As we continue the DRESS series (Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Reduction, Supplementation), the focus is on rest. In my post from July 2020, I discussed the importance of sleep and its impact upon multiple metabolic functions in the body. It is the most overlooked and often misunderstood concept about health among the general public.
Getting adequate sleep on a daily basis is a non-negotiable if we are to be in good health. On average, adults need between 7-8 hours sleep to have proper brain function. If we are sleep deprived, especially on a consistent basis, cognitive abilities will be impaired and memory will be negatively impacted if inadequate sleep patterns persist over time. Our brain never really “turns off”; it is continuously working throughout the different sleep stages. It is key to note that communication with the neurons takes place while we are asleep, and detoxification of all cells, particularly brain and lymphatic cells. Communication with the brain and neuronal pathways also happens during sleep.
Children need between 10-12 hours per night (infants at least 16 hours), and it’s most important for their continued growth & development for both brain function and strength for bones, teeth, and muscles. Children also are generally more active than adults, so their need for quality rest is even greater. Studies have shown that deep sleep increases growth hormone, of which the highest levels are seen in puberty. Today, with so much pressure on children to excel in both sports and academics, this added level of mental & emotional stress make is even more essential that they get the rest needed for explosive levels of growth seen during this pivotal time in their lives.
Rest & Exercise Recovery
All forms of exercise (cardiovascular, weight-bearing, flexibility) require rest to recover properly from training. Taking time to rest the body, in addition to getting enough hours of sleep at night, is a must if the body is going to benefit from the exercise and grow stronger, more agile and more flexible.
Many sports physicians and exercise scientists advise people who train hard (especially with weights and weight bearing exercise) to rest for 48 hours after a workout to replenish muscle glycogen (where energy is stored inside muscle cells) and to allow healing on cellular and tissue level. Here’s a short list of benefits for appropriate rest time after training:
- Eliminate lactic acid buildup & help mitigate pain caused from lactic acid in muscles
- Repair microscopic tears that occur when training to build and grow stronger muscles
- Prevent repetitive strain injuries
- Brain rest; when we are overworked it can allow for errors that lead to injuries
Rest & the Stress Response
In our current society, many people are moving from one activity to another (work to the gym, taking children to school and extra-curricular activities, etc.). The relentless daily activity takes a toll on the body (and brain) by increasing the body’s stress response. Even if we don’t “feel” stressed, our body reacts accordingly.
The definition of stress is “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” This continual overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (known as fight or flight) and the inability to adapt and revert to a state of ease under the parasympathetic nervous system (known as rest and digest) disables the body’s ability to adapt, which ultimately results in in a cascade of metabolic dysfunction, particularly with increased inflammation, adrenal dysfunction and hormonal imbalances. Taking time to rest each day (even for just a few minutes a few times during each day) is a key component of managing the stress response.
In addition to our physical rest, we need to be mindful of taking mental breaks each day. The pressure we feel from our jobs, managing our personal lives, social media, constant news (most of which is negative), has a profound effect on our mental state, most often on a sub-conscious level.
The definition for rest is “to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” Without rest, our “batteries” cannot recharge, which will result in lower cognition, memory loss, and increased anxiety. Below are suggestions for inducing rest and reducing stress.
As we are a totality of mind, body and spirit, it’s important to understand that to we also need spiritual rest. This is perhaps the hardest concept for most of us to really understand and implement in our daily lives. Even if we sleep well, eat well and exercise regularly, existential angst is a very real problem for many people. Quietude, prayer, and meditation should be factored into our daily activities. We need to find our inner peace, no matter how much noise and chaos may surround us.
Studies have shown that people who practice regular prayer and meditation have lower blood pressure, improved immunity, younger looking skin and overall appearance, greater creativity, improved cognition, and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Passive Resting Activities
It’s essential to unplug and unwind each day, even if just for 15 minutes. I highly suggest taking a break from ALL electronics, including television. Below is a list of daily activities that will facilitate a resting state of the mind, body and spirit:
- Read a book
- Be creative with painting, sculpting, drawing
- Listen to music with a 432 hz (it’s shown to have healing effects physically, mentally, spiritually); learn more here
- Take a nature walk
- Spend time outdoors with friends
- Play solitaire with a deck of cards
- Play an instrument
- Spend extra time with your pet(s) & if you don’t have any consider getting a pet
- Take a warm, relaxing bath with essential oils of Lavender, Frankincense, Lemon
- Treat yourself to a massage or sauna treatment
- Diffuse Essential Oils to promote relaxation and serenity
To learn more about how essential oils can be incorporated into your daily life to help you manage stress and promote rest, schedule a free consultation with me.