Awake when I sleep deeper meaning

"Sleep comes when we are carefree"

Albrecht Vorster, 34, was originally interested in awareness. Since one can only understand a question through its negation, he ended up with sleep - the state in which a person naturally loses consciousness. He has his knowledge in the book Why we sleep, published by Heyne Verlag, written down.

SZ-Magazin: You are a sleep researcher. What is the most common question you get asked at parties?
Albrecht Vorster: How many hours of sleep do i really need?

And?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, just as not everyone wears the same size. Everyone just needs what they need to be well rested. That's six to nine hours of sleep for 90 percent of people. The best way to find out for yourself is to sleep as much as you need for a week and then calculate the average.

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Do you have to take a vacation for this?
Preferably two weeks. In the first one should sleep in and then use the second to calculate the average sleep duration. Since I've been researching sleep, I've been sleeping off every day because we don't have set office hours. It takes me 7.5 to 8 hours to be completely happy and productive.

Where do sleep researchers have a blind spot?
It is true that sleep researchers sometimes have a narrow view of their field. Teeth grinding and dreams, for example, are hardly explored at all.

Do you think dreams have deeper meanings?
I believe that we can learn something from dreams. They can get us to deal with ourselves. It's a bit like the inkblot at the psychologist's. You interpret what is currently on your mind as a topic. But I don't think that dreams have the function of telling us something special. Most dreams are very mundane. So banal that we immediately forget about them. We find out when we wake people up from the different phases of sleep in the sleep laboratory. People don't remember anymore.

People with sleep problems experience insane stress from being unable to sleep, which only makes things worse. What is the possibility of breaking out of this vicious circle?
There is now a very good treatment for sleep problems that works without medication and has a lasting effect: cognitive behavioral therapy. In eight to ten sessions with a psychologist you learn simple strategies for dealing with sleep problems. These include, for example, sleep restriction, relaxation and thought-stopping techniques. In the vast majority of cases, people with insomnia do not sleep much less than people without sleep disorders, an average of 30 minutes less. Unfortunately, the sleep of an insomnia patient is fragmented. This means that sleep phases are also perceived as wake phases. If you wake up every 15 minutes, you feel like you haven't slept.

What can you do with mild sleep problems?
If you get half an hour of morning sun, you can sleep better in the evening. Daylight is always the strongest light there is, even when the sky is cloudy. If you combine that with a little exercise, a walk is enough, then that's the best thing you can do for your body.

Do people nowadays do too little physical work to be really tired?
Sleep disorders have only limited connection to exercise. Movement certainly helps with mild sleep problems. But when people suffer from insomnia, then they are exhausted, really battered, tired to drop and their eyes shut all day. And as soon as they are in bed: Boom! Are you wide awake? They could also have moved there. As soon as they are in bed, the body thinks: Warning, this is something threatening, the night will be terrible again.

How do sleep disorders arise in the first place?
It is very different. This can already begin in childhood, for example when a child who is born a short sleeper, i.e. only needs six or seven hours of sleep per day, spends much more time in bed than it actually ought to. Having to sleep well or not yet tired is uncomfortable. If this is the case often, then the child learns that sleep is a problem. For another large proportion of insomnics, a life-changing event precedes their sleep problems. For example a separation, a death, a serious illness or pregnancy. Events in which even healthy people sleep poorly for a few weeks. They then get stuck on it a bit, learn that sleep doesn't just work and get scared of it - the vicious circle.

What can I do if I am worried and cannot sleep because of it?
Sleep comes when we are carefree and tired. And when I have worries, the best thing to do is to write those worries down - what doesn't solve the problems is clear. But if we postpone worries all day, they will appear in the evening when we want to sleep. If you have noted them down, you don't have to work out creative solutions in bed. That can relieve. It has been proven that this "worry inventory" leads to faster falling asleep. You should generally avoid brooding at night. Problems like big tigers, which are actually little mice, appear to you. This is due to a nightly shifted messenger substance constellation in the brain.

If the smartphone is the alarm clock at the same time, have you done everything wrong?
No. I also use my cell phone as an alarm clock. The radiation does not affect sleep, as there is no reliable evidence from studies. The screen light doesn't really keep you awake either. But: If we send e-mails and messages in the evening shortly before going to sleep, then in most cases it upsets us emotionally. Everything that is reminiscent of work and stress makes us cramp, the muscle tone increases, we want to do something else in the world. Circling thoughts are the natural enemy of a good night's sleep. But using the cell phone as an alarm clock is not the problem.

What is the day-to-day work of a sleep researcher like?
Amazingly unspectacular. I spend most of my work at my desk, reading many scientific papers and evaluating data. In the basement I have two rooms with aquariums in which my snails live and with which I do my experiments. Afterwards I watch snail videos for days, document and evaluate the behavior of the animals.

What do you learn from the snails?
I learn a lot about memory and sleep. The sea snail has only 20,000 nerve cells, which are among the largest in the animal kingdom and are therefore relatively easy to study. For comparison: a fruit fly already has 100,000 nerve cells. Researchers today assume that memory is mainly strengthened during sleep. When we don't sleep, the first thing we have trouble concentrating is concentration. So we have to sleep in order to firmly anchor what we have learned and to network it across the board. In our sleep we become a bit like Sherlock Holmes.

How do you find out what the snail is learning and how well it sleeps?
On the one hand, by measuring nerve activity while awake and asleep. To do this, I glued electrodes to the nerve tracts. The other is behavior tests. I put food in a net, which the snails then bite on. But after 30 minutes even the dumbest snail notices: I can't get any further here. But if you keep the snail awake all night, then the next day it will bite twice as long as the well-rested snail on the seaweed candy, from which there is nothing to get. She just didn't learn that well.

So when I sleep, my memory is sorted - what else happens?
At the same time, the brain is completely flushed once - the spaces between the nerve cells enlarge by around 60 percent and small protein deposits that are associated with Alzheimer's are washed away. Initial studies indicate that people who consistently lack sleep are more likely to develop Alzheimer's. Mice that are inefficiently brainwashed at night because of their genes also have more of these debris. That means: Sufficient sleep prevents neurodegenerative diseases.

And what about less dramatic illnesses like a runny nose?
Sleep is extremely important for the immune system. Those who have not slept properly for several days tend to show more severe symptoms of the disease. Sleep is also important for the formation of immunological memory. A night through after a vaccination weakens our vaccination protection even one year after the vaccination.

How are sleep and weight related?
Sleep is essential for the metabolism of fat and sugar. When we go through the night, we are a bit like diabetics in the morning and the insulin released by the body no longer works as well. We also crave calorie bombs the next morning. We know that because we let test subjects choose from a breakfast buffet in the morning. The subjects who have gone through then often resort to something like Snickers and Pombears. While those who had a good night tend to help themselves to smoothies and vegetable sticks. If you want to lose weight sustainably, you should make sure you get enough sleep in addition to exercise.

Is it allowed to take an afternoon nap?
When you get up again afterwards and if you can sleep well at night, a short nap of 20 minutes can provide energy for the second half of the day. If you already have sleep problems, sleep specialists advise against taking an afternoon nap. This increases the sleep pressure for the night and promotes falling asleep and staying asleep.

Window open or closed?
Oh up! Personally, I like to sleep with the windows closed, but open windows are actually better. Because the temperature drop in the outside temperature is a clear signal for the body that it is now bedtime, even if the bedroom does not have to be frosty. This is how we synchronize our internal clock a little. Originally, people wake up when the time of the lowest outside temperature is exceeded and it gets warmer again.

Did Neanderthals also have sleep problems or are sleep problems a modern phenomenon?
On the one hand, I would say yes, they did, because they had very hard documents. And we know that primitive people who sleep on hard surfaces sleep more poorly through the night. But they don't see it as a sleeping problem that they get up up to ten times a night.

Is it better to sleep alone or as a couple?
We know that men sleep better and deeper when a woman sleeps next to them. Women, on the other hand, actually sleep a little worse when the man sleeps next to them because they feel they are responsible for him.

Some find it unromantic when couples sleep separately. What do you mean?
I think that a good night's sleep is the guarantee for a balanced mind and a balanced mind is particularly important for the romantic hours. When we have slept badly, we are thin-skinned and irritable - and nobody wants to have a thin-skinned and irritable partner around. And if one of the two snores loudly and the other sleeps poorly, then it can make sense to separate the bedrooms. This also applies if you have different sleep rhythms. For example, when an early guy falls in love with a late guy. If one feels disturbed every time the other crawls into bed with him, that doesn't have to be the case. Anything that makes couples happy when they sleep is good.

"If you concentrate too much on sleep, you will miss life"

When can I stop drinking coffee?
That is a question of type and age. With age, the body breaks down substances more slowly. So it can be that someone was used to drinking coffee at 5 p.m. for years and suddenly, at 50 or 60 years of age, they can no longer fall asleep or sleep through the night. People can hardly believe that this could be due to their coffee, which they have always drunk at that time.

True story: A high school graduate doesn't go to prom because it messes up his sleep schedule. What do you mean?
I think he missed an important moment in his life.

But don't you need fixed times to fall asleep and wake up?
Yes, they are good for sleep, but it really doesn't matter if sleep is mixed up here and there by a celebration. The organism has recovered after a day or two and the memory of a fantastic night remains. Those who focus too much on sleep are missing out on life.

You also researched shift work - what was the result?
I noticed how incredibly dangerous and unhealthy shift work is. Shift work is the equivalent of around ten cigarettes a day and shortens life by an average of six to eight years with 40 years of shift work. You can say that every minute that I work shift costs me a minute of my life. I ask myself, is it morally justifiable to expose people to avoidable health hazards in order to maximize profit, for example to utilize the production line? People are not well educated before committing to shift work.

What are you asking for?
Shift work should be more limited. If you smoke for a few years, that's far less tragic than if you go through 40 years. And if you work shifts for a few years, that's not necessarily threatening either. But you shouldn't do it your whole professional life. Shift work should be allowed for a maximum of seven years. Because then the serious health problems also begin. In addition, the working hours of shift workers, especially night workers, should be limited. There should be more compensation for free time. A shift worker who only works 25 hours a week instead of 35 hours can avoid a lot of damage to health due to the better recovery. We also expose people as little as possible to toxic fine dust or nasty chemicals, if it can be avoided somehow.