Somatic Sleep Education: Opening the Doors of Sleep
By Michael Krugman, MA
As we all know, the Feldenkrais Method is designed to enhance human function in all areas of human action and endeavor. But consider this: we humans are compelled to spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep. Sleep is therefore an essential, indispensable human function.
That's a conundrum, isn't it? Dr. Feldenkrais sometimes called his method "an investigation into the nature of action." And it's true, the vast majority of our Feldenkrais practice has to do with voluntary, waking action. Yet sleep begins with the cessation of voluntary action, and it operates on a level of deep, reflexive neural processes that remain beneath our awareness and beyond our direct control. A door opens easily in response to our direct, voluntary action, but the doors of sleep to open only by indirect, involuntary means.
By the way, were you aware that sleep is at the very foundation of Moshe's teaching? When, in The Potent Self, Moshe elaborated the theory of 'functional integration,' he used sleep as a key example of how voluntary movements, the skeleton, the nervous system, and our emotions interact to produce an integrated function. When, in the same work, he outlined the key concept of 'reversibility,' sleep was front and center again: "Reversibility is a feature of all correct action, even sleep." He goes on to speak of sleep not as just one example among many, but rather as a paradigm case of reversibility in human function.
With that in mind, we as Feldenkrais teachers are bound to ask ourselves, how do we address this key area of human function? What can we do to assist the millions of peopleâ€”up to sixty percent of our family, friends, and neighbors in any given yearâ€”who suffer from insomnia and related health challenges? And what is sleep, anyway? How does it work? What happens to us when we fall asleep, or fail to do so? What enables us to sleep through the night, or not? What happens when we wake up? And what enables us to remain fully alert and energetic, or not, during waking hours? These are important questions that have broad implications for general health, learning and memory, mood and emotions, the aging process, and much more.
Such sleep-related questions are well within the domain of the Feldenkrais Method, and of somatic education in general. Yet the answers are not immediately apparent, even to those of us who have been learning and teaching the Method for many years. Finding those answers and devising practical solutions requires specialized study and specialized application of the principles of somatic education.
The field of "somatic sleep education" employs the principles of general somatic education, contemporary sleep research, and modern neuroscience to address the problem of stress-induced insomnia. It employs movement, breath, and directed attention in a two-pronged approach, first, to reduce excess arousal during waking hours and, second, to enable deeper, more restful sleep at night. Modifications to daily diet, exercise, scheduling, and other lifestyle factors are suggested as needed.
I began my own self-directed study of sleep in 1999, leading to the founding of the Sounder Sleep System of somatic sleep education in 2001. The system is currently taught by over two hundred healing-arts practitioners in fifteen countries.
I invite you to become a somatic sleep educator, and to join me and hundreds of other practitioners in sharing this valuable somatic knowledge with the public. The system is a joy to practice and teach, and your students will thank you for helping them to achieve deeper, more restful sleep and a more peaceful life.
I currently offer a Professional Training Program via a six-month Home Study-Program conducted on-line. The course is offered approximately a year. [Training details...]
Note: FeldenkraisÂ® and Feldenkrais MethodÂ® are servicemarks of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America.