticed and subsequently untreated without a specialist medical examination in a sleep laboratory. Based on the examination results from the sleep laboratory, suitable countermeasures and therapies can then be taken up in order to treat the sleep disorder efficiently.