Sleep Disorders: Therapy and self-help

Sleep Disorders: Therapy and self-help

The treatment of a sleep disorder depends on the form and cause of the sleep problems. If you sleep badly, you can also do a lot to make your sleep more restful

Often it is not too difficult to find the reason for restless nights. A changed lifestyle and a healthy sleep hygiene usually bring back a good, sufficient sleep (see below). If there are specific triggers for persistent sleep disturbances, then every successful treatment starts with the causes (see the relevant chapters of this article).

If you try to reduce your lack of sleep by taking long-term sleeping pills, you may be covering the responsible health problems. Therefore, it is important to always consult a doctor for stubborn sleep disorders, usually the family doctor. Depending on the diagnosis, he will suggest and discuss a suitable course of treatment or call in the appropriate specialist (see chapter “Sleep Disorders – Diagnosis” ).


Effective behavioral therapy

Sleeping doctors have made very good experiences with stubborn sleep disorders with targeted programs from the cognitive behavioral therapy . These were at least as successful in studies as treatments with sleeping pills, as it helps those affected to change their habits and sleep patterns in the long term and thus to find a restful night’s sleep. Behavioral therapy can also effectively accompany the medical treatment of physical causes. In stress episodes, burnout syndrome and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, behavioral therapies are standard.

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Relaxation techniques are part of many treatment concepts, whether they are physical or mental causes. Anyone affected can find the method that suits them the most. This can be autogenic training , progressive muscle relaxation or respiratory therapy.

Light therapy with special lamps is only to be considered for some disorders, such as stronger jet-lag problems, disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle or seasonal mental health problems such as winter depression.

Sleeping pills only controlled and for a short time

Take sleeping pills, even non-prescription herbal, always in consultation with your doctor. Herbal remedies with hops and valerian may sometimes help with sleep disturbances that have no pathological physical cause to facilitate falling asleep and improving sleep.

Synthetic preparations, so-called hypnotics such as benzodiazepines, are subject to prescription and are only suitable for short-term use (see chapter “Sleep Disorders – Causes: Sleep Aids and Other Drugs” ). With prolonged use they often lead to habituation and dependency and often increase sleep problems. Used unchecked, they cause other unwanted effects, such as increased daytime sleepiness or parasomnias. In addition, sleeping pills have threatening consequences for certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or nocturnal movement disorders .

The intake of so-called benzodiazepine receptor agonists , including zopiclone and zolpidem, is also limited to short-term treatment. Synthetically produced, retarded melatonin is available in Germany as a prescription drug for people over 55 years. It is only intended for a controlled, short-term therapy attempt if there are no physical, psychological or external causes for the sleep problems.

Antihistamines, anti-allergic agents that make you tired, should also be taken for a short time. Depending on the disorder, the doctors also prescribe certain antidepressants to regulate the sleep process.

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The best sleeping tips

A healthy lifestyle with sufficient physical activity and a balanced diet , little or no alcohol, no nicotine , a satisfying change between tension, activity and relaxation is the basis for a restful sleep. This also includes the correct sleep hygiene, so measures that ensure calmer nights.

All this is usually easy to say, but it is not always easy to implement for many people. Then often a sleep diary helps to get to the critical points on the track (see also chapter “life situation, shift work” ). Those who fail to initiate the necessary changes by themselves can usually succeed with a targeted behavioral therapy.

Here are the most important tips for a restful sleep

  • Stick to firm sleep and get-up times . This strengthens your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Exercise regularly in the day, but driving in the evening no strenuous sports more. An evening walk, however, has a relaxing effect.
  • Do not eat too lavish in the evening . In addition, spicy foods in the evening can lead to heartburn, which in turn interrupts sleep. A light snack, however, promotes falling asleep.
  • No coffee , no tea, no coke or other caffeinated drinks more in the late afternoon and evening. Find out for yourself until what time you can drink coffee without having trouble falling asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine . It is best to stop smoking altogether. Since alcohol seriously disturbs your sleep, you should also check your habits here. If any alcoholic drinks, then use very little and not as a sleeping potion.
  • Relax before going to bed : no more arguments, no long television with exciting thrillers, no binders on the bedside table. Take a relaxing bath, read, listen to music, do relaxation exercises . Find your personal sleep-in ritual. This may include a soothing herbal tea or the famous glass of warm milk.
  • Create a real sleeping room : This includes that the room is sufficiently dark, quiet and well ventilated, the temperature does not exceed 18 degrees. A good mattress can help to prevent a lot of tension and pain .
  • Do not roll around in bed for hours : Try breath and relaxation exercises, or get up and distract yourself. Lie back after a while. Calm yourself, because it does not harm your health right away if you sleep worse or less. Here, serenity helps more than worry.
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Nightmares and sleep disorders
Nightmares and sleep disorders

When stress and problems do not let you go in bed: Extreme stress , emotional distress that you can not handle on your own or that you are trying to cover, are pushing you to the surface at night.

Do not be afraid to visit a life counselor (coach) or psychotherapist, be it to learn targeted stress management, solve professional or private conflicts, or reduce deep-seated fears .

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