Sleep deprivation leads to a long list of problems. From weight gain and dull skin to heart disease and stroke, a lack of sleep is bad for your body and mind. The University of East Anglia even recently opened a dedicated research unit to study the link between poor sleep and dementia. Sophrology for sleeping is simple in place, let's see how it works and how to use it.
Sophrology for sleeping: A natural solution to fall asleep
There are many reasons why people have trouble falling asleep. It can be the environment (too hot, too noisy, too light) or eating the wrong food (no big spicy curries before bed please), but for the most part it's stress and an inability to turn off the mind.
There are of course plenty of tools, tricks, and apps available to us these days to help us get decent sleep. From sensor-equipped headsets and mindfulness apps to word-of-mouth tips.
The last technique is sophrology. The method was created in the 1960s by neuropsychiatrist professor Alfonso Caycedo, and is a moving kind of meditation combining elements of yoga and mindfulness.
Sophrology is so popular in Switzerland, France and Spain that it is used as preparation for childbirth in hospitals and the French rugby team reportedly used sophrology when training for the World Cup. Sophrology for sleep is also used in specialized sleep units across Europe to treat sleep disorders and insomnia.
How can sophrology help sleep?
According to BeSophro founder Dominique Antiglio, most people have trouble sleeping not because of something that happened that night, but because of something that happened during the day. "People suffer from all kinds of stress during the day and when they go to bed the brain is there and you can't fight it anymore," says Antiglio.
Sophrology for sleep is essentially composed of different routines which are a mixture of breathing, relaxation, visualization and body awareness techniques to bring people into a meditative state.
"A lot of people find this a really easy way to get into a meditative state," says Antiglio. “Because when you're very agitated, you're on adrenaline and it's actually very difficult to get to that 'zone' where the mind is suddenly calm.
"Instead, we activate the body in different ways with breathing and visualization - it's a little routine that is clear and takes you to that space where you can find resilience, where you can find calm, where you can find the balance."
So rather than just focusing on your breath and trying to clear your mind, like with meditation, sophrology takes you on a journey, almost making you feel relaxed.
However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Routines are created based on an individual's stress trigger. "It's important to look at what's keeping that person awake," says Antiglio.
Once you've found a sophrology routine that works for you, Antiglio advises people to practice for 10 minutes a day.
Sophrology exercises for deep sleep
Before this sophrology session for sleep, make sure you are seated comfortably - legs apart, sagging, whatever suits you.
Raise one of your arms in front of you, fist closed but thumbs up. Focus on one point on your thumb, inhale, hold your breath, and place your thumb between your eyebrows to meet your eyes. Close your eyes, exhale and bring your arm to your thigh. Repeat three times.
The Body Scan:
Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Observe how your stomach moves with your breath. Then focus on your head and face (forehead, cheeks, nose, jawline, etc.). Then scan your neck and shoulders, arms, hands, fingers. Think about the chest. Move onto your stomach and lower back. After that is the pelvis, the legs and the feet. This should take about 5 minutes. Take your time with this.
Rise. Arms at your side. Clench your fists. Exhale through your mouth and inhale then hold your breath and pump your shoulders up and down for a few seconds, keeping your arms straight. Exhale and relax your arms and hands. Repeat two or three times.
Sit comfortably and visualize a bubble around you. It can look whatever you want: transparent, bright blue, small or large. Imagine that all your stresses are outside the bubble. The inside of the bubble is calm. Inside the bubble, you just have space to be. Continue to visualize the bubble and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
There are many different exercises in sophrology for sleep and the idea is that once you know them, you can choose the ones that suit you. Antiglio says that we must about 5-6 sessions to feel fully comfortable with the method.