The importance of sleep and rest

📅 02 Feb 2021

The importance of sleep and rest cannot be overstated. We have come to a place in our society where getting adequate rest is almost frowned upon. As of late, there has been some push-back to what has become an all-out assault on sleep and rest by everything under the sun, including work. However, I personally believe we are far from where we need to be. We need to get to a place where proper sleep and rest are encouraged.

First off, let’s talk semantics. By sleep I mean the long period of time most people spend in their beds, typically at night, but sometimes during the day for those who work night-shifts. By rest I mean anything outside of that longer sleep window including time you may or may not spend napping. I believe this also includes mindfulness time like breathing exercises, meditation, etc. Some may include other “mindless activities” like watching a movie but to not get completely all-encompassing, I will choose not to include those things.

There has been some research as of late highlighting need to explore the potential downsides of meditation, specifically for prolonged periods. I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be one, so I will leave that subject alone.

So, what is “proper” sleep and adequate rest? That is the main question any discussion like this needs to center around. I personally believe there is no right answer. If there is anything we’ve learned in the history of human beings, it’s that everyone is different. Rarely is a one-size-fits-all approach appropriate.

For me, I’ve found that I need around 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, however, after a week of getting 8 hours of sleep every night, I still feel tired. Clearly, there is an understanding that quality of sleep matters as well. So what I’ve tried to do is develop a routine that tries to promote a higher quality of sleep. This is what my current routine looks like:

This generally works well for me. There are nights where I lay down and simply cannot fall asleep. Rather than just laying in bed, I often get back up and try another period of reading.

If I have a particularly tough week, I may try moving all of this up by one hour so I am trying to fall asleep at 9pm.

So what about rest? I think rest, as defined above, is also very important. I am not a huge fan of naps. When I do take one, I find that it inhibits my ability to fall asleep later. Again, everyone is different. I am a huge fan of meditation or just closing my eyes and listening to some relaxing music for 5-10 minutes. I try to do this at least once a day. Sometimes I also do this before and after a hard test, interview, etc.

Lately, I have been abstaining from all alcohol. Some people might disagree, but I find that I sleep terrible with anything over one drink. I don’t know if everyone else is the same but I just don’t think it is conducive to good rest.

Finally, obviously overwork and stress play a huge role in our quality of sleep and rest. I think we are in a bad place as a society where we often encourage working 10-12 hour days repeatedly and not expect there to be negative consequences. To be clear, I don’t think working long days is always bad or entirely avoidable. There are times when you are on a tight deadline or something out of your control comes up and you need to get it done. By all means. But I personally think those should be few and far between and that we should be encouraging healthy lifestyles. Working 10-12 hour days (or longer) month after month and year after year has serious consequences. Burnout is real.

OK, I will get off my soapbox. Proper sleep and rest is something I am very passionate about because I have been on the other side of this. I have gone through periods where I have not treated my body well and I paid for it. Hopefully this encourages you to get the sleep and rest you need to thrive.

Day 15: #100DaysToOffload

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