• Sandra Künzler

The importance of sleep

None of us, even the most diligent, conscientious sleepers, will sleep perfectly or even well every single night. Trouble falling asleep, sleeping fitfully rather than soundly, odd or disruptive behaviors during sleep - these and other sleep disruptions happen to everyone occasionally.

When difficult, poor quality, insufficient or excessive sleep becomes a frequent, routine, or prolonged pattern, it is more likely a sleep disorder is present.

What is a Sleep Disorder?

Sleep disorders are deviations from routine, typical sleep patterns that affect both sleep quality and sleep quantity. Dozens of sleep disorders exist, some common and others rare. There is a collection of core symptoms that apply to many sleep disorders.

  • Waking often during the night

  • Waking feeling tired

  • Not sleeping enough

  • Sleeping too much

  • Sleeping at the “wrong” times

  • Daytime tiredness and fatigue that is pronounced and interferes with daily activities

  • Mood swings

  • Troubles with focus, attention, memory

  • Snoring

The presence of any of these symptoms consistently for several weeks or months is reason to seek out medical consultation and treatment with a specialist.

If you think you may suffer from a sleep disorder, you’re not alone. One third of the Swiss population has some form of sleep disorder, of which ten percent are chronic. No wonder: we move too little, are hardly in the fresh air, but at the same time are exposed to a great deal of cognitive stress. In the past, people worked physically more often - which put less strain on the brain. The boundaries between work and leisure are becoming increasingly blurred. Treatments can relieve symptoms and return you to a routine of healthy sleep. Untreated, sleep disorders disrupt sleep, cause an array of problems for daytime functioning and performance, and put you at greater risk for serious and chronic health problems.

Bad quality of sleep and stress are closely interconnected. Anyone who is stressed over a longer period of time has an elevated cortisol level. This puts the body in fight or flight mode, which slows down degradation of cortisol. Normally, the release of the stress hormone is greatly reduced in the first half of the night, but the production of melatonin is stimulated. If the cortisol concentration is too high, however, this process is delayed. The later melatonin is released, the more the inner clock health becomes unbalanced. In the long run, this has negative consequences for the immune system, concentration and metabolic processes. The risk of depression, cardiovascular disorders, injuries or overweight increases.

How can you improve the quality of your sleep?

Sleep researchers from the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg published a study in the scientific journal Sleep, documenting that hypnosis has a positive impact on the quality of sleep, to a surprising extent. It offers new opportunities for better sleep without drugs. Mindfulness practices to reduce the stress level can also n have a positive impact on the quality of sleep. In addition to that, I highly recommend the following tips:

  • Avoid doing anything exciting or exhausting before falling asleep.

  • Soothing, recurring rituals such as reading or listening to music are helpful.

  • Avoid blue LED light from mobile phones or computers.

  • Do not lie down until you are tired. The bed is not the place to watch TV, eat, work or make phone calls.

  • Remove disturbances such as noise or light.

  • Avoid coffee and alcohol at least two to three hours before bedtime.

  • The ideal room temperature for sleeping is around 18 degrees.

  • Visible clocks should be removed - counting the remaining hours until the alarm rings at night creates stress.

  • Use dark curtains and avoid all light sources from the out- and inside.

  • Make sure you sleep and wake up regularly - even on weekends.

  • During the day you should never sleep more than 20 to 30 minutes in order not to disturb the inner clock.

  • If you are awake for more than 20 minutes during the night, you should get up and move to another room. Do something quiet like reading or tidying up. Avoid bright light!

If you would like to learn how to boost your energy levels to perform at your personal best, download my free sleep hack.

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