Can we shorten our sleep time?

Food: Sleep researcher warns: "Our sleep time has shortened"

"Slept well?" More and more people answer this question with "no". A sleep researcher reveals t-online.dein an interview about how we can achieve restful nights, why we dream and the various causes of sleep disorders.

The 38-year-old Prof. Dr. Schöbel is exotic in his field: He holds the nationwide first professorship for sleep and telemedicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen and treats people with sleep disorders in the Ruhrland Clinic of the University of Essen.

t-online.de: Mr. Schöbel, you came to Essen from the Charité in Berlin. What are your tasks here?

Christoph Schöbel: I run the Sleep Medicine Center of the Ruhrlandklinik, the West German Lung Center of the Essen University Medical Center. There I treat chronic sleep disorders. At the same time, I took over the professorship for sleep and telemedicine.

What is sleep medicine anyway?

This is a young, interdisciplinary science that you cannot study yet, but for which you complete medical training. Sleep is very complex, which is why immunology, neurology and psychiatry are included in addition to internal medicine. For example, depression can cause sleep disorders.

Why do you dedicate yourself to this subject?

As a student, I did night shifts in sleep medicine, which sparked my fascination for the subject of sleep. Good sleep is fundamental to our body's recovery, health and wellbeing.

Almost everyone is familiar with sleep disorders. When do you describe them as chronic and in need of treatment?

If sleep is not restful for more than three months on several nights a week and interferes with the normal daily routine.

What are the reasons for this?

A lot - and that's what we try to find out in our clinic's sleep laboratory. For example, poor sleep after a stressful event is normal. However, if that becomes permanent it should be treated. Chronic illnesses or disturbed breathing during sleep, sleep apnea, which is associated with heavy snoring, can lead to sleep disorders. Nocturnal movement disorders in connection with the "restless legs" syndrome are also among the causes.

Have sleep disorders increased overall?

Yes, and our average sleep time is reduced. In cities it is light around the clock, we are packing more and more activities into our day, are stressed and still hang on to cell phones late at night, the blue light of which can interfere with the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.

What will help you sleep better?

Turn off your cell phone and computer a few hours before going to bed, relaxing activities in the evening, a cool, quiet room. Those who often sleep badly associate their bed with it. It helps to sleep somewhere else. And getting up for a while instead of rolling around forever.

What are sleep apps good for?

Not much, because these are often only motion detectors and these lifestyle products are not validated. My tasks will also include developing apps according to scientific standards that can do a lot more. I also want to collect valuable data via app in order to make more reliable diagnoses and support therapies.

There is a sleep laboratory with 13 beds in the Ruhrlandklinik. What is happening there?

Patients with severe insomnia spend one to three nights here and hang on to quite a few strings to measure their sleep quality. But we also do tests during the day. For example with bus drivers who get sleepy at the wheel. We check whether they fall asleep if they stare at a white wall for a long time. Narcolepsy is a rare disease: These patients often fall asleep suddenly during the day, for example in the middle of a conversation.

There are many myths about dreaming. What's it all about?

All people dream. In the REM, i.e. rapid eye movement, phases the brain is incredibly active and we dream more abstractly. As social beings we cannot fully live out our aggression and need to escape, we then do that in dreams.

Why do some people remember their dreams exactly, others not at all?

Each of us wakes up briefly around 20 times at night, but we only notice this after we have been awake for three minutes. Anyone who is only awake for a short time is not aware of their dreams. These people also claim that they will always sleep like a rock.

And why is good sleep so important?

Because the body is in recovery mode while sleeping. Everyone is talking about how crucial good nutrition and exercise are to health. Getting enough sleep is just as important, however. Long-term sleep deprivation makes the immune system weaker, leads to obesity and memory disorders. That's why everyone should do something for their sleep!