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"It's always better for the patient to learn to be their own sleeping pill"

Digitization has also reached sleep.

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"It's always better for the patient to learn to be their own sleeping pill"

Digitization has also reached sleep. Sleep apps, white noise devices and other helpers are designed to make it easier for us to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. What exactly is behind these gadgets - and can they help with insomnia?

For example sleep trackers: If you own a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, you can use it to collect information about your own sleep quality.

"Basically, the existence of sleep trackers is a good thing because they raise awareness that sleep fulfills a very important biological function," says Hans-Günter Weeß. The sleep doctor heads the interdisciplinary sleep center of the Pfalzklinikum Klingenmünster (Rhineland-Palatinate).

Sleep is the body's most important regeneration and repair program. Nevertheless, Weeß sees a big but: "Unfortunately, one has to say that most sleep trackers are very inaccurate and can neither measure the quality of sleep nor the amount of sleep correctly." And: As a rule, they are not scientifically tested.

Hans-Günter Weeß says that these trackers are based on "Stone Age methods" of sleep research, since often only the frequency of movement, time of day and heart rate are measured. There is therefore a risk that the tracker will deliver an incorrect result – it may not find a sleep disorder where there is one.

And: People with insomnia in particular are very insecure when it comes to their sleep. By measuring their own sleep, they focused more and more on their sleep problem.

A vicious circle: the more you focus on the sleep problem, the more restless and tense you become. But: “Tension is the enemy of sleep. People can only sleep when they are very unconcerned about everyday worries and their own ability to sleep,” says Hans-Günter Weeß. He therefore recommends that his patients leave out the devices and rely on their own body awareness.

But there are other technical sleep aids. A light metronome for example. This is a device that throws pulses of light at the ceiling. You can follow the points and rays of light with your eyes or adjust your breathing rhythm to them. That should calm you down.

The so-called white noise, a monotonous noise that many people find pleasant, is also supposed to help to calm down. There are special devices, but also apps and internet videos that you can use to listen to the noise.

"Many of these digital sleep aids aim to make the person concerned more relaxed and to be able to cope better with mental, emotional or physical restlessness," says sleep medicine specialist Weeß.

However, these aids are rarely successful in people with a severe sleep disorder, according to the sleep doctor. In his experience, only one to two percent of patients use white noise to help them fall asleep.

Weeß points out that the actual benefit of digital sleep aids is usually not proven by efficacy studies: "They come in a highly technical package and this gives the user the appearance of being scientific." In addition, they are sometimes quite expensive.

Prof. Thomas Penzel, sleep researcher and head of the sleep medicine department at the Berlin Charité, also points out that very few digital sleep aids have been scientifically tested. An exception is the “Somnio” app, which can be prescribed by a doctor as a digital health application (DiGA).

A study shows that it can help with insomnia. According to Thomas Penzel, the app mainly provides sleep hygiene rules in combination with advice. For example: regular bedtimes or the separation of bed and workroom.

"Because sleep is not an automatism that you simply switch on and then you sleep. But sleep is behavior. We have to try to reduce stress and calm down before going to bed," says Thomas Penzel.

Digital sleep aids can be very helpful if you build them into a sleep ritual. Reading or hot milk might help some, relaxing light or white noise might help others.

"Everything that works to calm down is to be rated positively," says Thomas Penzel. "In this respect, you can't say: 'It's all rubbish'. But if you see all these gadgets as supporting a ritual – yes, then they can help.”

The sleep coach Jan Herzog sees it similarly. "These tools don't help anyone who has a real sleep disorder to fall asleep better or faster." But he is also convinced that they can help to relax better in individual cases. "Our inner nervous system has to switch from stress and performance mode to relaxation and rest mode in order to sleep."

On the other hand, what helps against insomnia is dealing with your own worries and fears. Those who take care of their stress during the day are less likely to be kept awake at night.

"It's better to write down three things that are stressing you out the most and three solutions to them. Then people don't just have to deal with their worries in the last 20 minutes of the day," says Jan Herzog.

Specialized cognitive behavioral therapy can help with severe sleep disorders. "It's always better for the patient to learn to be their own sleeping pill. This means that he himself learns to relax and calm down, which is conducive to sleep, which is not brought about by medication or technical aids," says Hans-Günter Weeß.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 7 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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