Sleeping tips
Many practical tips for you

Question & Answer

Lucio, 28:
Is it true that we need at least eight hours of sleep every day?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Lucio, no, that’s not quite true. Most sleep experts recommend between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per day. However, different people have different needs. For some of us, even just 5 hours’ sleep every day are enough, while other people need 10.

However, if we constantly sleep for less than our body needs, this can have negative consequences for our immune system and our psyche.


Chloé, 49:
I've heard that it’s particularly important to get to sleep before midnight. However, because of my job, I usually don’t go to bed until later. Is that a problem?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Chloé, no, that’s not necessarily a problem. Today, we know that the theory that going to sleep before midnight is particularly important no longer applies. For regeneration, the deep sleep phases are particularly important, and these phases occur mainly during the first half of the night. For people who go to bed early, this period does in fact occur before midnight, which is where this erroneous advice comes from. If you don’t go to bed until after midnight, it doesn't matter, so long as you feel restored the next day.

However, if you frequently feel groggy during the course of the day, this could be an indication that you are by nature an early riser. Then, it would indeed make sense to go to bed earlier, although in your case, that’s difficult due to your job, of course.


Frank, 42:
I often wake up at night. Is that normal?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Frank, we all wake up several times during the night, although often for such brief periods that we don't remember in the morning. That’s not a cause for concern. However, if you often lie awake at night and need a long time to get back to sleep, it could be an indication of a sleep disorder. Sleep researchers use the term “sleep disorder” if someone lies awake at night for at least 30 minutes, several times a week over a longer period of time, and can’t get back to sleep again.

If this is the case, there is no simple answer as to what you should do.


Luan, 26:
Can you “sleep ahead” in order to get by with less sleep for the next few nights?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Luan , I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you, and the rest of us, on this one. Unfortunately, that doesn't work, even though we might wish it did sometimes. However, “sleeping ahead” in the evening does indeed help if you want to be able to work more productively during the following night or go out on the town. If you do, make sure that you sleep for 2 hours or more, though. Then, it’s highly likely that you have at least passed through the deep sleep phase, which is important for regeneration.

If you wake up directly from the deep sleep phase, it could have the opposite effect. Then, you’ll probably feel groggy and drained of energy – and that might last the whole night. So, as you can see, you can sleep ahead, but you need to know how to do it properly.



Sonja, 56:
At night, I often find it hard to get to sleep, and lie awake for a long time. Should I take a nap at lunchtime so that I get enough sleep?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Sonja, no, taking a nap at lunchtime isn’t the way forward for you. Taking sleeping breaks in the afternoon, however long they are, may mean that you don’t feel tired until very late in the evening. If you go to bed too early, you’ll lie awake and will find it hard to get to sleep. This in turn might mean that you don’t feel you’ve had enough sleep the following day, and that you again feel a need to take a midday nap. All this triggers a vicious circle.

We’d advise you not to sleep during the day, which makes it hard for you to get to sleep in the evening and means that you lie awake for a long time. However, we should also check whether you might be going to bed too early. That could be one cause of your problem getting to sleep. We’ve also put together some practical steps you can take in our “sleeping tips” section which can help you get to sleep.


Pasquale, 37:
Is it possible that I don't have dreams?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Pasquale, to be honest, it’s pretty unlikely. It’s more probable that you dream, but that you can't remember what you dreamed the following day. That would be a sign that you sleep quite deeply, and is no cause for concern. In fact, it’s mainly people who sleep lightly who can remember their dreams, while deep sleepers often have trouble doing so.

However, you can learn to remember your dreams, and sometimes, it’s enough to have a pen and paper on your bedside table and to jot down some notes about your dreams before you forget them. You can try it out if you want to be certain.


Matthew, 21:
Sometimes, my arms and legs start twitching before I get to sleep. Is that a problem?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Matthew , this sudden twitching while we go to sleep happens to all of us. I admit, I find it mysterious sometimes. But you can rest assured, it’s entirely normal. As you may know, our muscles go slack while we sleep. This is important, since otherwise, we may put what we are dreaming into action in our sleep. While we go to sleep, the impulse to relax the muscles is triggered by the brain and sent to the body via the spinal cord.

The twitching that you experience is like small misfires in an engine. They are created during the “shutdown” process and are completely harmless. It’s only a potential problem if your legs constantly move about while you're going to sleep and you can’t keep them still. In that case, you may have a movement disorder and should get yourself medically examined.


Erin, 47:
What does “healthy sleep” mean exactly?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

That’s a good question, dear Erin. As far as I know there isn’t a general definition. I can say, though, that restorative sleep is characterised by several different factors. These include: a short time needed to get to sleep, sleeping through the night without lying awake for long periods of time, not waking up too early, and not feeling constantly tired during the day. In more scientific terms, you could also say that restorative sleep is most likely to occur when the light sleep phases, deep sleep phases and REM phases are regularly repeated and are not interrupted by long periods of lying awake.

If you want to know more about the sleep phases, I recommend taking a look at our collection of different sleeping tips.


Stephan, 54:
I’ve tried using sleeping pills that were prescribed by my doctor. I did get more sleep, but I felt exhausted in the mornings. Is this medication not right for me?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Stephan, what you describe sounds more like what’s known as the “hangover effect”. As with a hangover after drinking too much alcohol, sleeping pills can have after-effects sometimes. That’s because many of the substances they contain that promote sleep are only very slowly decomposed by the body. They still have an effect the following day, which is why you feel groggy and tired.

In general, we recommend a great deal of caution when it comes to taking sleeping pills. This medication should only be taken with the agreement of your doctor, and for no longer than 14 days. Abuse of these pills can have severely detrimental effects on your health and may lead to addiction.


Vitória, 45:
I have the impression that my husband snores more when he has drunk alcohol. Could that be the case?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Yes, that could even probably be the reason, dear Vitória. Under the influence of alcohol, the muscle tension is reduced throughout the body, and with it, the upper respiratory tract. As a result, air tubes, the palate and the throat area become somewhat narrower, since their walls are under less tension.

This means that when you breathe, the entire area can start to vibrate more strongly. This may cause loud noises, which we all know as snoring.



Peter, 62:
What causes people to sleep badly?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Peter, naturally, it’s not that easy to give a quick answer to this question. However, I’ll give it a try. Sleeping problems can have a large number of different causes. Physical problems such as pain, disease, hormone fluctuations etc. can rob us of our sleep. In addition, psychological reasons such as anger, stress, fear etc. can also be an issue. External influences such as unfavourable light conditions and noise in the bedroom, or consuming coffee, nicotine or certain medication, can mean that we sleep badly.

Often, different causes also arise at the same time, which means that treating sleeping disorders is a difficult and long-term procedure.


Karl-Heinz, 55:
I've heard that older people need more sleep than youngsters. Is there some truth in that?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Hello Karl-Heinz, older people need neither more nor less sleep. However, sleep does change as people get older. It becomes more vulnerable to interference and is interrupted more frequently. Not only that, but proportionately, the length of our deep sleep phase is reduced. Most people spread the sleeping hours over the course of the day, though. These sleeping periods can range from a few seconds or minutes to an extended midday nap.

Thabani, 28:
Is there a limit to how late you should eat in the evening?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Thabani, as a rule of thumb, the bigger and heavier the meal, the longer you should wait before going to bed. However, you shouldn't wait too long, since an empty stomach is just as bad for your sleep as a very full one! If you want to eat something shortly before going to sleep, make sure it’s something light. We particularly recommend foods that contain tryptophan, such as milk products, tuna, poultry and nuts, or foods that contain vitamin B6, such as bananas. A good pre-slumber snack is (soya) milk with honey and perhaps a handful of nuts, for example.

Wolfgang, 60:
I often sweat a lot at night. What might the reasons be?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Wolfgang, sweating is a natural process, including in your sleep. However, we don’t notice this directly. This is the body’s way of discharging excess heat, and ensures that the body is kept at the right temperature. Increased heat discharge can be caused by several different factors:

• The temperature in your bedroom is too high (16-18 degrees is best).

• Your bedcover is too warm.

• You’ve consumed alcohol during the evening.

• You’ve eaten a particularly spicy evening meal.

• Medication that stimulates the metabolism.

• Illness or stress as one possible cause.

If you sweat so much that your pyjamas and bedding are soaked through, and if this occurs multiple times, you should seek advice from a doctor.

Leyla, 35:
What is the right thing to wear in bed (a lot, little, nothing)?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Hello Leyla, that’s entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable wearing. Try out various different options and choose the one that works best for you.

In principle, you can coordinate your sleepwear with the bedcover. If you sleep in a lot of sleepwear, or warm sleepwear, in the winter, it makes sense to have a thinner bedcover, so that you don't start to sweat. The same also applies to wearing little/no sleepwear. In this case, you may need a thicker bedcover. If you always sleep without wearing anything, you should make sure you change your bedding more often, and that you also change the mattress covers more frequently, since humidity given off by your body at night is directly absorbed by the cover/mattress.
Theresa, 18:
Why should I shut out the light from my bedroom?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Theresa, light keeps us awake, while darkness promotes uninterrupted, high-quality sleep. Radiation/light from the sun produces serotonin in our brains, which has a stimulating effect on the body. However, the body needs melatonin to get to sleep, the production of which decreases when it is light. In darkness, more melatonin is released, and the body receives the message that it’s time to go to sleep.

Valeska, 64:
Do plants help improve the air quality in the bedroom? If so, which ones should I choose?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Hello Valeska, plants not only benefit the room by looking attractive, but can also have other useful properties. They clean the air, and in doing so, improve the climate in the room. Plants that clean the air include peace lilies or green lilies.

However, before you go to bed, you should air the room again, since we consume up to around 160 litres of oxygen every night.
Yannick, 31:
Do hot drinks (such as certain kinds of tea) help you sleep better?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Yannick, teas that are designed to help you get to sleep can help you relax in a natural way. The following teas are particularly beneficial: 

  • Camomile tea: The secondary plant substance in camomile, apigenin, has been proven to have a calming effect, and should therefore help you get to sleep.
  • Hop tea: Hops have been proven to have a calming effect and can alleviate stress symptoms, and are therefore perfect as a tea to help you get to sleep.
  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm has been proven to have a calming effect, and can therefore help you get to sleep.
  • Lavender: The essential oils in lavender provide better quality of sleep.
  • Valerian root: Valerian root has been proven to have a relaxing, sleep-promoting effect, which is created by the gamma neurotransmitter amino-butyric acid.
  • Passion flower: Passion flowers have also been proven to promote sleep and can therefore help with sleep disorders.

Alexej, 40:
Why is sleep so important?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Alexej , sleep helps us regenerate physically and mentally. It tops up our energy reserves and strengthens the immune system. Sleep means so much more than just getting rest. It is an active process that strengthens the memory and during which memories can be processed. That’s why the brain needs a similar amount of oxygen while “sleeping” as when we are awake.

Julia, 42:
Why do we dream?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Julia, 

Dreams are experiences that are triggered by brain activity while we sleep. We dream during all phases of sleep, but most of all during the “REM phase”. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. During this phase, our eyes move to and fro under our closed eyelids, and we experience our most vivid, emotional dreams – particularly during the early hours of the morning. Children have a particularly large number of dreams, although many of them are also nightmares. 

Various hypotheses are being discussed in modern dream research as to the function of dreams. Here’s a small selection: 

  • Dreams are a simulation of our own social lives, and help train our own social skills.
  • Dreams are a simulation of threatening situations, to train us in ways to meet them.
Dreams have no evolutionary function and merely process what we have experienced.
Thiago, 33:
Is talking in our sleep preventable?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Thiago,

Talking in our sleep (somniloquy) occurs in different forms. Somniloquy is not a disease, but an unusual behaviour that occurs while you sleep. Usually, talking in our sleep isn't a problem, as long as you sleep and that others around you aren’t disturbed. However, if it does become a problem, there are different steps that you can take right away. One approach is to use relaxation techniques such as autogenic training. Good sleep hygiene also helps. This includes not eating heavy meals before going to bed, and a regular sleeping rhythm. Alcohol and drugs can also have a severe negative impact on your sleep. Temporarily going without caffeine can also have a positive influence. If psychological stress or psychological disorders are causing you to talk in your sleep, think about making an appointment with a psychotherapist.
André, 56:
What causes sleep disorders?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear André, this isn't so easy to answer. In most cases, it’s a mixture of physical, psychosocial and external factors. As an example: I have problems at work, go to bed at the “wrong time” for my biorhythm, watch two programmes of my favourite Netflix series until just before going to bed, and try to get to sleep on my sagging mattress, despite having back problems. Each of these factors contributes to my sleeping badly. I should therefore take steps to deal with each individual one once I’ve identified them as being a cause of my sleeping problems. That often involves a great deal of time and effort, but it’s by all means better and healthier than simply combating the symptoms of poor sleep, e.g. by taking sleeping pills.

Sille, 50:
What causes sleep disorders?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Sille, side sleeper pillows can provide more ergonomic comfort due to their shape and help the body balance in the side position. Since it reaches from the head to the calf, it should be possible to sleep on it without tension. Nevertheless, it is up to you to test whether this type of pillow is a useful and helpful alternative for yourself.

Veronica, 65:
Can you change your snoring by changing your sleeping position?

Dr. Fabian Krapf:

Dear Veronica , sleeping on your back can facilitate snoring due to the fact that your tongue falls backwards, which is why sleeping on your side is often recommended. Nose plasters can also help. By mechanically opening the nose, they can reduce snoring noises and allow the nose to breathe freely. However, they don’t help with the deeper causes of snoring (e.g. neck muscles). To prevent lying on your back, it can help to put on an empty rucksack, sew a tennis ball into the upper part of your pyjamas, or use a special pillow for side sleepers as a barrier.
Bastian, 25:
Sleep is a big topic at your institute. Why?

Dr. Utz Niklas Walter:

Dear Bastian, in our view, sleep will become the most important health topic of all in the years to come. Sleep plays a key role in performance ability, productivity and error rates – and not just among employees. At the same time, people’s work is often one of the biggest causes of sleep disturbance. Shift work and flexible working hours mean that sleep disorders are on the rise. And even if people “just” have a 9-5 job, they often take their work worries home and toss and turn over them at night.