We can’t say it enough: sleep is a key factor in maintaining good health, feeling more alert, and overall being happier and more productive.
Some important facts:
- Those who sleep 7-8 hours a night tend on average to be better at managing their weight and their energy levels. Sleep disruptions over a prolonged period of time can cause weight gains because hormone levels are affected by sleep and these, in turn, regulate appetite.
- Sleeping well is also linked to better concentration and improved cognitive functions so the hours you spend sleeping will help you perform to your best ability. We shouldn’t underestimate the restorative function of sleep, as it plays a vital part for our recuperation from the day’s stresses.
- During sleep, our body repairs and our mind processes information so we can integrate our experience and learn new things the next day.
In my practice, I see a lot of people whose sleep is affected by a busy lifestyle or because life brings extra challenges, either personally or professionally.
Modern, urban society poses many challenges to maintaining healthy sleep habits. The internet and social media can be especially problematic. It becomes difficult to completely switch off at night. Looking at screens late into the evening can affect our sleep cycles, as the bright blue light wakes up our brain instead of lulling it to sleep. To get into the habit of winding down before sleep, you could try some Sophrology exercises that will help you get into a state of calm and set you up for a good night of sleep.
The Importance of Sleep for Students
Packed schedules, pressure from parents and teachers to succeed, peer pressure, social media, and being always busy, will not give students a lot of time to relax and make sense of all the experiences they are having. Taking the time to reflect and slow down is just as important as achieving great things. For young people whose life revolves around studying and, maybe, sports or other activities, sleep is so important because their nervous system is still developing. Stress and anxiety can affect students of all ages, and this, in turn, can have a negative effect on sleep.
It is worth noting that those who sleep well at night also have a better memory and problem-solving skills compared to people who sleep poorly. Sleeping well is also linked to better concentration and improved cognitive functions, so it’s essential for students to avoid last-minute revising at night and do all their work during the day, alternating time spent studying with some exercise or social interactions.
With the help of Sophrology, students can learn to identify what stresses them, how it affects them and how they can release that stress and use their inner resources to be more efficient whilst studying, revising and preparing for exams. They learn how they can boost their confidence and gain perspective about their life and the future. They can learn exercises to do on the go so they can focus and relax throughout the day and end up less stressed or anxious when it is time for bed.
The Importance of Sleep for Athletic Performance
Similarly to students, athletes need their mind, not just their body, to be in peak condition to perform at their best. A state of mind/body balance helps to get good results in sporting events: feeling calm and focused before a competition means being “in the zone”, which gives the best chance of success. To achieve this particular state of balance athletes must follow a specific health regimen that includes rest, recuperation and relaxation. Preparing oneself to a good night’s sleep is essential.
Sleep is the time when the body performs its own repair functions, so all the muscles and joints can recuperate while the mind can process all the information from the day’s training. It is known that 20 minutes of Sophrology and being in the alpha brain waves state is like getting a few hours of restful sleep. This helps the nervous system and the body to repair and recover and therefore learning to reach that state when needed is a key learning for athletes so they can manage their energy levels better and recuperate faster. Additionally, feeling rested and focused means being more able to prevent injuries, which are often caused by tiredness, over-training or lack of focus.
The Importance of Sleep for Parents
All parents know how challenging the first few years of their child’s life are. From illness to growing pains, children require 24×7 attention, which brings a lack of sleep. This affects parents in their daily life, including mood and clarity, making family life and work a bigger challenge. Some of my clients report being so tired and drained that they simply cannot sleep anymore or tend to wake up even when their children are finally asleep, and anxiety creeps in. It is like those months of disturbed sleep affect their sleep far beyond those early years and they can’t go back to what their sleep was unless they do something about it.
Sophrology is ideal for them as well. Sophrology offers simple techniques to reset sleep and achieve better sleep quality. The practise consists of 10 minutes a day over a period of 3 to 5 weeks, or sometimes less, and they usually report better quality of sleep and waking up feeling rested in the morning. This then affects everything else positively and gives them enough energy to address other issues they may have in their daily life, which they may have given up on due to exhaustion.
I would like to share my personal experience: when my son was born, I made sure I got enough rest so I could look after him and myself as I knew this was such a big part of being in a state of balance. I established a routine pretty early on, where I would take a Sophrology break while my baby was napping. I have kept this good habit a few years down the line and, even when we go on holiday (see my blog post about holidays) I practise dynamic relaxation during my boy’s nap time to recharge my batteries and sleep well at night.
During my daily break, I allow my mind and body to relax and align to achieve a state of balance. This enables me to simply enjoy the moment and stop fretting about the future. As a parent, I believe that getting a restful sleep at night is essential for my role as a carer, and to keep everything else into balance.
A simple exercise you can do before going to sleep is to breathe in, close your eyes, breathe out and start scanning your body from head to toe. Place your hands on your abdomen, breathe in from your belly, hold the breath for four seconds, breathe out from your tummy and invite your body to relax. You can then visualise yourself in a safe bubble allowing you to sleep deeply through the night without interruptions.
Once you become more familiar with Sophrology exercises you will notice a marked improvement in the quality of your sleep. Schedule a short 10-minute break during the day if you can to practise, and possibly spend another 5 minutes in the evening getting ready to sleep with a body scan. In my book The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology I have a specific chapter on sleep if you would like to learn more exercises and how to get ready for a good night’s sleep. It comes with audio downloads so you can immediately be guided through the practice and enjoy the benefits.