Why do we spend increasingly less time resting?
I believe in the last few decades we have undervalued rest. We sleep less and less. We steal hours of our sleep to do all sorts of activities. We work more hours and when we return home, we crave for distraction, to fill our time with something else besides attending to our obligations. On the other hand, an excess of stimulation keeps us engaged in other activities until late in the evening. There is an increasing variety of streaming content, TV series, podcasts, that keep us awake and tuned in.
These activities used to be done on the sofa in front of the TV until we were tired and decided to go to sleep. Now the bedroom is not only a place to sleep, but many of us take our tablet to bed and can spend more hours entertained, which delays the time to turn off the light and fall asleep.
The emphasis in recent decades on productivity has led us to strive to get so many things done in 24 hours that we often reduce our sleep and rest time. But rest is fundamental to cope with this fast-paced life, and coffee is not a substitute for sleep.
How to know if you are sleeping well?
If you wake up with little energy in the mornings or during the day you find it hard to get everything done, maybe you are not getting enough rest at night. Do you monitor your sleep? Do you know how many hours you need to sleep to wake up rested and if you are getting it?
A simple activity wristband allowed me to discover that I was sleeping far fewer hours than I thought I was. And it has helped me make decisions to increase my sleep, and to modulate my activity on days when I haven’t been able to get the rest I need.
The majority of the adult population needs at least 7 hours of sleep, distributed in several cycles of about 90 minutes, in each of which the individual goes through three sleep phases (light, deep and rem). In each phase, the brain carries out different processes, such as the consolidation of memories or the cleansing of toxins produced by neurones.
To better understand what happens to us, and how to manage our sleep time, it is important to know our chronotype. This is determined by the hours at which our body produces melatonin, which is the sleep-inducing hormone. For morning people (20% of the population) the secretion of this hormone starts earlier, so they may go to sleep much earlier than the rest and also wake up earlier naturally. On the other hand, evening people (another 20%) will have difficulty falling asleep before 12 midnight and will therefore find it more difficult to get up early. The remaining 60% of the population include both the intermediate chronotype, which gives them greater flexibility to adapt their obligations to their circadian rhythms and that small part of the population without a stable pattern in sleep.
Sleep, a key factor for your health
Take a few moments to answer these questions:
- How many hours do you sleep each day?
- Do you ever feel sleep-deprived ?
- What is your sleeping like? Do you usually wake up in the middle of the night ? If you do, can you fall back to sleep easily?
- Do any external elements prevent you from getting quality sleep such as light or noise? Is your bed comfortable enough for you?
- Please, think how to increase the hours of sleep you get each day? What activities may be robbing you of sleep? How many exciting drinks do you have per day?
- Have you noticed any changes in your food intake when you are sleep-deprived? Fatigue is one of the triggers of emotional eating. So those days you would probably crave for unhealthy snacks.
Do you have the possibility to rest during the day for even a few minutes? Whether it’s a short 20-minute nap or a few moments to close your eyes and watch your breathing, it can help you calm down, improve your decision making, or better cope with a difficult moment at work.
One of the basic stress management tools is rest. And it can be done in many different ways: Resting is not just about getting a good night’s sleep. It is also finding moments during the weekend to take a nap. It is spending a Sunday afternoon on the couch with a book or listening to music without doing anything else. It is to slow down daily after a certain time to prepare for bedtime. It is lighting some scented candles and playing music in the background. It is taking a walk and breathing fresh air.
More about the benefits or a rest routine
After reading all this, do you feel the need to improve your rest? A health coach can help you investigate how being sleep-deprived might be affecting your health and how to correct that imbalance. Below I leave you some links to different articles to delve a bit more into this topic.
- Healthy sleep
- Processes triggered in the body during sleep
- Changes in sleep at different stages of life
- Caffeine and its effects.