Thanks for coming back! As I mentioned last week, we’re going to cover a special bonus way to rest today. If you missed any of the other posts in this series, please start by catching up with the links below. You could probably read this post on it’s own, but it will make so much more sense in the context of all the other ones.
- Our Problem with Rest
- What is Rest?
- The Reason for Rest
- A New Mindset
- Ground Rules for Rest
- Practical Ways to Rest #1
- Practical Ways to Rest #2
- Practical Ways to Rest #3
For some of us, an essential ingredient is missing from our rest recipe. Our toolbox of rest is missing one key item that inhibits us from getting the rest we truly need.
The one thing we’re missing, is sleep.
The Problem With Sleep
There are probably as many reasons that people don’t sleep as there are people. I’m sure that everyone has a reason.
For some, it’s probably something like F.O.M.O. What will they miss if they go to bed now? I know that’s a big deal when it comes to sporting events that go late into the night. For others, maybe it’s habitual and they stay up binge watching things and they don’t realize how late it is.
Maybe it’s those little ones that keep us up at night. Or maybe something really good (or really bad) has happened in our lives and we can’t sleep because at this moment all we can do is lie in bed and think about that thing.
There are people who work second jobs, or side hustles and they stay up late trying to get things done. Then there are others who just legitimately have difficulty falling asleep.
Caffeine plays a legitimate role in our inability to sleep as well. We consume caffeine at an incredible rate and if taken too close to when we need to be sleeping, could be the cause of us staring at the ceiling, wondering why our brains won’t shut off.
Another culprit is the proliferation of electronic devices we use late into the night. The blue light from our phones and TV’s can delay the release of the wonderful, sleep-inducing chemical melatonin. When we don’t get right amount of melatonin, we don’t get the right amount (or quality) of sleep. Other research is starting to suggest that the proliferation of “blue light” is affecting our sight.
There are probably many other reasons I can’t even think of but whatever the case, we tend to not sleep, or to not sleep well.
The Most Important Time of the Day
Why is this important? Our lack of sleep is hurting us and ultimately, is adding to our energy debt that we so desperately want to pay off.
We’ve heard all of our lives that we are supposed to sleep for 6-8 hours each day. Do we really need that much sleep? According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, the answer is yes.
The researchers studied over 300 scientific publications regarding sleep and created a chart, spelling out for us the optimal sleep times for people of all different ages. For the average adult, 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended.
There has been other research done that suggests that our bodies function best in 90 minute sleep cycles. In these “sleep cycles” we go through all the stages of sleep and we wake up on the other side more refreshed and energized. This suggests that if we sleep for 6 or 7.5 hours we would wake up and have more energy than if we wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle after the typical 8 hours of sleep.
On top of all of this, there are the health problems that occur when you don’t sleep well. As well as a myriad of health benefits that go along with a good nights sleep. One of the most important of these is that your body heals itself while you are asleep.
When you lift weights during a workout you actually tear your muscle fibers. It’s only during sleep, when your muscles are resting, that the body is able to come in and heal those tears, repair the muscle, and help it to grow back bigger and stronger.
If you want your body to function properly, be able to heal itself, and come back stronger, then you need to sleep. It is essential for you to have the best quality of life.
A New Routine
So what can we do? Is there any hope for us?
I believe there is, but it’s going to take some work on our part. It might not be easy and it probably won’t be convenient. It’s worth it though. Your rest and your energy debt will thank you.
If you don’t already have a nighttime routine, it’s time to create one. If you have one already, let’s change it up to actually work for you. Creating habits around bedtime will eventually make it so that you don’t even have to think about what it is that you need to do or when you need to do it. It will just come naturally to you. Not at first, mind you, but it will come.
What does this routine look like?
- Say Goodnight to Caffeine: For starters, no more caffeine at least 3 hours before you go to bed. Research suggests that it takes 6 hours for half the caffeine you consume to be eliminated from your body. You have to stop stimulating your body so that it can create the natural chemicals it needs to rest.
- Shut Down: Begin shutting down phones, TV’s, and other devices at least an hour before bed. This gives you time for the blue light issues we talked about earlier to work themselves out.
- Rearrange your schedule: You probably won’t be able to stay up so late anymore. Determine the best time for you to wake up and work backwards from there. If you need 7.5 hours of sleep and you need to get up at 6am, then you know that you have to be asleep no later than 10:30pm. If you’re shutting down your electronics an hour before bed, that means that you’re new bedtime routine starts at 9:30. If you’re used to going to bed at midnight or later, this is going to be a big change.
- Read a book: Consider spending some time reading a book before bed. It will give you something to do that isn’t looking at a screen and it will help you wind down. There is something about reading that makes me sleepy at any time of the day. When I read before I go to bed, it’s pretty much lights out for me.
- Lavender: It’s been shown that lavender is a calming scent and can aid in sleep. If you’re really struggling, maybe consider a diffuser or some other way to incorporate lavender into your nighttime routine.
- Know Yourself: It’s important that you know your tendencies and what it takes for you to sleep. There are some people that can fall asleep really easily (raises hand) but there are others that just naturally have a harder time. If that’s you, your nighttime routine might need to start earlier than others. Form habits around the things that you know work for you when it comes to falling asleep and make them a part of your routine.
Our lack of sleep is probably the #1 cause of our lack of rest and the highest contributor to our energy debt. From an “amount of time resting” perspective, this should truly come before Sabbaths. Without sleep the other things we’ve talked about really don’t matter. If we aren’t sleeping, we will continue to create a deficit in our energy needs … even while taking a sabbatical.
But here’s the good news, you have a choice. You don’t have to be a victim of poor sleep. Changing your routine can help lead to better, more restful sleep overall.
One note for us all: If you’ve changed your routine and you still find yourself struggling with sleep, don’t be afraid to seek out a doctor. There could be a legitimate medical condition that is affecting your ability to rest.
Next week we’re going to talk about one of the biggest problems we could face when it comes to having a large energy debt and how it can throw this entire series of posts out the window. Caveats abound! See you then.