Healthy sleep: These 7 tips help

Healthy sleep is extremely important because our body can only recover during sleep. Here you can find out what constitutes good sleep and how it can be achieved.
What is actually healthy sleep?
Healthy sleep means that we not only sleep enough hours but also have a high quality of sleep. Although eight hours of sleep is often considered optimal, the length of sleep depends on the individual and age: Infants usually sleep 14 to 17 hours a day, adolescents between eight and ten, and adults between seven and eight. More important than sleep duration is how often we go through the so-called sleep phases at night: Four to six cycles per night are optimal. 

Why is healthy sleep so important?
Only those who regularly get sufficient and good sleep remain productive in the long term. The following things happen during sleep:

Body cells regenerate, which is important for our lifespan, among other things.
The immune system is built up, which lowers the risk of diseases
The brain stores information and, for example, moves newly learned material into long-term memory.
If we suffer from sleep disorders for a longer period of time, for example sleeping through the night, our performance decreases. Also, concentration problems occur more frequently and we become more susceptible to illness.

How does sleep progress?
Depending on the model, our sleep can be divided into three to five sleep stages per night, which together form a sleep cycle. These sleep stages generally exist:

Falling asleep phase: the first phase lasts an average of 15 minutes, but some people can fall asleep within five minutes as well as people who need at least half an hour to do so. The body is in a kind of suspended state between waking and sleeping and becomes calmer, which is noticeable, for example, through calmer breathing and a slower pulse.
Light sleep phase: From the falling asleep phase, we move into the light sleep phase, in which we spend a total of about half of our sleep and which becomes longer from sleep cycle to sleep cycle. Disturbances such as those caused by light or noise can also still wake us quite easily during the light sleep phase.
Deep sleep phase: The deep sleep phase is the decisive sleep phase. The whole body is relaxed, blood pressure drops, breathing and heartbeat are slow. The brain processes the events of the day, the cells start their regeneration and the immune system is strengthened.    
REM phase: The REM phase or dream phase is the phase in which we dream and in which we also process the experiences of the day - in the form of dreams. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and owes its name to the fact that the eyes move rapidly back and forth under the closed eyelids. The brain is also active during this phase, while our body is paralyzed. This is to prevent us from performing the actions in sleep in the real world.
By the way, waking up in the deep sleep phase is not so easy. When we are awakened in this phase, we are often disoriented for a while, feel sleepy, and suffer from persistent fatigue throughout the day.

Healthy sleep: How do I recognize sleep disorders?
But how do I find out if I have a good sleep rhythm and get enough sleep? Generally speaking, if you only lie awake for longer periods now and then or wake up suddenly once in a while during the night, there's no need to worry right away. There are significant signs that indicate sleep disorders may be present. These include:

Falling asleep regularly takes more than 30 minutes
Waking up frequently during the night
Not falling back asleep immediately after waking during the night, but lying awake for a long time
The feeling of not being rested, although the sleep duration was okay

Causes: Where do my sleep problems come from?
There are many possible causes of poor sleep. Among the most common are:

Stress, worries, and other psychological burdens
Poor sleep hygiene, e.g. due to noise, light, poor or excessively warm air
Shift work
The nocturnal urge to urinate
Restless leg syndrome
Sleep apnea (breathing pauses during sleep, often associated with snoring)
High consumption of stimulants, e.g. alcohol or cigarettes
Hot flashes
Nocturnal teeth grinding
Because there are so many different possible triggers, it often takes time to find one. In some cases, such as suspected sleep apnea, a visit to a sleep lab can also be helpful. Here, all the information about sleep - for example, duration, breathing, and pulse - can be measured.

What treatment helps with sleep disorders?
Depending on the cause, treatment is also individual. Sleeping pills, which many patients take out of desperation, should only be taken in close consultation with a doctor, if at all. This is because they do not combat the cause of the problems, and sleeping pills can also become addictive in the long term.

If a disease such as sleep apnea is present, it must first be treated. In the case of sleep disorders without an identifiable cause, it often helps to question one's own lifestyle and adjust it if necessary. For example, if you take a long nap during the day and then find it difficult to get to sleep in the evening, you can test whether it would be better to skip the nap. Also, one should not ignore the natural need for sleep: If you have to go to bed at 10 p.m., you should also go to bed and not stay awake frantically longer. 

Also, a healthy, varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, fiber (e.g., in whole-grain products), lean meat and dairy products, and avoiding stimulants such as alcohol and cigarettes can help. And: For the body to become tired, it must also move. If you do about 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, you're already doing a lot of good for yourself. However, exercise should be scheduled for the afternoon or early evening so that the body has enough time to wind down before bedtime.


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