Sleep disorders – causes, treatment

sleep disorders

Sleep disorders and insomnia are disorders of the natural need for sleep that occur at regular intervals and are not temporary.

What are sleep disorders?

One only speaks of sleep disorders if the person concerned can only sleep little or not at all normally over a longer period of time. The sleep disturbances are then often accompanied by poor concentration , tiredness , a drop in performance and general weakness .

Sleep disorders often occur temporarily and are therefore not yet to be regarded as an actual disorder. There are different types of sleep disorders. On the one hand there are the so-called problems falling asleep, which can also occur in the form of problems sleeping through the night (insomnia). It usually takes the sufferer more than half an hour to fall asleep.

Disorders of the wake-sleep rhythm (e.g. jet lag or night shifts) and sleep-related disorders (parasomnia) can also occur. The latter also includes sleepwalking, grinding teeth or increased nightmares. In most cases, these forms then result in increased daytime tiredness, which is caused by insufficient sleep.


The most common causes of sleep disorders are mental and psychosomatic illnesses, disorders or problems (e.g. anxiety disorders ). The most common problems falling asleep mostly result from negative sleep patterns. These can be unfamiliar surroundings or intense mental exertion just before bedtime.

In addition, psychological problems are often the cause of sleep disorders. Above all , stress , professional problems, fear of existence and pressure to perform are increasingly causing people to have problems falling asleep.

Insomnia can also be caused by diseases and symptoms of diseases. These include, for example, depression  and sleep addiction (narcolepsy).

Snoring , drugs, medication, coffee and alcohol consumption can also lead to sleep disorders. Finally, of course, noise and bright light can also cause sleep problems.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

Not every night that is awake can be classified as a sleep disorder: the doctor only speaks of chronic insomnia if a patient cannot sleep properly for at least three nights a week for six months or longer.

If this is the case, the causes should definitely be clarified medically. To make the diagnosis, the doctor will not only inquire about sleeping habits and current stress factors , but will also conduct a physical examination and ask about the consumption of stimulants.

The expected course depends on the diagnosis. What is clear is that sleep disorders only disappear on their own in exceptional cases, but if left untreated, they usually intensify and become more permanent over time.


Sleep disorders can lead to various complications. Problems sleeping directly lead to daytime sleepiness, which is often associated with difficulty concentrating and increased irritability. The performance is often reduced as a result of a disturbed night’s sleep, which increases the risk of work and car accidents.

Sleep disorders that persist over a longer period of time can lead to cardiovascular diseases and a weakened immune system . In the case of a short-term lack of sleep, the cortisol value also rises and there are more stress reactions . In the long term, sleep disorders result in premature aging and reduced life expectancy.

Basically, lack of sleep has a negative effect on health and is a risk factor for various serious diseases. After just a few nights with a disturbed night’s sleep, blood pressure rises, accompanied by a variety of complications such as a reduction in well-being, tension and nervousness. In addition, it can lead to stomach problems.

Complications can also arise when treating insomnia. Various sleeping pills put a strain on the internal organs, while self-measures can possibly worsen the sleep disorders. Problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night as well as other sleep disorders should therefore always be clarified by a doctor.

When should you go to the doctor?

Sleep disorders do not always have to be treated by a doctor. This is especially true if these occur only temporarily and do not burden the affected person permanently.

If the sleep disturbances occur after taking alcohol or drugs, these must be discontinued so that the sleep pattern can normalize. The patient should also avoid coffee and caffeinated beverages a few hours before bedtime. However, if the disturbances when falling asleep persist for a longer period of time, a doctor can be consulted. This is especially true when the disorders occur after an unpleasant or traumatic experience. Sleep disorders, especially in children, should be examined by a doctor immediately so that no further problems arise.

First and foremost, it is advisable to see your family doctor or general practitioner. He or she can refer the person concerned to the respective specialist. If the patient suffers from a mental illness or depression, a psychologist can also be consulted directly. The person concerned should definitely avoid sleeping pills. These promote addictive behavior and can cause long-term damage to the body.

Treatment & Therapy

A doctor should be consulted if insomnia persists. The doctor will try to diagnose possible psychological reasons, primarily through an intensive discussion. He will also carry out a physical examination to rule out possible diseases that could be the cause of the sleep disorders.

In most cases, an examination is carried out in a so-called sleep laboratory and then evaluated. If it is then determined that snoring or sleep apnea are the cause, a sleep and breathing mask can help.

In the case of stress and psychological problems, a specialist doctor or psychotherapist should be involved in the treatment. He will then try to eliminate possible psychosomatic disorders with the person concerned. At the same time, learning autogenic training and other relaxation techniques is recommended.

Furthermore, smoking , alcohol and large meals, especially before going to bed, should be avoided. Sport and exercise and plenty of fresh air in nature stimulate the metabolism and circulation in a therapeutic way. This has a very calming effect and promotes rapid and deep sleep.

Outlook & Forecast

Sleep disorders can usually be treated relatively well, so that the patient can go back to a normal everyday life. Sleep disorders are often treated with medication and occur in older people. At this advanced age, insomnia is a common condition and does not need further investigation by a doctor if it is temporary and not too frequent.

A doctor must be consulted if insomnia persists. These disorders are often triggered by stress or psychological problems. A conversation with a psychologist may also help to identify and combat the cause of the sleep disorders.

If the sleep disorders are not treated properly, it can lead to depression, stress and a general feeling of weakness. This condition can have a negative impact on the patient’s everyday life and quality of life in general. Both everyday life and work are then difficult to master. The permanently bad mood can lead to social problems.

There are no difficulties with the treatment itself, in most cases treatment of the sleep disorders leads to success. Medications should not be taken over a longer period of time, however, as they affect the stomach.


Insomnia is usually easy to prevent. It is only necessary, as long as no illness is involved, to exercise a lot in nature and to eat a healthy and balanced diet. However, large portions should be avoided, as should alcohol and nicotine . Don’t drink coffee or black tea and do sports. Learn relaxation techniques such as autogenic training. Try to stay away from stress and, if possible, don’t put off problems.

Home remedies & herbs

  • Anise helps against flatulence, cough phlegm, asthma and white flow and ensures a good night’s sleep. Place a handful of aniseed seeds in a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam.
  • Apple tea for insomnia and sleep disorders: Peel some apples and let the skins dry. Boil the dried peels in water and sweeten as needed. Drinking two to three cups of the tea before bed is a good home remedy for insomnia.
  • Valerian is excellent against insomnia and is harmless. Drink a cup of valerian tea every evening before going to bed or take a few drops of valerian on a sugar cube. For the valerian tea, take 3 to 4 grams of valerian to one liter of water and let it boil for 5 minutes.
  • The active ingredients of valerian calm and have an antispasmodic effect. A valerian bath helps with difficulty falling asleep, nervousness or stress. Add three tablespoons of valerian tincture to a full bath or steep 8 to 12 tablespoons of valerian roots in 3 liters of boiling water and then add this to the bath water. Its nerve-calming effect also makes this bath a help for nervous skin.
  • An infusion of dill before going to bed helps with insomnia.
  • Hop blossom tea, drunk before going to bed, is effective against insomnia.
  • Briefly boil about 1 to 2 kilos of pine sprouts in 5 liters of water, leave to infuse, strain and add to the hot bath water. An ideal bath for insomnia, colds and rheumatism. Pine shoots are also popularly called mountain pines.
  • For insomnia, they drink tea prepared as follows: mix equal parts of valerian roots, lemon balm leaves, peppermint leaves, and lavender flowers and brew with boiling water. Put two teaspoons of the mixture in a cup and let it steep for about ten minutes. Then drink in sips.

↳ Further information: Home remedies for insomnia

You can do that yourself

In the case of sleep disorders, a distinction is made between falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Depending on the cause, treatment and self-help can vary, and the tips often help with both problems. Sleep disorders put those affected in a vicious circle, because the fear of another sleepless night impairs healthy sleep even more.

Sleep disorder patients have lost the natural way of dealing with sleep. Brooding and getting angry about not being able to fall asleep makes the situation even worse. The demand that you absolutely have to sleep because, for example, an important conversation is pending is not at all helpful. Drawing pictures of yourself in a safe place before you fall asleep can reduce stress . Concentration exercises that focus on the breath, visualizations of soothingly rippling water or warm sunbeams on the skin are very useful. relaxation exercisesalso help to reduce stress before going to bed and thus calm the body. A reduction in expectations with regard to the sleep-through phase is also helpful, this can reduce unnecessary stress. Those who accept waking up at night will ultimately sleep better.

Exercise reduces mental stress and makes you tired. A long run in the early evening can work wonders here. Sex or masturbation also help to fall asleep. It is advisable to avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon as they are stimulating. Sleeping pills should not be taken if possible, the risk of dependence is too great. Psychotherapy can help with severe events that depress you for a long time .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.