|Let us define what is meant by proper rest: Ideally it means freedom from work or
physical activity, freedom from disturbance of mind or spirit, peace of mind. The purpose
of proper rest is to restore - to bring back to a former or original condition.
There are presently many theories as to why we require rest or sleep, what happens both
mentally and physiologically while we sleep and even how much sleep each individual really
needs. Based on the information that we have, a rational approach serves to unravel some
of the mystery surrounding sleep and the essentials of proper, adequate rest.
When individuals are sleep-deprived their most common complaints are mental fatigue or
confusion and musculoskeletal discomfort. Subsequent rest relieves these conditions. We
therefore may extrapolate that sleep is essential to maintain mental clarity and to
neutralize structural stress. The physiology behind the restoration of mental capacity is
not yet well understood, however it would appear to be associated with renewing
neurotransmitter chemicals and cell membrane potentials throughout our bodies. These
processes in turn are dependent, at least in part, upon the length of rest, the quality of
one's nutrition, and the state of one's mind. Rest also provides time for your logical,
analytical 'left' brain to relax its dominance and thus allow the emotional and
imaginative 'right' brain valuable time for creative expression. Thus, one of the keys to
effective rest is learning how to turn down the volume of your 'left' brain while
you tune into your 'right' brain! This is where the regular use of an exceptional guided
imagery tape can be so useful.
The physiology behind the other major function of rest and sleep, structural
recuperation, is more apparent. There is relentless force acting upon our physical
structure, day by day, week after week; that is the constant force of gravity. The more
effectively one learns to be aware of this force and to deal with it intelligently, the
less destructive its influence. Failure to pay heed and to effectively reduce the effect
of this downward pull on our bodies, often results in chronic and recurrent
musculoskeletal discomfort (stiff, sore shoulders, neck, and back; hip, knee and ankle
distress), degenerative disc and joint disease, myo-fascial problems and even headaches.
How then may we better cope with these stresses, especially with those related to the
earth's gravity? While most of us are aware of the need for a good night's sleep, too few
recognize the need for proper rest during the day. Both those who are engaged in heavy
physical labor and business executives or white collar workers alike are subjected to a
variety of physical stressors throughout their 'working hours'. There is mounting evidence
that those who manage to obtain some rest and more resourceful postures during the day,
not only live more comfortably and work more effectively, they also live longer! Once
convinced of the benefits, how does one go about obtaining proper rest during business
hours? Proper rest refers to "those inactivates which serve to aid restoration of
optimal mental and physical function" (i.e. good health).
Our goals here include assisting the nervous system in its ability to cope with the
variety of stresses imposed upon it, and assisting the physical body in compensating for
the wear and tear of manual activities and the effects of gravity. All that is normally
required is 15 to 20 minutes, twice daily, (in addition to your usual night sleep) to
counteract the onslaught of stress-related fatigue and wear and tear.
One of the most effective practices involves getting off your feet, and/or derriere,
and laying supine on your back on a firm surface. Any carpeted floor will do nicely. The
knees should be bent up toward your chest until your thighs are at right angles to your
trunk, perpendicular to the floor, with your lower legs resting on a chair seat, couch, or
even a box with padding on top. In this position, your back is flat against a firm surface
and your legs and feet are elevated above your chest, improving venous blood circulation.
To give your neck better support, place a small pillow preferably contoured) or a towel
roll behind your neck.
Begin by inhaling deeply through your nose and slowly, counting "one thousand, two
thousand, three thousand, four thousand" as you inhale (try not to think in terms of
dollars, you're relaxing remember!), then hold for at least that long or better still
twice that count (twice as long) before you exhale slowly yet forcefully through your nose
still and contracting your abdominal muscles slightly, - and then repeat at least 10
times. Learn to breathe through your nose and from your lower rib cage, allowing
your abdomen to relax and your lungs to fill more efficiently. You will note the
incredible release of emotional tension as you learn to unwind in this fashion. (See
"Deep Abdominal Breathing Exercise.")
This procedure, when done correctly while concentrating on rhythmic breathing, alters
brain wave patterns and helps one approach 'alpha rhythm' - a state in which mental
relaxation and rejuvenation is maximized without actually falling asleep. Playing baroque
music softly while clearing yourself of mental clutter can assist accessing this state.
Embarking on any of a wide variety of guided imagery audio excursions can be of great help
here. Some favorites here are "Journey to Health" by Dr. Larry Herdener and the
"Inner Smile" by Dr. Linda Berry. Try these, you'll love them! For those simply
looking for a brief escape from gravity, just assume the position and catch some soft
tunes if you can!
These mini vacations will allow you to enjoy the benefits of better energy; improved
circulation and they will aid greatly in the restoration of muscle balance and tone. If
your work habits or environment are such that you can only take one rest break a day, the
best time would be prior to eating your noon meal. A second such rest could be taken upon
arriving home after work, and prior to your evening meal, thereby helping to improve your
digestion as well. The change in your general health will quickly become apparent and
equally important - you'll feel a very definite increase in your energy level.
The need for sleep varies considerably with age - infants sleep most of the day, adults
require an average of seven to eight hours and the elderly often require as little
as six hours of sleep each night. In the case of the elderly, they may also 'cat nap' for
varying periods of the day. The state of one's health can also have a profound effect on
the need for sleep. Aberrant sleep patterns not only relate to mental stress, they can
also be indicative of declaiming health and/or inadequate nutrition.
Millions of dollars are spent on drugs for the purpose of inducing sleep. Common sense
should tell us that sleep for a healthy individual should be as natural as breathing.
Drugs are certainly not the sensible or the health-promoting answer to poor sleeping
habits. If you are one of the many who are not satisfied with your sleep habits, be
certain to bring this to the attention of your health practitioner so that he/she may
support you in the identification and the correction of the contributing factors to your
sleep challenges. This is an essential step in the restoration and maintenance of one's
health. Please be certain to address this area promptly. The answer may be as simple as
changing your diet or nutritional supplements or getting more natural light, fresh air
and/ or exercise each day!
Generally two of the most neglected aspects of sleep are sleeping posture, and the type
of mattress on which we sleep. The combination of a sleeping posture that permits good
circulation and a pillow and mattress that provide well distributed support for your
skeletal structure are of primary importance. If you spend one third of your life
sleeping, it only takes a quick calculation to determine that the least costly investment
you'll ever make is the purchase of a sensible mattress and pillow. A sensible mattress is
neither stiff as a board or soft as a sponge - it must be firm enough to provide support
yet supple enough to mould to your body shape without creating pressure points.
The two best sleeping postures, on a sensible bed, are on your back with a pillow or
bedroll behind (underneath) your knees, supporting your lower legs and assisting
circulation, or on your side, knees drawn up slightly toward the chest, with a pillow
between your knees. There are also pillows available that are specially formed or
contoured to provide both head and neck support. Be certain to discuss such a pillow with
your practitioner. Use of this type of pillow is as important to your neck as good
footwear is to your feet! If you sleep on your back with your legs out straight and you
have any history of lower back problems, you may be better off with a little support in
the small of your back, such as a rolled towel or a small pillow.
Many consider their time spent while seated to be adequate rest time. Several factors
must be considered here however. First, one's posture while seated dictates whether one's
structure is indeed being 'rested' or in fact further 'stressed'. Thorough understanding
of proper posture and constant vigilance is required here. Needless to say, most people
are contributing more to stress and strain than to rest, by the seated postures which they
Proper seated posture is efficient posture. Efficient posture is the posture which
requires the least amount of muscle function to maintain, thus allowing for more
relaxation of muscle tone and enhanced circulation to both muscles and joint structures
alike. Just imagine your torso 'dangling from a string' attached to the center of the top
of your head. How would your back and shoulders be positioned? Go ahead, close your eyes,
sit tall and dangle! When you think you have it, open your eyes and without moving, note
the position of your head, neck, shoulders, and back. Remember that you are dangling from
the center of your head, being drawn upward, your shoulders, head and neck cannot be
slumped forward or arched back.
You will feel different in this posture but comfortable and you will be able to
maintain this posture much longer than any other less efficient posture and remain
Now look for seating which allows you to comfortably maintain this posture while
supporting the natural forward curve in your lower back (lumbar spine). It also helps to
support your lower back and pelvis by elevating your feet on a small footstool, box or
crate to raise your knees just higher than your hip joints.
The reference of 'dangling from a string' will also help you orient yourself as to
efficient standing posture. Try it, you'll like it, even if it feels different or awkward
Whether you eat or you consume any liquids prior to going to bed is a matter of habit
and individual metabolism. One person's almond and sunflower seed 'sedative' is another's
'guaranteed insomnia'. The best indication is how you feel in the morning, but generally
speaking we are best making our supper the last food that we eat before bed.
If you arise with renewed vitality and fewer aches and pains than when you retired,
then you are probably on the right track to proper rest; if you do not, then be sure to
discuss this matter with your healthcare 'coach' as well. Proper rest is essential to good
health - the 'rest' is up to you.
The Fresh Air - Relaxation Connection:
Fresh, oxygen-rich air is your most vital need. Without it you would die within six
The quality of the air you breathe is so important because of the vital oxygen which it
contains. Your blood and all your cells must be oxygenated regularly or death occurs. In
your lungs there are a billion tiny air sacs, where your blood is purified, supplied with
oxygen and sent to the rest of your body. As you breathe out, you expel carbon dioxide and
other toxic waste gases. Proper breathing eliminates as much as 75% of your body's wastes!
Exercise greatly assists in both the oxygenation of your cells and the elimination of
their wastes. Go for a walk, a cycle or any outdoor activity each day. These activities
are even more beneficial when near a beach, a park or lush vegetation, where the quality
of air is superior.
The best source of air is the outdoors, of course, away from large cities. Nature
constantly purifies and cleans the air. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, while
rain and oceans constantly recycle and clean the air all over the world.
Keep a window open in your house and have numerous plants around to help cleanse the
air. If you sleep in a room with the windows and doors closed, you will be breathing in
air that has less oxygen and more carbon dioxide.... this is not desirable.
Another important consideration is the fresh air - relaxation connection. When breathing
in deep from lower in your chest your body receives more oxygen. How you breathe affects
how you feel. When you breathe deeply from lower in your chest, it is a full complete
breath and relaxation follows immediately. Go ahead - try it! People generally breath from
their upper chest, however, and continue to wonder why they feel constantly 1stressed'.
The more quickly and shallow you breathe, the more tense you become. You become more
peaceful and relaxed when you take a deep slow breath. Breathing affects your emotional
state; it accesses different states of mind. This deep "abdominal breathing" as
we refer to it, is the key to relaxation and to improving the oxygenation of your body.
Deep "Abdominal Breathing" Exercise (For Beginners):
You can be in either a sitting or lying down position. If sifting, keep your spine
erect: sit with your back straight and reach for the sky with the top of your head.
Place your hands on your abdomen - one above the navel, and one on the navel.
Breathe in deeply through your nose - and focus on "filling your abdomen with
air": feel the navel swell out first, then feel your breath slowly rise up into your
chest, expanding your entire rib cage.
As you breathe out, the hand positioned above the navel will sink in first, followed by
the lower positioned hand. Be sure to exhale through your nose as well and slightly
contract your abdominal muscles to ensure complete exhalation.
You can now experience deep abdominal breathing taking place.
Conduct this deep breathing exercise for at least five minutes at a time, several times
daily - you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
As you breathe in, count to four, hold for a count of four and release the breath over a
four-count. IN..l..2..3..4.. HOLD..l..2..3..4.. OUT..1..2..3..4.. HOLD..1..2..3..4.. and
continue to repeat this pattern until done.
Note the wave of relaxation which comes over you.
Remember, practicing relaxation is like any other exercise. The more you do it,
the better you get.
From Health Coach International