The importance of rest can't be underestimated as this is the only time our bodies can heal and repair.
Our bodies are designed for rest and, currently, our world goes on and on nonstop. There is a sense of pride for those cities that “never sleep” and the 7x24 has become a reality in our society today. Fifty percent of our clients suffer from insomnia, sleeping less than six hours per night.
The importance of rest can't be underestimated as this is the only time our bodies can heal and repair. The body will always prioritize dealing with stress and digestion over healing and repair. And if we can't find time to rest physically, mentally and spiritually, our bodies break down to a point which makes recovery becomes very difficult.
Rest is essential as it enriches our ability to learn new things, memorize and make better logical decisions, it helps us recalibrate emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates appetite, to name a few.
Daily our bodies go through a sleep/wake cycle. The cycle consists of four to five 90-minute cycles where the brain practically cleanses and files information that happened through the day into its memory filing cabinets. Studies show that if you start these cycles closer to 9:00 p.m., the better the immune function.
When looking at a problem, it is very easy to approach the symptom and miss the underlying issue that might be causing the problem. Here is a list of things that compromise our rest:
Not been tired enough. We are spending most of our time sitting and to have sound sleep, our bodies need to be tired. That's sometimes not possible if we sit most of the day.
Lack of sunlight. Sunlight (10,000 Lux for at least 30 minutes a day) in the first part of the day is essential to regulate our melatonin and cortisol release in the body. These hormones control our sleep/wake cycle. We tend to have poor lighting during the day and more light during the night, disturbing our sleep/wake cycle.
Too much stimulation. Our bodies tend to be wired all day with many activities and, sometimes, with too many stimulating foods. Caffeine, for instance, has a half-life of 5 hours which in some people will disrupt their sleep cycle.
Too much stress. This is very common as we bottle so many things in our daily life. When this happens, our brains have struggles to come up with answers to all the unknowns that our stressful lifestyle produces. Since the brain always needs answers, it will find it hard to let go and relax. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
Exercise. Try to achieve at least 7,000 steps daily. If it can be done outdoors, the more beneficial it will be.
Try to get as much sunshine during the morning as possible. This will reset your “wake/sleep clock.” You can measure this by going to your app store and downloading a Lux Meter app to measure your exposure. Try to get as much as possible.
Try avoiding stimulating drinks and foods. These will overwork your nervous system and eventually make you chronically tired, making it harder to rest.
Use the bed for sleeping only. Train your system to know that the bed is only for sleeping. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and read something until you feel tired again.
Avoid late dinners. Remember that the body will always prioritize stress and digestion over rest and healing. Making the evening meal too heavy will disrupt your deep sleep.
Journaling. Write down your daily activities, top priorities for the coming day(s), and at least three things for which you're grateful. This will help your brain unwind by pulling you into the present moment and allowing it to process information that keeps you up at night.
Make a relaxing environment for yourself. Your sleeping area should not be too hot or cold, and you should avoid using any lights at night.
Daytime pauses. During the day, take five 15-minutes breaks to change the pace, get up, walk through nature, talk to someone, pray, or read a Bible verse. This will allow your brain to rest and will pay dividends at night.
Weekly break. Sabbath was created for our spiritual reset. Don’t miss the blessing of finding the intended rest of this day.
Yearly breaks. Studies show that vacations reduce all-cause mortalities.
Walk step by step with the Lord. Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Ramon Irizarry is the director of Lifeline Wellness Institute in Knoxville, Ill.