Sonja Sommerfeld is known for her decades of experience helping people in an emphatic way to sleep better. With her holistically oriented, modern concepts, she established convincing sleep strategies. Her name “Schlafexpertin” was awarded to her on the basis of her extensive expertise by a newspaper reporter from the Hamburg area where she comes from. Planet-bpm.com asked her how people can sleep better and longer.
Why is it so difficult these days to sleep properly?
First and foremost I would say, because we do not take our sleep seriously and do not give it the necessary attention. We do not see what happens during sleep. For example, when we are dieting, we see success on the scales, or when we eat something “healthy”, then we see and taste it. Sleep is not really measurable for us. There some apps now, but who really knows what the numbers mean? They clearly support sleep, but you also have to be able to interpret them correctly. Only with 100% understanding and implementation they help us effectively.
Secondly, people do not know enough about sleep, although much research has been done here. Why? Perhaps because in most eyes sleep is “lost” time in which we can not perform and that is not recognized in today’s “meritocracy” . It is understood that only someone who sleeps little is diligent and successful. People who sleep a lot are considered lazy. However, I can tell you that it is the other way around. According to a study by the Regensburg University, people who sleep 6-8 hours a day, get up to twice as many jobs as those who sleep only 3-5 hours a day.
The third reason is the fact that sleeping properly means much more than just going to bed. Thus, our daily self reflection has a significant impact on getting real and high quality sleep. This includes our exercise, our diet and our mindset as well as the bedding in which we sleep. We are not aware of all this do not associate it with our sleep. This may be another reason as to why proper sleep is so difficult for us.
Who suffers the most?
This is a very good question. Every age group suffers from bad sleep. There are certain alarm signals like if we do not dare to go to bed in the evening, if we become aggressive in our behavior, but also in our communication, if we become more and more physically ill when we cause accidents, make wrong decisions, become depressed, etc., the list can be continued endlessly. Why, for example, does the suicide rate increase continuously among adolescents? Maybe because they have today among other things not enough qualitative sleep anymore.
What are the reasons?
Today, in the 21st century, we are overloaded in many ways. Edison deserves my greatest respect, but with the invention of the light bulb, we have also received a very powerful tool. Because with the light bulb we can determine our awake and night rhythm every day – which we are only too happy to claim with 100% passion. Because through this possibility, we castigate in the true sense of the word, every day our biorhythm and thus our precious good: our body including our psyche.
The invention of the LED has significantly increased this problem, as you can expect short waves severely restricts our melatonin production. This causes significant lack of sleep in children and adolescents, but also in all other age groups. We’re a bend too long in front of the PC, the tablet, the phone and when we can not sleep, then we’ll see Netflix, YouTube or TV. As a result, we can fall asleep badly in a natural way.
Well, some read a book in the evening, which is better. But with which light do you read? In addition, we have more sounds than ever today. So not only are our eyes overwhelmed, but our ears are too. This is even worse for children and adolescents, as they spend almost all their time on their phones, PC’s and tablet’s and are always running around with headphones on their ears playing music. This is why in the future we will increasingly have to deal with hearing problems, tinnitus, visual deficiencies, etc..
The brain and the psyche recovers only in the second half of the night between 2 and 5 o’clock in the morning. But when we wake up again and again in this time – sometimes unconsciously – our brains do not process all the information they have been given during the day! Imagine a glass of water, if you do not have quality sleep, there will always be a sip in the glass – day after day! What happens after a while? That’s what we call burnout today. So are we completely responsible for it ourselves? Do not we have the duty to protect our children from it?
Another reason is our oversupply of food. We usually have the opportunity to eat around the clock in the present day. However, this causes stress to different organs, which often have their resting phase at night. But since we are also rarely aware of this, we do not listen to our body, but stress it.
In addition, there is either a lack of exercise or we suffer from too much movement. There are very many reasons why we can not sleep, but let me conclude this question with a very important reason in my view: Lack of oxygen. Our problem in the 21st century is also that we daily expose ourselves to the low -oxygen air of air conditioning units. And this is where the circle comes full circle: If you do not get enough oxygen-rich air during the day or sleep in a low-energy room at night, the lungs do not calm down and cause you to wake up, which in turn leads to your psyche not recovering, ergo during the day we are not able to make clear decisions or to be creative, and communication skills are effected.
If I told you that for all of your problems, whether physical, emotional, family, entrepreneurial, there would be a miracle pill, what would you be willing to pay for it? A pill that would make you look youthful for a longer time, giving you agile and fun-loving extra years? It makes you shine entrepreneurial, no matter how difficult the situation is? What would you pay for?
I’ll tell you something now: this pill has been around for a long time – it’s called sleep! And what does it cost you? An individual adapted bed and to be self aware. Cristiano Ronaldo, George Federesen, Jeff Bezos just to name a few, take this miracle pill daily, which is why they are incredibly successful . So, when do you put your sleep in the # 1 position, or do I want to ask this question: How long do you want to live? And how good? – You have this in your own hands!
Why do teenagers have so many sleep disorders?
It is due to the constant use of PC, tablet and mobile phone and the associated exposure of blue light waves and stress through the processing of the seen videos and series. Now you could forbid it, but let’s be honest, it is nearly impossible. Because we want to “learn” from the first moment of our existence. Teenagers watch so many videos and social media channels to learn. And did you know that every “Like” on Instagram pours out happy hormones? On the other hand, it also gives you immense pressure and stress, because you want to be just like your role model because you think, then you get recognition. A vicious circle, many of which often do not come out, which is among other things the reason for an increasing suicide rate. Because the psyche processes, as I said in the sleep between 2-5 clock.
If you are not sleeping qualitatively, the increased release of the hormone ghrelin causes increased hunger, which in turn disturbs the intestine at night and thus leads us into the next circle of ravages. During the day, sleep disorders are also manifested by bad communication, which the teenager still lacks today. As you enter puberty and become sexually mature, you want to get in touch ethologically with the opposite sex.
However, since you no longer have learned to communicate verbally through the use of messenger services and you are constantly in a “trance” due to a lower brain frequency , bad sleep also robs you of creativity and communication strength, you often access today Drugs or alcohol. These remedies seriously disturb sleep and may even lead to schizophrenia. What else is the reason why we will also find this disease in the next few years increased. Because schizophrenia is probably caused by stress. Ergo no real sleep, no mental recovery.
How can a lack of sleep affect our work performance?
Significantly! We suffer for example in falling asleep and get the corresponding evening not to sleep, we often miss the first part of the sleep when we go to bed late. Thus, we lack responsiveness, we are often plagued by colds and flu. Due to the disturbance in the second half of the night the psyche suffers. Ergo we do not have the necessary creativity and therefore we lack performance. For example, German companies lose almost 210,000 working days each year due to exhausted employees. The calculations by RAND Europe show that if all Germans would sleep more the gross domestic product would be up to 57 billion euros higher per year. In Spain these figures might be even more impressive, since people tend to sleep even less than Germans.
But the worst thing about a lack of sleep is that you put others at risk! Because overtired, it is just difficult to make clear decisions and as previously mentioned to be responsive. For example, fatigue at the wheel is far more often the cause of traffic accidents than drinking and driving. In car accidents, these are usually only a few people. But even major disasters can also be attributed to a lack of sleep. Such as the Exxon Valley Disaster in the US: One of the biggest maritime environmental disasters, the emergence of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez and the associated oil spill, or the US Space Shuttle Challenger exploding – many such accidents could be attributed to a lack of sleep!
How can you help?
First, I look for the triggering stress factor, then we continue to look for each need to create awareness. As this process is completed, as a mental trainer, I try to effectively and permanently eliminate old behaviors in order to imply and anchor the new, self-found insights. This results in a daily, stress-free implementation, give a qualitative sleep. I also offer this as personal coaching.
How many hours should we sleep?
Again and again I read from sleep doctors who recommend 7-9 hours to sleep, the next writes 7-8 hours. I think here opinions differ. I personally recommend six hours sleep minimum to stay healthy, to max. 8 hours. Less than six hours definitely lead to the problems described before, as well as when we sleep too long, say 8+ hours. This is the same as with too little.
If we take a nap from time to time in the theater or cinema, is that a bad sign?
No, I would not generalize. In the theater, it can simply be the frequency of the music, which relaxes us as it hits our own brain’s frequency. In the cinema, it probably depends on the movie. As always, a short nap can always be a state of relaxation. That should definitely be discussed individually. Of course, when I’m so tired that I fall asleep, though it’s exciting, it’s definitely a sign that you’re not having a qualitative sleep.
Are you in favor of a siesta?
Absolutely! In the US, public transport is required by law to take a minimum siesta of 40 minutes. Lufthansa uses the same method for its pilots, but we are talking about power napping, which does not require a fixed daily commute. For example, Lufthansa has reduced this napping to 30 minutes. Ronaldo takes these power naps 6 times the day before major games.
People say they fall asleep without a problem, but then wake up and can not fall asleep. Why is that?
As mentioned here above, it is often because we, when we wake up, turn on the lights, watch a movie, look to the mobile phone, etc.. All of these things stop the secretion of melatonin. If you do not do all this, you usually start to ponder. This is often compounded by the silence and darkness, as we are not really used to have a complete peace of mind. And the last factor is our consciously lived time of day, that is, how we move, feed and deal with our mindset.
Is it good to read before going to bed?
I would not generalize that. It depends on the following factors: If the book is very exciting, it puts the body in “stress”, this of course does not help sleep. Here I would basically recommend “nice”, quiet stories. Then we have the factor light again. Am I reading with an e-book reader? I would not recommend it, because of the blue light. If so, then it should include a function where you can turn on filters to take out the blue light. The same applies to the reading lamp – here I see and hear again and again: “My reading lamp is an LED lamp”, which clearly suppresses the melatonin secretion . But in the end, everybody has to watch for himself, what brings him to sleep or not.
How does the food affect us while finding sleep?
From my personal point of view the food plays a big role. If we take heavy meals very late the stomach has no resting phase, before we go to bed. After 9 PM you should even avoid food. If you do not do it, you stress the stomach, which can permanently lead to skin rashes around the mouth, gastric ulcers, stomach cramps, etc. This is just one example of a whole complex of digestion. Another illustrative example is: You wake up at 3am at night, but only if you have eaten in the evening. This is because we live in the nutrient abundance today. Of course, we have adapted and changed our evolutionary history, but still we usually consume too much food on a daily basis. If we allow “conscious” food and our organs the necessary rest, we can sleep well.
Are there cultural differences?
Definitely! Roughly speaking, one can say that all cultures that spend a lot of time in the “outdoors” (nature) have more hours of sunshine (Vitamin D intake), which are in communities (herds ), sleep much better and have thus a better life expectance. Accordingly, the Spanish culture of life leads to almost + 10 years compared to the German culture. Italy and the Swiss also have the longest healthy life next to Spain. They use the siesta to compensate lack of sleep at night, that is perfect. We do not do that in Germany. In Japan, people still live the longest, but could even be replaced by the Spaniards by 2040. Why? As already mentioned, more sun, more social life and healthier eating habits.
And now we have returned to my modern sleep strategies, which started right here – in the origin. How can we get quality sleep? If we have no stress during the day and are aware of ourselves – then we can fall asleep. Through qualitative sleep, we are not constantly hungry during the day, are more friendly to our fellow human beings, more content with ourselves, perceive the wonderful gifts of nature and thus achieve well-being and self-love. Because sleep gives us a youthful appearance, does not even cause illnesses. Sleep is the best medicine. It gives us strong bones and heals our psyche overnight.
Interviewed by Stefanie Claudia Müller