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Sleep coach Markus Kamps
Knows all the tricks for falling asleep and sleeping through the night, even when stressed: sleep coach Markus Kamps © Ippen Digital Media

How to fall asleep within minutes with the M17 trick and when it is completely okay to take your cell phone or tablet to bed with you in the evening.

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Markus Kamp’s family raised the subject of sleep to a science – his parents ran three specialist bed shops. Instead of running away from the feathers, he embraced them metaphorically and, after studying, became the first preventive medicine specialist in sleep and stress.
Today, Markus Kamps, as a sleep coach and specialist lecturer in the healthcare sector, advises companies, top athletes and managers on how to sleep well despite shift work, stress and working from home.

He has made a name for himself particularly through his appearances in advice and health magazines on television. There he gives practical tips and advice on how to get sleep problems under control and improve sleep quality.

The expert was available to us exclusively for an interview.

Mr. Kamps, many people will certainly know your name from television. You are a sleep consultant. What exactly does a sleep consultant do?

Sleep advice might sound strange. I am a sleep coach and specialist lecturer in the health sector, especially in corporate health management. We travel to companies and teach employees what to consider when working shifts, working from home and other things related to sleep, stress and health. But I also work as a coach for athletes and sometimes for managers to show what kind of performance you can achieve with good sleep and stress management. I also deal with the topic of bedding. As a specialist lecturer, I also train salespeople on the topic of sleep, beds, mattresses, pillows and everything that goes with them.

Sleep is a topic that has always preoccupied mankind, whether it’s doctors, professional athletes or stressed-out managers. In your opinion, what are the most common causes of poor sleep?

One of the main causes of poor sleep is the wrong inner attitude. Most people think: “I can sleep when I’m dead or I’ll sleep next Tuesday.” Of course, that doesn’t make things any better. You can use little tricks. Someone who wants to do something for their sleep with little effort could say in the mirror in the morning: “70 percent of health is related to good sleep.” If I tell myself that every day, my behavior towards sleep will automatically improve and become healthier.

The simplest formula for better sleep would be to wish yourself good morning in the mirror and say: “70 percent of overall health is related to good sleep.”

What are the effects of poor sleep?

Poor sleep can have a negative impact on every level – on the body, mind and soul. My thoughts are less clear, I don’t feel as physically fit and I’m not in such a good mood. So if you sleep well, it has a lot of positive effects on the body, all organs and the soul, i.e. our mood. Many people suffer in different areas and sleep disorders are not always sleep disorders.

They say you need to sleep a lot to recover well. That’s not true.

That sounds nice and simple in theory. You decide in the morning to get the recommended eight hours of sleep and everything is fine?

Of course, you can’t just resolve to say, “From tomorrow on, I’ll sleep well.” But you can have the inner attitude that sleep is important, and that makes you more relaxed about the matter and more conscious of your sleeping habits. The length of sleep is also a big myth. They say you have to sleep a lot to recover well. That’s not true. There are different types of sleepers: long sleepers, short sleepers, medium-length sleepers. Science knows that seven and a half hours have a positive immune response, while six hours would be neutral – not particularly healthy, but not particularly bad either. But those who sleep less than six or even less than five hours over a longer period of time have a 4.6-fold increased risk of infection. So the length of sleep plays a role, but it is the length of sleep times the quality that makes good sleep.

People who have a stressful everyday life often report feeling tired but still having difficulty falling asleep. Do you have any personal tips on how to relax more quickly?

The most important tip is to start at midday. I don’t mean taking a nap. You can do that too, of course. But I mean decoupling your thoughts. Most people make the mistake of lying in bed and only doing something there to sleep better. But if you start the other way around and think at midday between 1 and 2 p.m. when you’re at your lowest energy level: What has been good so far? What has been bad so far? Who annoyed me and what do I have to do tomorrow? Then a processing process gets going and everything that happened up until 2 p.m. is at least digested. If you suppress it until the evening, it all comes back up like balloons in a mental salad in the evening when you really want to relax. That’s why my first tip is: pre-digest your thoughts.

Even more sleep tips from the pros

In his guidebook “The awake bird catches the worm”, Markus Kamps reveals how a little sleep advantage can significantly help us both in our professional and private lives.

To the sleep guide

And how do I digest my thoughts in advance to avoid mental salad in the evening?

A mini diary helps here. It is called a simplified diary or an impulse diary. You write down just three things at lunchtime: Which three things were positive, which were negative, and which three things do I need for the next day. This way, the most important things are already sorted out. If I have a lot of worries and concerns, I do it again in the evening at 6 p.m. while I’m eating dinner. If I have even more worries, I do it at 1 p.m., at 6 p.m., and again when I go to bed. This way, I get everything out of my head, put it on paper, and that relieves the strain on my mind and soul.

Many people fall asleep quickly, but then wake up in the middle of the night – and stay that way. What’s the problem?

There are people who are masters of repression. They push their worries and thoughts away not only at lunchtime, but also in the evening. These are people who still fall asleep at some point, but all wake up at about 2:30 a.m. At 2:30 a.m. there is a knock on the inside of the skull. The spirit says: “Hello, I’m here.”
Serotonin levels are lowest around 2:30 a.m. We are not happy and in a mini depression, so to speak, and have the highest level of melatonin, the brooding hormone. At this time of day, all worries and troubles are at their greatest. If everything comes up at this time, the so-called “hour of the wolf,” and you are not careful, you can easily deprive yourself of sleep and get worked up.

Anyone who wakes up at this time because they haven’t digested their thoughts the day before will know what it’s like: “Man, I’m awake again. The whole world is asleep, except me.” The body then releases the stress hormone cortisol and is particularly sensitive to loud, quiet, bright, dark, pain, a snoring partner, the wrong pillow, too warm, too cold, spiritual well-being, projects for tomorrow… Everything comes up. Why? Because I haven’t digested enough myself. If you now remind yourself that 2:30 a.m. is normal for these problems, you may be able to deal with them more calmly.

Many people check their emails on their cell phones in bed or watch a Netflix series on their tablet. What do you think about that?

Basically, when I start writing something and someone replies, it goes back and forth. Or at some point I’ve watched the 17th cat video and read the 15th email, and then it’s already 2 a.m. That’s how I usually steal some sleep time.
But there are many who use their mobile devices as an audio book or for an evening routine and make a checklist for the next day. If I then have the blue light filter set or use yellowish glasses, that makes sense. However, if you are sensitive, you should do a technology detox two hours before going to bed, i.e. stop using your cell phone or tablet.

By the way, nobody needs their cell phone as an alarm clock. Because if it’s on the nightstand, you’re always looking at it. In that case, it’s better to leave it on the sideboard. That also has the advantage that we snooze less in the morning. Because on the nightstand, it’s easy to reach and the snooze button is quick to press. After snoozing five times, I’ve basically wasted five times ten minutes of sleep – almost a whole hour. And that’s missing from the total amount of sleep.

What important advice would you like to give to our readers?

The ultimate sleep tip is simply M17. You should definitely use it. M stands for tiredness and 17 stands for “you only have roughly 17 to 20 minutes to go to bed”. My experience and practice as a sleep coach show that people often wait far too long to go to bed. They wipe down the kitchen island, take the trash can out to the street, check emails, finish watching Netflix even though they’ve already seen the episode five times… And suddenly I’m past my tiredness point and am lying in bed wide awake and upset. So always go to bed when you’re tired and don’t put it off. Then you’ll be able to fall asleep.

Mr Kamps, thank you very much for the interview and the wealth of information.