Do you think you got enough sleep this past week?

d&i strategies self care Oct 18, 2019

Do you usually wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day or do you feel groggy and slow and in need of a caffeine kick? If this is how you feel, then you are not alone as the majority of adults nowadays are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.

Sleep is one of the essential pillars of good health along with good nutrition and movement. It rejuvenates the body and mind. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention.

Sleep is absolutely vital for your health however it is often the first thing to get neglected when we are busy.

However the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities, puts your physical health at risk and can dramatically lower your quality of life. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.

Sleep is also essential to regulating your emotions. Without good quality sleep, we not only feel tired, but more irritable, stressed, sensitive and depressed. We may use alcohol to fall asleep and caffeine to stay awake in the daytime. These stimulants are not enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep - and so begins a cycle of night-time insomnia followed by daytime caffeine consumption to get you through the day.

Furthermore, sleep plays an important role in regulating your circadian rhythm, or internal clock. Sunlight is used to keep our internal rhythm in-sync with the world around us. Normally, this whole process happens so seamlessly that we are not even aware of our biological clocks.

Our rhythm aligns our sleep-wake cycle with the light-dark cycle so that we feel awake during the day and sleepy at night. It gets our gut ready for food digestion during the day but helps us not to feel hungry when we are asleep at night. It determines when we are most alert (mid-morning), when we are most coordinated (early afternoon) and when we have the most muscle strength (late afternoon). Our body temperature and blood pressure also increase and decrease throughout the day. Even our immune systems operate on a 24-hour schedule, guided by the circadian rhythm.

But when our clocks are out of sync, we feel the effects. Our modern world, with 24-hour light, LED screens and airplane travel, can confuse our biological clocks.

Because good sleep is necessary to so many aspects of good health, it is incredibly important to make getting enough each night a high priority.

There are various reasons why people struggle to fall asleep or sleep uninterrupted throughout the night. Think about your sleeping environment – do you have a comfortable bed and a de-cluttered space? It helps to have good blinds, curtains or shutters to cut out morning light, and of course, no screens or work papers lying around.

The body reacts to routines and habits; setting a regular bedtime and rising time can make a great difference to the quality of sleep. Just as regular morning rituals prepare us for the day ahead, regular bedtime rituals prepare us for the night ahead.

Strong sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.

There are many different tools, tricks and apps at our disposal nowadays to help us get decent sleep. One very popular approach in Switzerland and France is Sophrology – it is even used in specialist sleep units across Europe to treat sleep disorders and insomnia.

Sophrology was created in the 1960s by neuropsychiatrist Professor Alfonso Caycedo, and can be described as dynamic mindfulness or relaxation.  It consists of a series of easy to do physical and mental exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere, and when practised regularly they typically lead to a healthy, relaxed body and a calm, alert mind.

With stress and anxiety at very high levels nowadays, Sophrology is a great way to restore a sense of calm into people's lives. Its ultimate goal is for participants to become fully present, fully alive and fully participating, comfortably and happily, in all areas of life. It speaks to the deep need for people to reduce stress, clear their head and focus.

For many people, it can be very hard to switch off the agitated mind by sitting and trying to meditate. With Sophrology however, the combination of structured exercises (simple movements and then a 'pause') is a great way of helping people.

It is therefore a very useful tool for people experiencing sleep problems.  For most people, it is stress and an inability to switch the mind off that gets in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Sophrology practice is made up of different routines which are a mixture of breathing exercises, relaxation, visualisation and body awareness techniques. These simple and short exercises help people get into a meditative state.  As a result, they then help you reach that space where your mind can find calm and where you can find balance.

Even just 10 minutes a day can bring noticeable benefit.

The 2 – 3 minute Sophrology exercise that will help you fall asleep

Focus on the movement of your breath and notice any sensations at all in your body. Any tightness in your body or worry in your mind? Inhale deeply, tightening all the muscles in your body as you hold your breath, from head to toe, then do a long exhale to release all those tensions. Repeat five times and then pause, and notice your body relaxing and softening. Finally, visualise a positive image, perhaps a favourite place where you feel content, to lull you into a sleep.

If you are curious to learn more about Sophrology, then please do contact Caroline directly: [email protected]

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