Explore key concepts and ideas related to sleep and rest and understand these terms. You’ll also learn some new ways of thinking about sleep. How would your habits change if you knew the meaning and significance of rest and sleep?
Sleep and rest are critical to overall well-being, high-energy living and overcoming health problems. Even the healthiest diet can be a heavy burden to the sleep-deprived organism. Even the healthiest exercise is an excessive demand on the body that is not rested. A multitude of conditions and influences determine the quantity and quality of sleep that you require and you get. You can improve your sleep, and by extension your health, by optimising your other life practices and circumstances.
Rest, relaxation and sleep are the conditions that enable the body to restore its nerve energy. During these times re-fuelling, re-building, and elimination are also optimised. The two main factors determining how much sleep is needed are its efficiency and how much nerve energy needs to be regenerated. While under-sleeping is the norm in most developed society, oversleeping is practically impossible for a healthy person. The prime objective accomplished through sleeping is the restoration of nerve energy. Exercise and physical activity, in general, improve sleep efficiency. Naps and rest breaks during the day improve health.
The body needs only rest and relaxation, while sleep is an exclusive need of the brain and nervous system, which need to re-generate nerve energy. Nerve energy is a low-level electricity that can be supplied even by electrodes attached to the head – electrosleep therapy reduces regular sleeping time to approximately 2 hours a night.
The need for sleep decreases with improvements in overall health, sleeping conditions, and reduction in toxicity. Overeating and the consumption of cooked foods, animal fare, stimulants, condiments, drugs, and other items that do not belong in a human body are enervating, thus increasing the need for sleep.
The role of dreams is to keep us asleep. They are brain creations in response to urges that would otherwise awaken us. They occur only when the body tends to wakefulness and not in a random, unrelated fashion.
Sleep problems arise from toxicity (internal or external) and sub-optimal sleeping conditions. The same interventions that correct health problems can effectively remedy sleep disturbances. So-called sleep-inducing drugs and/or supplements only further intoxicate producing coma, not sleep.
Sleep and rest are so natural and essential that you ‘indulge’ in them because the need overtakes us rather than because of some intellectual understanding of their significance. Although 1/3 of your life is dedicated to sleeping on average and even more when you add rest, the subject is in its infancy from a research and understanding perspective. In this, writing I’ll endeavour to enlighten and guide you to better understand and optimise your sleep.
Rest is a period during which the faculties can restore and recover expended energy by being inactive. Essentially, it is the temporary suspension of waste generation and energy expenditure. Some examples of rest include:
Relaxation can be seen as a form of rest so long as exertion is decreased or ceases and what causes tension and stress is discontinued. The cells of the body require only rest in order to catch up on their activities, unlike the brain and nervous system, which recover properly only under the condition of sleep. Sleep necessarily implies rest and the primary difference between the two lies in the cessation of consciousness.
Sleep is a partial shutdown of the brain and nervous system primarily, in order to recharge nerve energy. It is like plugging an electric car into the socket. In the case of humans, nature has designed a masterpiece that can self-regenerate without reliance on external means by merely ceasing visible physical and conscious mental activity.
Presenting existing theories of why you sleep is beyond the scope of this work. The position presented here is the one embraced by Natural Hygiene and the one making the most sense when considering the functioning of the body-mind as a whole. You sleep in order to restore low-level electricity known as nerve energy.
Some of the additional benefits of sleep include the refuelling of the liver and cells with glycogen, more efficient cellular recycling maintenance, and detoxification.
When you under-sleep you don’t generate enough nerve energy to meet the expenditures of the body. As a result, the efficiency of all internal processes, including metabolism, repair and maintenance, is compromised. As these are a priority from a survival perspective, there is even less discretionary energy for pursuing work or recreational aspirations. This cascade of compromised functioning often leads to mental distress in the form of low mood, irritability, and even depression.
Views on sleep
It will be naïve to assume that the need for and persistence of the sleeping conditions among humans and most animals is an evolutionary mistake. The fact that most people are unconscious while asleep makes direct observation rather difficult. Perhaps trying to explain the function of sleep, as if it were singular, is a rather misinformed approach. “We may be making an enormous and costly mistake by assuming that our nights are any less significant or complex than our days," says Ms Hales in The Complete Book of Sleep.
Further, she says: "We think of sleep as being passive and uniform, but it actually consists of cycles of complex activity. We think our bodies and brains rest during sleep, but in fact our muscles tense, our pulse, temperature and blood pressure rise and fall; we are sexually aroused; our senses evoke a world of sights and sounds. We think that in sleep we shed our fears and feelings, but our personalities set our sleep patterns, and our sleep shapes how we feel and act. We accept sleep as commonplace, yet when we cannot sleep, we yearn for it more fiercely than for the rarest treasures. We are able to go without food or water or companionship more easily than without sleep."
There are two theories regarding the physiology of going to sleep. The first one sees falling asleep as merely a passive process resulting from the exhaustion of the wakefulness apparatus. The second one postulates that the brain actively initiates the sleeping sequence when needed. Recognising, the tremendous wisdom inherent in the human composition, the second view seems more plausible.
May you befriend rest and sleep as companions on your journey of wholesome living.
Be sure to get in touch to see how you can improve your wellness.
Martin Stefanov Petkov
Master your Super Power