What do you think of when someone says, ‘you need to rest’? The topic of REST is tricky. As human beings we can use this one word to justify many lazy habits in our lives: binge watching shows, procrastinating projects, delaying a healthy Monday because the weekend was busy, etc. Personally, I am told I need to ‘take time to rest’ multiple times a week by various people. Until recently, this comment would immediately strike guilt and frustration into my life…pretty much the opposite of what the giver of that message intended. It wasn’t until I started looking deeper into what it meant to rest that I started to appropriately shift my focus.
So what do you think of when someone tells you to rest?
I would argue many of us think: SLEEP or SIT DOWN to do nothing! For some people this does provide a restful recoup; however, I am not one of those people. If the thought of sitting down doing nothing makes you a bit anxious, then you may understand why this comment would make me feel guilty: I must not know how to rest…I’m doing something wrong!
Take a moment and think about what provides you peaceful feelings?
Is it: complete silence, a walk or hike in nature, going to church, gardening, getting lost in a good book, listening to good music, cooking or baking, shopping, creating art, organizing or cleaning something, sleeping, etc? Truly the idea of rest is to recharge yourself, feeling invigorated when you are finished. When I stopped feeling guilty for not sitting down and started trusting myself, I started to learn and find awareness in what would provide me true restful and recharged feelings. Personally, I hate sitting doing nothing (actually makes me more exhausted), so for me I love to color or listen to music while cleaning. That might sound awful to some people, but to me I enjoy the mental break provided when coloring or cleaning. I realized that feeling productive, without deadline stress is a restful experience for me. I challenge you to think about what you could do a few times a week that would provide you with an experience of ‘recoup’. What would press your reset button?
Now I would be foolish to not discuss the need for sleep in an article on rest. Sleep is critical to your body providing you with positive results, whether that be weight loss, muscle gain, etc! Your body must regenerate and repair itself daily and sleep is the natural solution. Ongoing sleep deficiencies are linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Chronically sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night can lead to many of the above listed health issues, in addition to many more.
Are you trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight?
Many studies have concluded that sleep deprivation is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity! Lack of sleep wreaks havoc on our hormones, slowing down our metabolism and causing our bodies to not function appropriately. When your hormones are working against your goals, life can get incredibly frustrating emotionally and physically. Sleep helps regulate leptin and ghrelin, both hormones associated with appetite. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and tends to be higher in people who are sleep deprived, thus reducing levels of leptin (appetite suppressant).
Trying to be more productive at home or work or perform well athletically?
Both physical and mental productivity decreases in individuals chronically getting less than 7 hours of sleep. Poor sleep is also linked to poor immune health, increased inflammation, and higher risk of depression. This all makes sense if you think of sleep as the best way for your body to rebuild every day. If it doesn’t have a chance to rebuild (10 hours for ages 3-12, 7-8 hours a night for ages 19-55, 6 hours for ages over 65) then we are placing our bodies in a constant state of stress and panic. Our bodies are designed to regenerate and rebuild, we have just decided that our schedules are more important then our bodies functioning well.
Now I am going to get very transparent and real with you here!
I can’t stand hypocrites and will be the absolute first to admit that I am probably the worst offender of making sleep a priority. Having me tell you all these awesome facts about the importance of sleep, giving the impression that I am a follower of these practices would be unfair. My oldest daughter (who is now 14) was a horrendous sleeper for years, thus diving me into a pattern of thinking I’m ‘doing just fine’ on 1-3 hours of sleep a night. YES, I can function on 1 hour of sleep…but I have recently begun to wonder what I could accomplish if I consistently got more than 3 hours a night. I convinced myself for about 13 years that I was just fine and one of those people who could function well on little to no sleep at night. Well folks…every decision has a price tag!!! My foolish ‘invincible’ attitude has caught up with me in a big and frustrating way! My hormones are now completely off, causing a slowed metabolism and slew of other annoying side effects. The most frustrating would be the stubborn weight gain that won’t budge regardless of clean eating and exercise and the ridiculous inflammation that causes pain in my joints and ligaments by the end of every day. GRRR…why can’t we just do what we want and not listen to the natural warnings are bodies are giving us? Sarcasm aside…believe me when I say…I GET IT!!! Life is busy and hard and it’s so much easier to just take everything on and push sleep and rest to the side. The number of times I said, ‘oh I can sleep when I’m dead’! Talk about the stupidest comment…that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t prioritize your body’s health.
We are amazing creatures, who were designed to regenerate. Proper whole nutrition, physical activity, spiritual regeneration, and proper sleep will lead to your best self; however, if we continue to feel invincible and figure our choices won’t catch up with us, we will be extremely disappointed! It may not happen tomorrow or next week but TRUST ME when I say it WILL catch up with you! If you don’t make time for your overall health now, I guarantee your body will force you to make time at one point (and you will have a harder road undoing the past damage). Little changes, one-day-at-a-time, will lead to big changes in a few months. Figure out what you enjoy, what your priorities are, and what you might need to say ‘NO’ to…then make a commitment to pass decisions through those filters. Be true to YOU now and your body will reward you!!!