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Why do we need to concentrate on improving our sleep?

We are now beginning to understand that diet and exercise are not the only aspects of wellbeing. Sleep is becoming recognised as a necessary part of our lives. This quote below sums it up beautifully:


Sleep is vital for your wellbeing so that you can meet the demands of life. It gives your mind the ability to process stressful situations that have gone on in your day and it allows the brain ‘downtime’ to assimilate information, so you can remember for the future and is accessible when needed. Good sleep is also vital for concentration, creativity and learning. At the same time, it is giving the body an opportunity to restore and rejuvenate. Sacha Stewart on Insight Timer


We have broadly three different phases to our sleep, light, REM (rapid eye movement), or dream sleep, and deep or NREM (non REM). We cycle through these throughout the night every 90 minutes. NREM mostly takes place in the earlier phases of sleep and REM more towards our waking time. There is a beautiful play between these two phases to weed out the memories we need to take forward, this happens in NREM sleep. We use REM to strengthen the connections with those memories.


Our modern lifestyle dictates that we wake early, this could potentially be cutting into our REM sleep where we are fine tuning our memories, not only of the day before but months and years back. This is part of the reason why scientists are now understanding the value of sleep and the impact it has on individuals and whole populations across the globe. Back in the 1940’s we would regularly be sleeping for about 8 hours a night, now it is more like 6 hours.


NREM takes packages of memory from the short term storage area in your brain and files it accurately and deftly throughout the relevant areas of the brain for long term storage of memories. REM sleep, on the other hand, connects memories, old and new, and plays them out in your dreams. This is where your problems are worked out and why we say ‘I’ll sleep on it’ if we have a tricky situation to sort out. This is also where we get our insights from, our ideas, our creativity. Fortunately, mother nature has paralyzed our muscles during REM so that we don’t fully act out our dreams!


Why do we have night owls and larks? Why do some of us love to wake up early and bounce out of bed and yet others love to stay up late and hate the morning alarm? We are designed in this way and it goes back to when we lived in caves and could be hunted by wild animals. The larks would crash into bed early then wake early. In contrast the owls would sit up around the campfire until late or even early morning. The time both slept was reduced drastically by this blending of natural sleeping rhythms. It reduced the time that the camp was vulnerable to attack. Nowadays, it is the owls who suffer most from the early morning alarm and the modern pandemic of sleep depravation.



I am developing an online course that will focus on improving the quantity and quality of your sleep. The course includes 6 hour long mat or chair classes and one 45 minute restorative yoga and yoga nidra session. These are all in video format and can be played whenever you want.


References

Why we sleep Professor Mathew Walker Sleep Diplomat: Professor Matt Walker PhD


The Four Pillar Plan Dr Rangan Chatterjee published by Penguin

Dr Chatterjee's website

Why Sleep is the Most Important Pillar of Health with Professor Matthew Walker - Dr Rangan Chatterjee (drchatterjee.com) the first interview on the podcast

How To Improve Your Sleep and Why You Should with Professor Matthew Walker - Dr Rangan Chatterjee (drchatterjee.com) the second interview a year later on the podcast



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