This Week in Intentional Living (3/18)

Get some rest.

Do I need to tell you this?

Yes, I think I do.

You hear it a lot.  You read it a lot.  So do I.  But still we don’t rest.

Why is that?

Even when our bodies tell us to stop, we keep moving, doing, going through the motions.  Why is it that we – as a society – are so proud of being too busy to sleep?

And we are.  Too proud and too busy, that is.

I don’t need to remind you how important it is to get your rest, but I will anyway. We’ve talked before about taking care of our bodies by being careful of what we feed ourselves.  We’ve talked about breathing, thinking and a variety of ways to live better and longer, but there isn’t much that’s more basic to a good quality of life than simple rest.

Normally, if you’re willing to look around long enough on the internet, you’ll find an expert who contradicts whatever your thesis is in regards to health.  You think a low-fat diet is good for your heart, there’s a doc waiting to tell you why you need more fat.  You think running is great exercise, there’s a doc with a crusade against running.  But I can’t find anyone who thinks sleeping less is a good idea.  Even on the internet.

That should tell you something.

If I ask five friends the simple question, “How are you doing?”  I’ll promise you at least two of them will respond with some variation of “Tired.”  So if we all agree sleep – or at least rest – is valuable … how come we’re not sleeping more?

The joke is that you can tell you’re growing up when you start wishing you had a naptime scheduled but nobody will let you nap (as opposed to kids, who do  have naptime scheduled, but refuse to nap).

I’m not sure that’s true.  Not sleeping seems to be one of the badges of honor we wear in modern western society – “I’m the toughest, most productive person you know and I can prove it by how poorly I treat my body.”

If we did manage to get some decent rest we’d feel bad telling our friends about it.  It would mean we stopped working for a few minutes, and that would brand us as lazy.

So what do we do about it?

First, let’s consider the situation.  You know, be intentional about it.  How much do you sleep every night, on average?  I know I’m at about five and a half hours, maybe six on a good night.  Is that enough?  Well, judging by how quickly I fall asleep anytime I sit down in a quiet spot for about thirty seconds, probably not.  How about you?  Can you sit still and be for ten or fifteen minutes every now and then without your eyelids slamming shut?

If not, congratulations, you’re under-rested.

How much should you be sleeping?  The old standard is eight hours a night.  That’s more than I can do, for whatever reason.  About seven, give or take a few minutes, seems right for me.  Although I’ll be damned if I can tell you the last time I slept seven hours three or four nights in a row.  More than seven and I’ll wake up and if I drift back off I’ll have a headache when I wake up again.

If you can’t fit in the sleep you need at night, can you clear time for a nap during the day?  That’s been a priority for me lately, but while I’ve thought about it every day I haven’t actually done it more than a couple of times in the past few months.  You know, if I close the door to my office and turn the ringer on the phones off I might miss something important.  And God forbid I stop checking my email for twenty minutes. I’m way too important to miss anything.  I must be, if I’m willing to sacrifice my health to wait for phone calls I don’t even expect.

Or … maybe I need to rethink my relative importance in the great scheme of things. If I really am important, I really do need to get some rest.  A nap would go a long way toward that.

If you can’t sleep – by which I mean you can’t sleep, not that you think you’re too important to sleep – you still need to rest.  You need quiet, purposeful time to sit or lie still.  Not reading, not answering email or reading Facebook.  Resting.

You need some rest.

And you know as well as I know that neither of us is so important or so busy that we can’t take time to sleep.  The truth is, if we don’t take time to get our rest now, that time is going to be taken away from us eventually, on the back end of a shorter life than we want to enjoy.

All the living and working we might think we’re doing by not sleeping when we should be is a poor excuse for the living and working we could be doing if we squeezed in another hour a night.

You need some rest.  Find a way to get it … unless you enjoy your badge of sleepless honor more than you might enjoy a good quality of life.


One response to this post.

  1. Really good post Harvey…as usual!!

    I’ve always been a night person, so the regular 8am to 5pm schedule always used to kill me. Now that I’m working for myself, and parttime hours at night for Staples, I feel that I’m finally getting the sleep I need. Instead of waking up exhausted, I’ve been waking up and feeling, ahhhh…ready to start the day!! My quality of life has totally improved since I changed my “working hours” accordingly. Thanks for a good reminder to listen to your body!!



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