Economy False hopes

The dubious business with the sleep of the Germans

| Lesedauer: 5 minutes
Portrait of young woman with sleep mask in bed Getty ImagesGetty Images Portrait of young woman with sleep mask in bed Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sleep is precious-even so health insurance companies pay for many measures to alleviate sleep disorders
Source: Getty Images/Westend61
Every second German sleeps too little. Because many are desperately looking for advice, the business is booming. Worldwide, up to 70 billion euros will be spent on aids. Experts warn against false hopes-but an approach promises success.

D oris Hoffmann (Name changed. Actual name and identity are known to the editorial team) doesn't know exactly when she really slept the last time really well. " I am hundemüde, but lie awake in bed. And when I fell asleyed, the smallest sound awakens me, " complains the 33-year-old from Baden-Württemberg.

Ever since she became a mother, everything has gotten worse. She tried a lot of things, breathing exercises, sleeping piles from advertising, and because that didn't help, too, she bought devices: " A light device, a Weight ceiling and a special mattress opper. " Even the bed had exchanged it. She spent a lot of money-for nothing.

On the website of her health insurance company Hoffmann has now found an online shoe training and signed up. The cash register pays a large part of the almost 300 euros, which is supposed to cost.

The health insurance companies know that sleep is precious, and therefore subsidise all sorts of measures to alleviate or remedy sleep disorders. Many Germans have problems getting the recommended seven-and-a-half hours of sleep at night. A study by electrical equipment manufacturer Philips from last fall states that only one in two Germans sleeps enough, one in five says of themselves that he gets too little sleep. The health report 2019 of the Barmer health insurance company comes to similar results: every fourth person admitted to suffering from sleep disorders.

85 percent of sleep disorders are not recognized

In the long term, this can have serious consequences: burnout, problems with heart and circulation, diabetes and weight problems. And consequences for the economy. Those who are not asleep can not bring the full performance and feel uncomfortable. According to the Barmer investigation, people with Sleep disorders 6.1 times longer pathowritten. Think tank Rand Europe hit the total economic damage years ago to more than 55 billion euros.

According to experts, all of these are so far more approxinable to the problem. About six percent of the population has a diagnosis from the doctor and can be treated. Others make it like Doris Hoffmann and try to help himself: "The suffering pressure of those affected is high, sleep is a basic need," says the graduate psychologist and sleep expert Elena Heber of the GET.ON Institute for Online Health Training In Hamburg.

She estimates that about 85 percent of sleep disorders are not recognized at all. There is a great temptation to resort to methods that are unclear as to whether they are effective at all. So sleep has become a product around which an entire industry has emerged.

Fitness bracelets measure how long and well someone sleeps. There are sensor mats that log sleep, apps evaluate the results. If something is wrong, sleep drinks with melatonin or hemp oil come into use, soft sounds and special light. A butcher for 500 euros is said to be close to home. Experts assume that up to 70 billion euros will be spent worldwide on aids around sleep. The business is booming, even in Germany.

Warning against false promises

"This is a poverty certificate for the German health care system," says Hans-Günter Weeß, head of the sleep centre at the Pfalzklinikum in Klingenmünster. The offers mentioned above all, that people with Sleep disorders in the German health care system is only poorly supplied.

"I think it's good that trackers and wearables are raising awareness of this," Weeß said. However, many modern sleeping aids have been found in scientific terms, but their effectiveness has never been scientifically investigated. "That's even a bit dangerous then." Namely, when healthy people are taught that they have a sleeping problem, or sick people are suggested, everything is fine.

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Consumer advocates also warn against false promises and misleading advertising. A team from the Consumer Centre Hessen has sought specifically for food supplements that promote good sleep-and has reached a conspicuity.

"Some products were harmless, but probably don't have any effect on sleep," says Wiebke Franz, who heads the team. In other cases, it is not clear whether the substances contained are authorised for food, for example, melatonin. The latest trend is products with the hemp ingredient cannabidiol (CBD). Franz particularly warns against them. They could contain health-impairing amounts of the psychoactive substance THC.

Doctors, too, are looking for quick solutions

Consumer advocates, therefore, generally advise against buying alleged aids for better sleep. "You should rather tackle the causes and find out why you sleep badly," Franz says. The thing is, not only are people with sleep disorders looking for quick solutions. But often doctors.

And that, although according to the guidelines of the German Society for Sleep Research, cognitive behavioral therapy would be the means of choice. The people concerned are supposed to learn something about healthy sleep and learn to sleep properly again with relaxation exercises, the questioning of sleep-damaging thoughts and guided sleep training.

"For some people, it can be sufficient," says sleep expert Heber. Healthy habits, regularity, the renunciation of alcohol and nicotine play an important role in this. However, those who do not sleep well in at least three nights per week over a period of four weeks or feel a great suffering pressure should go to the doctor. Then an online training, as the Institute of Heber offers it, is an option.

Online therapy helps sleepless

Sleep explorers Weeß advises caution. Online therapy programs may well be effective, but need to be developed and scientifically reviewed by professionals. For example, the GET.ON-Institute is currently working on this. It is involved in a study of the University Hospital Freiburg with 4000 people, who finance the health insurance funds via an innovation fund.


First results from Scandinavia, but also from Germany confirm the success of such online programs, which can cost 500 to 800 euros if accompanied by a therapist. It will take time for their usefulness to be proven. Consumer protection expert Wiebke Franz has simple tips that cost nothing: not first in the bed the cell phone, to give the brain the chance to switch off. Dear herbal tea or warm milk instead of expensive pills. Don't eat first sleep. And maybe create little sleep rituals: listen to music or read music.

Doris Hoffmann has learned that she has to take the pressure herself. She's working with a therapist. The weight blanket and the alternator has disposed of it.

Tips from the Sleep profi

Source: WELT