The Importance of Sleep and Rest
By Shabna Cader
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
Perhaps too many of us think of rest and sleep as a mere after thought. There’s so much to do while we’re awake, that switching off is barely given much prominence. It’ll happen when it has to or when everything is done. And when could that be?
Here’s the number one reason why many people tend to fall ill and feel burned out. There’s a dire lack of rest and sleep.
There are also those who are unable to have good rest; whose minds just won’t shut down and lay wide awake at night with a gazillion thoughts running through their heads.
What lack of sleep and rest can do to you
A lacking in rest even during the day, like taking a break from work for example, can cause multiple hazardous health effects on a human body. Overstimulating the mind and all its system can ultimately lead to burn out and a dysfunctioning of self. It’s like when a machine is overrun and overused. It needs a break. It needs some fine-tuning. Your body and self works the same way. Each day it wakes up and does a million things that we perhaps even hardly notice, and every now and then it needs to take rest and a good tune-up. Exercise and eating good food are some ways of nurturing and nourishing yourself, but rest and sleep are just as important.
Get used to relaxing
Some of you may not be familiar with relaxing. Some of you may be tired of simply being home doing nothing during lockdown and are now on a fast paced productivity roll. While the latter is beneficial, you do need a break. Your eyes need some time away from screens. Your hands need to relax. Your feet could do with a gentle self massage. Maybe your spine needs some stretching after being seated for too long. If you mindfully become aware of each body part, you’ll come to realise that each are very important and require some downtime.
Relaxing doesn’t necessarily have to mean doing absolutely nothing. If this idea puts you off, maybe you could take a leisurely walk, read a book for ten minutes, drink some water and stay hydrated, listen to some music, take a warm shower and meditate. By relaxing your mind and body, you are allowing it to restore its personal energy bank. It’s like charging a device when the battery has run down. Once the energy bank is relatively filled up, and you’re feeling more energised and able, you’re good to get back on the productivity roll.
The importance of sleep
I have a few friends who don’t think sleep is all too important. It’s just something that happens at night or even at random times during the day to them. It’s almost like an after-thought.
Truth be told, sleep is most important for our mind and body. As humans, we need sleep so that our cells can renew - so that it can function at an optimal level, so that our nervous system and digestive system can regulate themselves and for plenty of other scientific and health benefits that could take up plenty of space right here. Trust that it is important, and believe that it is important.
Some of you might have a rough schedule that does not allow ample rest or sleep. You might not be able to get decent sleep but there’s plenty of ways to restore and relax both mind and body and ways in which you can allow the systems to do what they need to do in order to have you feeling and living your best.
Are you getting enough sleep?
What does lack or not enough sleep do to you? It makes you feel groggy in the mornings, it hinders your cognitive performance, it upsets your mood, it ages you much faster, it tips the scale on your weight, it messes with your reproductive system, and it affects a plethora of other things through the nervous, digestive and cell systems.
Most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep. You could get by with much less, but at what cost? A human’s sleep needs and requirements are quite individual and it’s helpful if you find what works for you and has you functioning well.
Creating a night-time ritual
Although it says night-time above, you could start settling your mind and body from around evening by not taking in caffeine or sugar or engaging in a high energy activity or level of arousal and wake. These things may not have a direct impact on your sleep, but they do affect your adrenals so be mindful.
Limit your screen-time and yes, this means YOU who scroll through the series on Netflix and Instagram on the phone. Bright lights especially those emitted through gadgets cause a disruption and reduction in the mind’s ability to rest and sleep. Low lights around your personal space, like your bedroom would be most ideal to create the mood and setting.
I find that a warm bath is also most helpful in relaxing the muscles and releasing even unknown tension in the shoulders and neck area. Softening the mind and body in such a way allows it to prepare itself for slumber. Restorative Yoga or Yoga Nidra would be most helpful too.
If you’ve got too many thoughts and tasks running through your brain, don’t just let them fester. Write them down and it won’t slip away from the mind. These are most often things you can tackle tomorrow or on any other day. It does not need to happen right now.
Keeping to a consistent bedtime also helps wind your mind and body clock to begin to rest and relax for the night each time. Priming yourself for bed is another great way to cue rest. Like with a warm shower, donning soft night clothes, lathering a lotion or body cream, dimming the nights and even using soft scents like lavender and camomile can support and enable sleep much easily.
My most important night-time routine is to end the day on a positive note or with a positive thought. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, write down or think about three things you are grateful for, whatever comes to mind. Notice how this changes the quality of your mood and frame of thought.