Rest is a fundamental human need. Your body and mind need time to rejuvenate just as much as you need air, food and water. This is why so many faith traditions include a concept of rest into their spiritual practices. Often, however, rest is seen as merely a means to increased productivity. While there's nothing wrong with checking things off your to-do list, rest can easily get lost in the shuffle if you only value it for its ability to help you complete more tasks. There are many reasons why rest is important in and of itself.
Good sleep is one of the foundations of maintaining great health. If you don't get enough rest, you are likely to feel run down or lethargic. This is not a coincidence. Your nightly dose of sleep is your body's chance to recharge. Consistent, good rest has several physical benefits:
- Improved immunity
- Easier weight management
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Smoother regulation of blood sugar
You can eat right and get enough exercise, and there are positive outcomes that go along with those habits. There is no substitute for fulfilling your daily need for sleep, though.
It's not specifically clear why rest and relaxation are linked with emotional well-being and good mental health, but they do show a positive correlation. If you have ever had to soothe a fussy baby who is fighting sleep, you have experienced this phenomenon firsthand. This need doesn't go away as you get older. Rest can have drastic effects on mood, regardless of age.
Part of the reason for this is probably that if your brain is not fully recharged each day, it has to work harder to function. Mood regulation, creativity, focus and motivation are all factors that require a rested mind to thrive. Getting good rest gives you a better chance of making these functions as easy as possible.
Good Habit Support
Sufficient rest helps you make better choices. Since rest is a need (and thus not optional), your mind and body seek to compensate in less healthy ways when there is a deficit. For example, if you still feel tired when the alarm goes off because you didn't get enough sleep, you may have more coffee than usual to wake yourself up. You may even add an extra cup in the afternoon to keep yourself going. This increase in your caffeine intake may make falling asleep more difficult, tempting you to continue the cycle the next day when you again don't feel rested.
Lack of good sleep can also affect your ability to make good decisions. A tired mind is more likely to make the easiest or most convenient choice, which is often not the best choice. For example, studies show that people are less likely to choose healthy food options when they are sleep-deprived. Good rest helps you make better decisions.
Tips for Daily Rest
Your first instinct when trying to improve your rest is to schedule a day off or even a vacation. While there is certainly benefit in doing so, what your mind and body really need is consistent, daily downtime. Set aside time to nurture relationships and engage in playful or soothing activities.
To feel more rested each morning, practice good sleep hygiene. If you need to add an hour or two to your nightly rest, try to do so gradually so that your body isn't shocked by the change. Set a consistent bedtime, and your mind will start to recognize when it's time to slow down for the day. Finally, implement a steady evening routine. This practice can also signal the brain to begin getting ready for sleep.
Regardless of your schedule or philosophical perspective, you need good rest to be healthy. Getting good sleep and taking time to relax help you take care of both your mind and body.