When will we wake up

5 tips from the experts for better sleep through the night

Waking up at night with insomnia

Three o'clock in the morning, you lie awake in bed, thoughts are circling and keep you awake. You have to go to work tomorrow morning and be productive. So what to do if you wake up at night and sleep just doesn't want to come back? Our sleep doctor Andreas Eger gives you five tips.

Dipl.-Biol. Andreas Eger

Technical Manager

Sleep medicine center in the Helios Amper-Klinikum Dachau

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Leftover from evolution: waking up at night

The good news first: We are all absolute professionals when it comes to falling asleep again. Everyone wakes up to 30 times a night - and usually falls asleep again immediately. We just forget about it right away, as we only remember waking phases that are at least one to three minutes long. Waking up at night probably has an evolutionary meaning: in this way you could convince yourself that the environment is still warm and safe. In addition, while sleeping you can hear, feel light and touch, but not smell - for example smoke. "That is one reason why fire alarms are so important," says biologist Andreas Eger, the technical director of the sleep medicine center at the Helios Amper clinic in Dachau.

Waking up at night: the vicious cycle of insomnia

When we lie awake at night, we get angry quickly and the spiral of thoughts begins. What follows is the frequent glance at the alarm clock and the calculation of the remaining sleep time. In this way, poor sleep can quickly become a sure-fire success: Our anger leads to bad thoughts, we get excited, and the body can no longer find the peace it needs to fall asleep. The next day we are not well rested, disgruntled at work and far from our usual productivity. If we are unlucky, we take the displeasure back to bed with us in the evening - and the "vicious cycle of insomnia" starts all over again.

To take active action against insomnia, tells you Sleep doctor Andreas Eger five tips for dealing with brooding thoughts:

To take active action against insomnia, sleep specialist Andreas Eger gives you five tips for dealing with brooding thoughts:

Tip 1: consider waking up as natural

We already know that waking up several times during the night is evolutionary. Our sleep cycle is adjusted to this - waking up is part of a healthy sleep and is not unusual. If you consider waking up at night to be something natural with this attitude, it is already the first step in quickly falling asleep again.

Tip 2: Don't look at the clock

Stay relaxed and by all means avoid looking at the alarm clock! Anyone who starts to count back and forth how much sleep they have left can quickly get into a bad mood about the situation - and that hinders falling asleep. Also, check your sleep hygiene. Do you occasionally take an afternoon nap? Then you may have slept enough on days like this and don't need that much rest at night.

Tip 3: accept nocturnal thoughts

Nocturnal thoughts that keep you from falling asleep are a sign that your subconscious is working - this, too, is completely normal. Such circular thoughts are often used to rethink difficult situations and put them in order. This is helpful for a private argument or a difficult situation at work. And if the thoughts are there again: Welcome such thoughts, they often lead to a solution.

Tip 4: Don't think through to the end in bed

Bed is bed. People with sleep problems should really only use the bed for sleeping, not for other activities. This also applies to thinking: if you can't sleep at night because of all the brooding, then think your thoughts through to the end outside of bed. For example, set up a - not too comfortable - "thought chair" near your bed. Put your thoughts to the end on the chair and only then go back to bed. If the thought recurs in bed, get up again While this takes a lot of consistency, this reward and punishment system helps you deal effectively with such thoughts.

Tip 5: Seek help if problems persist

As a rule, nocturnal, circling thoughts are temporary disturbances due to a specific occasion: the exam, the relationship argument, stress and time pressure at work. Such sleep disorders usually come back on their own when the cause has been dealt with. But if these thoughts keep recurring and being awake at night becomes a constant burden, then action is required. It may be an insomnia (sleep disorder) due to serious psychological problems.

A good indication of this is so-called bruxism, the pathological grinding of teeth during sleep. Toothache in the morning or declining tooth enamel are often not dental technical symptoms, but psychological ones: you literally “chew up” the problems in your sleep. If all does not work and after weeks or even months there is still the feeling that you cannot pull yourself out of the swamp on your own, then it is in all likelihood something traumatic. In these cases, supervision by an expert is required. For example, psychotherapy as insomnia therapy to counteract other health consequences. The first way usually leads to the family doctor.

Last updated on August 16, 2019