One of the most important factors in our health is sleep and in the book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker explains not only why we need sleep and what happens in our bodies when we are sleeping but also what happens when we don't get enough sleep. In a fascinating read that will change your life, Matthew covers everything you could want to know.
When are sleeping we go through phases of different sleep but you already knew that? Each phase of sleep has a very important but different role to play in recovery, memory and emotional wellbeing. The most important phases are NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep with the first providing deep recovery for our body and building our immune system and the latter helping process our memories and emotional feelings throughout the day.
Yes, that is right when we are in the land of nod we process the day's events into long term memory. Each day we live by saving everything we encounter into a cache of sorts then when we drift off and through REM sleep we start to process this cache for emotional meaning and saving the processed versions into our long term memory. This is something that made me sit up and take note. As something that deals with emotionally charged children every day I started to wonder if they would be easier to deal with having got a full nights sleep.
The other big learning was in building our immune system through the NREM phase. I have always had a good immune system, ask anyone that knows me and they will often tell you I don't get ill. I also get a good 8 hours in bed every night and have done for as long as I can remember. I rarely work past 7 pm and I always make sure I have put away the computer and mobile phone at least 2 hours before bedtime.
These two practices help improve sleep quality we have known that for a long time. What is new in this book is the benefits to our long term health of doing so. Matthew claims, that by not getting a full 8 hours of shut-eye each night you could wipe up to 10 years off your life expectancy.