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Survey: How Germany sleeps

Photo: Karsten Jipp, Koelnmesse

Today everyone knows just how important good sleep is. And we’re prepared to invest some money when buying a new bed. But it’s not just our bed, mattress, duvet and pillows that determine how well we sleep. A survey by the health insurer Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) examined the internal and external factors that contribute to a restful night’s sleep – or otherwise. The results provide some food for thought for the specialised trade as there are growing numbers of holistic systems available on the market.

“Go to bed with the chickens; get up when the cock crows,” is an old German saying. But it comes from a time before the invention of electric light and the telephone. Today we work flexitime or shifts, or we have to cross time zones thanks to globalisation. And with the advent of the Internet and mobile phones, we’re contactable virtually 24/7. But this goes against our body clock, or circadian rhythm. Our sleep suffers, and especially if we take our work home with us or – mentally – even to bed with us. To perform well and be creative, rest is essential, and sleep in particular.

There are many things that can steal our sleep. Photo: Auping

Close your eyes and sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is no easy matter. Often thoughts go round and round in our heads while we’re lying in bed. According to the sleep survey “Schlaf gut, Deutschland” (Sleep well, Germany), conducted by the TK, 30 per cent* of Germans can hardly sleep due to stress. But it’s not just stress that can steal our sleep. Sleep’s enemy number one is the screen. We spend too much time in front of the television in the evening and often can’t switch off mentally because of it. Nearly half of all adults in Germany spend too long in front of the TV screen in the evening or even fall asleep on the couch in the living room. Smartphones, tablets and the Internet take care of the rest. Some 62 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds spend too long surfing the Internet in the evenings. As many as 20 per cent even take their smartphone to bed with them, where it has no place at all. The blue light from the screen can affect the production of melatonin, which we need in order to get to sleep, decreasing it by as much as 55 per cent. It takes longer for us to fall asleep, and the REM stage is less intense.

Sleep-disturbing factors: sound, light and temperature

But external factors can also steal our sleep – noise from the street or a room that isn’t dark enough (which account for 13 per cent of sleeping problems respectively), or a partner who snores or tosses and turns. Just under 75 per cent of those who sleep alone say that they sleep well or very well. That figure falls to around 60 per cent among those who don’t sleep alone. But what’s interesting is that the most significant extrinsic sleep-disturbing factor is the wrong room temperature. A considerable 40 per cent of respondents say that their sleep is disturbed because their bedroom is too cold or too hot. And this despite it being well known that the ideal room temperature is 18° to 21°C.

To perform well, sleep is essential. Photo: Auping

Promoting healthy sleep

But whatever causes us to sleep badly, if we don’t get a good night’s sleep, it affects our performance and inevitably has an impact on our professional and social lives. This is why health insurers and doctors recommend making sleep one of the elements of occupational health management (OHM). The TK’s survey shows that simple measures can help, from healthier shift plans and quiet rooms to establishing a corporate culture that recognises that the working day must have a clear end. There are also apps that promote good sleep by monitoring and evaluating our night-time rest and calculating the best time to wake up. But these devices should be in flight mode to make sure that we can gently drift away to the realm of our dreams.
* All figures are taken from the TK sleep survey “Schlaf gut, Deutschland” (Sleep well, Germany).