Travel trends'

01/04/2013

Sleep: where has Morpheus gone?

In the 1990s, Italian group Corona sang "The rhythm of the night", a tribute no doubt to the craze for dancing the night away. But that was the 1990s! Today, switched-on people are talking about "sleep rhythms": light sleep, slow-wave sleep, deep sleep. But who has time to delve deeply into these matters? What with work, shopping, housework, e-mails, dinner and television, it seems some people can no longer even find the time to sleep! However that may be, one thing is certain: people who don't get enough sleep at night are unlikely to feel like dancing at the end of their day!

Frère Jacques, are you sleeping?

We spend one-third of our lives asleep. Some people might think: "What a waste of time!" - others believe the time is too short. In any case, sleep is a topic that preoccupies us, especially if we are not getting enough of it.

We may not appreciate the wrinkles, bags and grumpy mood that result from too short a night, but the consequences of chronic sleep disorder can be much more serious: headaches, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating, not to mention high blood pressure and diabetes - a nightmare that can be all too real.

Insomnia is one of the most frequent types of sleep disorder. In a study published by the British medical review The Lancet, physicians Charles Morin and Ruth Benca showed that it affects almost 10% of Americans, with sufferers having trouble falling asleep, waking several times during the night and finding themselves wide awake before their alarm clock rings.

In France, the INSEE 2012 "social portrait" revealed that French people are steadily losing sleep: between 1986 and 2010, people aged 15 and over lost 18 minutes of sleep, while 10% of them sleep less than six hours a night. The many different screens and gadgets that have invaded our bedrooms may have something to do with this - far from opening the door to the land of dreams, they slam it shut on the god Morpheus by winding back the user's biological clock.

When Morpheus gets jet lag

Genetically speaking, we are not all equal in the matter of sleep: some people are naturally "short sleepers" while others are "long sleepers". While some wake up refreshed and full of energy after only 3 ½ hours sleep (the minimum recorded!), others will have to sleep half the day for the same result.

We can also observe other forms of inequality, social this time. For instance, people who work night shifts generally get less sleep than people who work during the day. The fond parents of very young children and business travelers are also well aware of the problem!

For business travelers, often bedeviled by the problem of jet lag, some good habits worth adopting have been compiled in a very practical little guide published by INPES. First and foremost, once in the plane, you should set your watch to the time at your destination, drink plenty of liquids and avoid alcohol.

If you are traveling eastward, towards the rising sun, bedtime at your destination comes earlier. To avoid having problems with sleeping, you should stay in the sunlight in the morning, perhaps taking a short run, don your sunglasses during the afternoon and then take a cold shower in the evening. However, if your plane is travelling westwards, you'd be better off donning your dark glasses in the morning, enjoying the sunshine in the afternoon, exercising in the early evening, and then taking a hot bath to adapt to a later bedtime.

1, 2, 3... Sleep!

Temperature, exposure to light and sport are quite important factors governing the quality of your sleep. Practicing a sport brings unsuspected benefits: exercise is a natural tranquillizer and acts to reduce stress - one of the main causes of insomnia. It allows the body to release endorphins that can regulate your internal clock. Conversely, since sport raises the body's temperature, it's better to leave a three hour interval between practicing a sport and turning in for the night.

The closer your body temperature falls to its minimum (36.5°C), the deeper your sleep will be. In the bedroom, the ideal is for the thermostat to be set at between 18° and 20°. But your hands and feet should not be cold: since ridicule never killed anyone, feel free to keep your socks on in bed!

Like any clock, your biological clock is well-tuned : if the body is exposed to natural light for at least one hour a day and plunged into darkness and silence once night falls, you will find it easier to fall asleep plus your sleep will be more peaceful.

And then, why not pick up a book? Reading in bed by the light of a bedside lamp is rather like counting sheep. Little by little the story will induce the sweetest of dreams. A little tip: try to get hold of Power Sleep by French author and scientist Bruno Comby!

The antechamber of sleep

The nap or siesta, from the Spanish, has fans all over the world. It has a long history behind it: many, many years ago, the Romans referred to it as "sexta" after the sixth hour - which corresponds to midday - when the heat of the sun forced these citizens of Antiquity to down tools and take a nap.

Today, the siesta is coming back into favor, and not just on the shores of the Mediterranean! The Chinese are showing the way: the right of all workers to enjoy a daytime nap was inscribed in the Constitution back in the 1950s. In Japan, nobody is ashamed to nod off for a few minutes on a public bench - or even in the middle of a meeting! The Americans are following suit: the psychologist James B. Maas invented the term "power nap" to encourage the practice in the workplace.

The "power nap" should be taken in the lunch break, between midday and 3 pm, when there is a natural tendency to yawn - it's the ideal moment to award yourself a short rest. Just closing your eyes for five to 30 minutes helps you relax and also boosts your concentration for the rest of the day, while not compromising your ability to sleep at night.

Early adopters are already preaching the "siesta break" and frequenting the new siesta bars springing up to cater for workers with no hang-ups!

The bed of Morpheus

The siesta is the art of managing your time, as French philosopher Thierry Paquot explains in his book L'Art de la sieste (The art of the siesta). More broadly, sleep, like eating, has become a lifestyle issue.

This is the message of the unique "Sleep Art" operation masterminded by BETC Digital in partnership with Acne for the new ibis family. Fans selected by drawing of lots on ibis's Facebook page participated in creating some quite extraordinary works of art! A robot connected to 80 sensors located in the mattress uses their sleep as inspiration to paint the most dreamlike - and high-tech - pictures imaginable! The dream of a poet...

... and a hotelier! For Accor, wellbeing is fundamental and addressed primarily by guaranteeing its guests a good night's sleep - being far away from home, they need some extra cosseting. The new ibis family, which is revolutionizing economy hotels with its ibis, ibis Styles and ibis budget brands, is innovating with new bedding designed to offer all its customer the best possible night's sleep. Drawing on expertise acquired over more than 40 years, the Sweet bed by ibis© concept offers customers of the three ibis family brands a bed completely designed by Accor and taking into account the local cultural practices of users.

Red, blue and green are now the colors of the happy sleep experience enjoyed by well-rested guests in ibis family hotels.

People worried about becoming hooked on Accor's special brand of sleep can rest easy! They can continue to enjoy their wildest dreams in their own home in the ultimate comfort of MyBed, the exclusive Sofitel bed that can be purchased from the online store:

Designed to adapt to each sleeper's individual morphology, MyBed offers customers the magnificent experience of a night at the pinnacle of the art of bedding! Four beautifully soft, fluffy pillows, a light-as-a-feather down duvet: MyBed introduces Sofitel customers comfortably installed atop an ergonomic bed base, a thick mattress and a down topper the deep delights of a very luxurious sleep!

There's even a rumor going around: Morpheus has taken up residence in the Athens Sofitel... fact or poetic fancy?