Difficulty sleeping through: causes and treatment

Difficulty sleeping through: causes and treatment

Difficulty sleeping through can make us feel badly rested during the day. We reveal possible causes and treatment routes here.

What are sleep disorders?

Sleep-through disorders are a form of sleep disorders and mostly stand for a sleep that is not considered to be restful. Affected people wake up more often at night and then have problems falling asleep again – or the subsequent sleep is only superficial. One often speaks of sleep problems if the nightly re-sleep falls over 30 minutes and the complaints reduce the overall sleep time to less than six hours. The causes include, for example, various diseases that need to be treated accordingly.

Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are common. It is currently assumed that almost one in four (around 24 percent) have this type of sleep disorder. The combination of falling asleep and staying asleep is also the most common. Women are affected more often, and sleep disorders increase with age.

But: Not everyone automatically suffers from sleep disorders in old age, like Professor Dr. med. Ingo Fietze, head of the Interdisciplinary Sleep Medicine Center at the Charité, reveals: “This assumption alone has the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people. I think that is problematic, because 30 percent are gifted sleepers and will remain so for the rest of their lives.”

In fact, many of those affected have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, rather than just one of the two types of sleep disorders. And usually the sleep disorder begins with one of these forms and then spreads to a combination over the months and years.

When we get older, we not only get wrinkles, our sleep also ages: we have a little less deep sleep, we dream a little less, and we often have short, nocturnal waking phases. But we don’t notice them – and continue to sleep. It is all natural and nothing to worry about. – Prof. Fietze

Symptoms: How do you have trouble sleeping through the night?

There are various ways in which sleep disorders can become noticeable. Some patients fall asleep quite quickly, but then wake up prematurely and are unable to sleep at all, so they lie awake until they have to get up or only fall asleep again after an hour or two.

Others often wake up, but can then fall asleep again. The sleep remains restless and light, every time you turn around in bed or through other possible stimuli, those affected wake up immediately. We call this rather frequent waking up at night and not classic sleep disturbance. If this happens every night, the sheep disorders become a heavy burden.

The following symptoms speak for difficulty sleeping through:

  • Very early awakening
  • Frequent short awakenings
  • Long nightly lying awake (more than 30 minutes), fixation on falling asleep again – which really wakes you up
  • Nervousness to the point of not being able to sleep anymore
  • Racing heart, stumbling
  • Mind carousel turns on
  • Sleep is restless and light
  • Increased sweating
  • Urge to move, especially in the legs (“restless legs syndrome”, also associated with tingling or pain)
  • Daytime tiredness and exhaustion
  • Efficiency decreases, impaired concentration and lack of drive
  • Increased irritability to depressive mood
  • Tension
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Nocturnal and / or early morning headache

By the way, waking up at night is not the real problem with sleeping problems. In fact, most people wake up more often at night, in some cases up to 20 times. However, those affected do not usually notice this: they simply turn to the other side and continue to sleep undisturbed. On the other hand, if you have a real sleep disorder, you wake up completely and then you can often no longer sleep.

Sleep disorders often lead to a vicious cycle

Especially when you are in the middle of your professional life, sleep disorders can be downright agonizing – because those who do not find the rest they need at night have difficulty getting their full performance during the day. This increases both the pressure and the error rate, which can lead to professional problems. The resulting mental stress in turn increases the sleep disturbance.

Causes and risk factors for sleep problems

The causes of sleep disorders if not exogenous factors such as B. stress, noise, heat etc. or internal factors such. B. pain or migraines etc. are based on a dysbalance of the sleep-wake hormones in the brain. There are a number of triggers:

  • Lifestyle: Frequent consumption of luxury foods such as alcohol and / or cigarettes. Alcohol in particular often makes it easier to fall asleep, but at the same time it prevents you from staying asleep.
  • Nutrition: Especially voluminous and fatty foods in the evening are heavy in the stomach and promote sleep problems. But a completely empty stomach can also disturb sleep.
  • Lack of exercise: Those who do not exercise enough are not physically overworked. Regular endurance exercise during the day can prevent this.
  • Irregular bedtime: If you always go to bed at the same time and get up again, you promote healthy sleep. Conversely, irregular sleep times can keep us awake longer.
  • Mental stress: Stress, tension and brooding, for example due to unspoken conflicts, keep us awake. They not only cause sleep problems, but can also lead to mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders in the long run.
  • Diseases: Various diseases can cause sleep disorders. These include, for example, obesity, sleep apnea, various gastrointestinal complaints, cardiovascular diseases, an overactive bladder, psychological and neurological disorders such as dementia or restless legs syndrome or hormonal disorders such as an underactive thyroid.
  • Bad sleeping environment: Bad air, an unsuitable mattress, a too high temperature in the room or noise, such as B. the snoring of the partner can also cause sleep problems.
  • Certain phases of life: during pregnancy and in the menopause there are hormonal fluctuations that can promote sleep problems. Shift work and long-distance travel can also affect sleep.
  • Medications: Some medications such as high blood pressure or asthma medications can also cause sleep problems.

The variety of possible triggers can ensure that it takes time to find the individual problem. But in order to really be able to correct the sleep disorders with therapy, you should never give up early. A single night of bad sleep can significantly reduce attention and the speed of reaction, but in the long run the possible consequences of sleep disorders are, as already described, even more serious.

Treatment: are sleeping pills for sleep disorders the solution?

Many desperate sufferers prefer to take a sleep aid because they are perceived as a quick and easy solution to the symptoms. In fact, sleep disorders themselves can usually be managed well with a sleep aid and are the only effective remedy for severe sleep problems. In the case of mild or beginning sleep disorders, the focus should rather be on sleep hygiene and cognitive behavior therapy.