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Why We Need It, Why We Don’t Do It, and How To Do It Better

Is there a thing in your life that you tend to overdo?  

For me, I can overdo it on my workouts. 

Exercise is my “cornerstone” habit, which means that all of my other healthy habits seem to just fall into place on the days that I get my workout in: I sleep better, I’m more productive, I tend to be more disciplined with my eating habits, and I’m just happier.  

I’m a happy-brain-chemistry junkie: I love endorphins and high-intensity exercise-induced dopamine.  

I have to be very deliberate about and committed to rest; otherwise, I risk burnout and injury.

Maybe working out isn’t the thing that you overdo – maybe for you, it’s working long hours, or you take an all-or-nothing approach to goal-setting, or you over-obligate and commit to too many things.  

To be at our absolute best – to be fully present in our lives, to be optimally productive, and to be successful in the ways that are meaningful to us – rest is an absolute necessity.

Our bodies are under tremendous amounts of stress regularly – much more than our bodies were designed to tolerate, and much more than many of us realize.

One of the ways that we can build the body’s ability to adapt to stress is by getting healthy rest, and this is a great time of year to build a healthy rest habit. Let’s rest today!

Why do we need rest today?

Rest increases your mental focus, productivity, and creativity.

While you are sleeping, your brain sorts and stores the information from the day. Your brain improves memory and helping you to think more clearly while you’re awake.

One of the benefits of balancing work with rest is that you are more creative and productive and have a greater sense of accomplishment over time.  

Conversely, pushing yourself to work longer hours, skipping rest days, or not taking time during the workday for rest intervals decreases your productivity.

So if you want to accomplish more – if you want to be more focused and productive, make sure you are incorporating healthy sleep and regular rest. 

Rest improves your emotional state.

When you are sleep-deprived, you tend to be more emotionally volatile.  

The amygdala, which is the emotional response center of the brain, controls our emotional responses to stimuli.

When you don’t get enough sleep, the amygdala goes into overdrive, so you’re much more intensely reactive.

Missing out on healthy sleep can make you more impatient, more prone to mood swings, and can compromise decision-making.

Sleep deprivation also makes you much more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

One of the benefits of healthy rest is to have a balanced, more positive emotional state!

Rest restores your body, builds muscle, and helps maintain healthy body fat.

When you sleep, your pituitary releases growth hormone, which repairs your tissues.  

This is why sleep is so important for making progress with your workouts. Growth hormone repairs the micro-tears you inflicted on your muscles during a workout.  

Working out is eustress, or good stress, which is necessary for improving and growing.

Not all stress is bad – there is good stress or eustress, and there’s dysfunctional stress or distress.  

Working out is usually good stress, but if you’re not repairing and restoring, your workout won’t have nearly as much of a positive effect.

Sleep also helps us to burn fat and to maintain a healthy weight. Growth hormone increases fat burning, and healthy sleep helps balance our appetite hormones: ghrelin and leptin.

So if you want those gains, getting healthy rest is absolutely a necessary part of your programming. Rest today to get those gains!

Rest improves your immune system.

Cytokines. They do some rad things.

Healthy sleep strengthens your immune – something vitally important during a pandemic – but also generally important all the time!

While you’re sleeping, your immune system releases small proteins called cytokines. 

If you’re sick or injured, these cytokines help your body fight inflammation, infection, and trauma.

So if you want a strong immune system, make healthy rest a priority. Rest today to start feeling better!

Rest improves your brain health.

Your brain detoxifies and restores itself at night. While you’re sleeping, you are quite literally being brainwashed.

During sleep, your cerebrospinal fluid dramatically increases flow. 

There is a rapid pumping of fluid into the brain and out of the brain, which washes away toxins and the harmful waste proteins that build up between your brain cells while you’re awake.  

Studies suggest that your brain shrinks to make space for this increased flow of fluid in and out of the brain.

Your brain can’t do this while you’re awake and doing things during the day. You need your brain fully functional, not smaller, and going through the rinse cycle. Plus this cleansing process takes a lot of energy that the body can’t devote while you’re awake.

This is important because the toxins and waste proteins being washed away are harmful to your brain cells.  

In the short term, it can make it hard to focus or be productive after a single night of sleep deprivation. In the long term, sleep disorders are linked to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative brain disorders.

Keeping your brain healthy requires getting healthy sleep! So let’s start making rest a priority and rest today!

Sleep reduces inflammation.

When you sleep, there are fewer demands made on your heart. 

Your blood pressure will drop and your heart will be able to take a break. 

Sleep also causes the body to release hormones that can slow breathing, and relax other muscles in the body. This process can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.

Before we go any further, what is inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural, protective biological response from the immune system that fights off harmful foreign pathogens—bacteria, viruses, toxins. It also helps heal the body from injury.

The symptoms of acute inflammation, including swelling and redness, fever and chills, pain and stiffness, and fatigue, are signs the body’s immune system is in “fight mode,” working hard to neutralize a threat.

We talk a lot about the dangers associated with inflammation. But the body’s inflammatory response is essential to our health and survival.

Problems with inflammation occur when this natural, protective response happens too often, or at the wrong times.

Chronic inflammation is also linked to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer—the major chronic and life-threatening diseases of our time.

With chronic inflammation, the body’s immune system is in perpetual fight mode, which leads to chronic illness and can lead to autoimmune diseases, which occur as a result of the body triggering an inflammatory response when there is no foreign threat present.

Instead, the immune system’s pathogen-fighting cells attack the body’s healthy cells and tissues. Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus are examples of autoimmune conditions that develop in part from an excessive, misdirected inflammatory response. You should rest today and more often to avoid inflammation. 

What triggers excessive, chronic inflammation?

Eating the wrong diet for your body’s unique nutritional needs, environmental toxins, and stress all increase inflammation.

Insufficient and low-quality sleep is a contributor to inflammation. This is because our sleep and immune systems have the same regulator: in humans, both systems are diurnal.

When you’re not getting sufficient, good-quality sleep, you are increasing your inflammatory state. Even after one night of poor sleep, you’ve activated the pro-inflammatory process in your body. This is why resting every day is so important. 

Getting healthy sleep reduces inflammation. Whether you suffer from an inflammatory disease, or have chronic pain, or feel fine and would simply like to prevent those things, getting healthy sleep is a good thing!

Rest improves your insulin sensitivity.

First of all – what does it mean to have high insulin sensitivity, or low insulin sensitivity – otherwise known as insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone, secreted by the pancreas, that controls the level of sugar in the blood.  

Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body’s cells are to insulin: how much insulin does it take to do the thing.

High insulin sensitivity allows the cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. High sensitivity means that it doesn’t take as much insulin to produce that effect.

Low insulin sensitivity means that it takes more insulin to accomplish the same effect. Low insulin sensitivity means that the cells don’t absorb as much glucose – which they need to produce energy and execute their important sub-cellular tasks which are necessary for literally all of life.

As such, you want high insulin sensitivity. You want it to take as little insulin as possible for your cells to absorb glucose and your blood sugar to remain steady. High insulin sensitivity is a good thing.

There are lots of lifestyle factors that impact insulin sensitivity – eating the right diet for your metabolic type, eating low-glycemic foods, getting regular exercise, intermittent fasting, and adding some dietary supplements can help increase insulin sensitivity.

But since we’re talking about sleep and rest – you guessed it – healthy sleep improves insulin sensitivity! Rest today to improve your insulin!

Make healthy sleep a priority. Take care of yourself and rest today. Your pancreas will thank you!

Rest reduces stress.

The body isn’t designed to be chronically stressed.

When the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is constantly responding to a stimulus, eventually the stress response itself dysfunctions.

Because the body is a system of systems, when the HPA axis isn’t functioning optimally, every other system in the body is vulnerable to degradation of function.

So stress reduction is important. Decrease your stress and rest today!

During sleep, your sympathetic nervous system – which controls your fight, flight, or freeze response – gets a chance to relax.

When we’re deprived of sleep, sympathetic nervous system activity increases, causing an increase in blood pressure and an increase in total cortisol. Resting more often can lower your cortisol in your body, so let’s rest today!

Rest is really good for us!

Science tells us that healthy sleep is important for living well. But living rested – living, producing, and experiencing life from a place of being and feeling rested – reduces our stress levels in our day-to-day lives and promotes well-being.

A combined approach of living rested and making healthy sleep a priority improves health and boosts energy – both of which make it possible for you to feel fully present and optimally productive! Rest today to start living your true life!

Why don’t we rest?

I just discussed multiple powerful reasons why rest is good for us. And yet, often, we still don’t make rest a priority.

Why? Why don’t we make sleep a priority?  

Why don’t we make hobbies and restorative activities part of our lives?

Here are some potential reasons why:

You haven’t permitted yourself to rest today.

One potential reason is that you may have a misplaced sense of self-worth.

When you perceive – whether consciously or subconsciously – that your value comes from what you produce, what you achieve, or how hard you work, you’re not going to let yourself rest.

If you don’t let yourself rest – if you are constantly working or constantly pushing yourself to do more in a day than is reasonable to expect – I encourage you to consider the deeper reasons why that might be the case.  

It may be that you perceive that your value comes from your work or from what you accomplish.

This is false. This is a lie of the enemy, supported by our culture that tells you that you have to always do more.

Your value is not something that you have to earn.

Your value is innate; your value comes from being a child of God – created, fearfully and wonderfully made, spiritually gifted, and unconditionally loved.

When you truly know where your value comes from when you know how loved you are, and when you know that your value comes not from what you do but from who you are, you will permit yourself to rest today.

You lack healthy boundaries.

If you lack healthy boundaries, it may be that you believe that love is transactional. You may believe that love, approval, or acceptance, and a sense of belonging, are things that you can earn. You might try to earn them by doing things for others, over-obligating, or saying yes when you want to say no.

Fear can drive us to fill our calendars with things that don’t fill our cups. You may fear not being included, fear of not being approved of, or fear of not being liked.

When all you do is pour out, that emptiness turns into resentment and anger. Rarely does our over-obligating earn us the love, approval, belonging, acceptance, or other positive outcomes that we thought it would.

Time is zero-sum. If your calendar is full because you lack boundaries, then you are likely chronically stressed.

Your already-full calendar is likely, not full of restorative activities, and, likely you are also sleep-deprived because you’re trying to do too much and emotionally drained. After all, you spend time doing things that you don’t want to be doing.

A lack of boundaries based on an assumption that a positive outcome can be earned leads to a life that is not just too busy, over-obligated, and sleep-deprived but also leads to a life devoid of peace.

If a lack of boundaries is the reason you don’t rest and don’t get healthy sleep, it may be time to consider why you do what you do and what activities are truly aligned with who you are and what you want so that you can let your yes be yes, and your no is no. Allow yourself to rest today, you deserve it regardless of how productive or how you view your worth. You deserve to rest every day. 

You lack commitment or are easily distracted.

Especially if it is not your current habit, it takes discipline to start getting ready for bed at 9 pm.

There may be things during the day that are wasting productive time, and because you’re not getting after it during the day, you’re running behind in the evenings and need to catch up, which pushes your bedtime back.

There are many distractions and pulls on our attention – from tv shows to social media and other apps on our phones.  

If you wake up telling yourself, “I’m going to get to bed early tonight,” but then you never do, I encourage you to identify the things that are keeping you from enjoying truly restorative activities.

Identify your distractions – the ones during your day and the ones in the evening that are keeping you from having a healthy bedtime routine.

Establishing habits around healthy restorative activities and a healthy bedtime routine take commitment and discipline. Instead of pushing off getting better rest another start now and rest today. 

Side note – anything electronic is not fully physiologically restorative. So if you’re taking a break from working by scrolling social media, your brain is not resting. If you’re relaxing at night by watching a movie, your brain is not resting. 

Because of the electromagnetic waves and because of the blue light, those are not restorative activities in the same way that taking a walk, or going hiking, or working in a garden, or reading a book, or exercising, or socializing with friends, or getting a massage are restorative activities.

You’ve made yourself too necessary.

Have you perhaps made yourself too necessary? Do you feel like you’re failing your people if you take a break? Do you catch yourself apologizing if your response to a text or email wasn’t immediate, even if the initial message wasn’t urgent?

This might be for you, then.

We know that rest is super good for us, yet we still don’t do it. We really should be starting now and rest today.

One potential reason for this is that you’ve elevated being responsive over being restored – you feel like you’re so necessary that if you took a break if you weren’t available and responsive, you’d let people down.

Certainly, there are situations in which we need to be responsive and available – like for our children and families and in certain professional situations.

But for most of us, most of the time, we have created a context in which we have misperceived how necessary we are. We don’t have appropriate boundaries relative to what is important and urgent, or important but not urgent…or just not important!

If you relate to this – consider shifting your perspective to make living restored a priority so that you can bring your best energy – consider making the quality of your energy more important than the speed of your response – instead of letting someone else drive your work-rest cycle.

Being available is not more important than being healthy. Rest when you need rest. Even better yet, rest today!

I recently wrote an article that addresses this being-too-available tendency in greater depth. If this is something with which you struggle, I recommend you check it out!  https://strengthandshieldcoaching.com/are-you-too-available/

Your beliefs are keeping you from rest.

Another potential reason is that we have a mental model or some subconscious programming, that is driving our behavior around rest.

A mental model is a subconscious belief that is part of our operating system. It is how we’re wired and is how we see the world.

I have a friend who is also a business owner who has told me multiple times that, as an entrepreneur, if you’re not at some point up at 3 am dry-heaving because you’re so stressed about the success of your business, you’re not doing it right.

That’s his mental model. He believes that struggle is required – stress and struggle are part of the process of business ownership.

Maybe you have a mental model that you have to earn rest. You may believe that you can only rest when you deserve it, and the way you deserve it is by doing a thing. So you can’t rest until you’ve done the thing.

What you may be missing because of this mental model is that rest helps you do the thing. You’re more likely to do the thing successfully when you balance works with rest.

One of the major epiphanies I have experienced in my life is when I realized that I believed that stress was the price I had to pay to achieve what I wanted or create the outcome I was seeking.

My mental model was that I had to suffer.

Relationships were supposed to be challenging – they required me to say yes when I wanted to say no. Motherhood was supposed to be heartbreaking and exhausting. Work was supposed to be stressful and miserable.

Subconsciously, I believed that to get any outcome I was seeking, the price I had to pay was everything on the spectrum, from mildly irritating to full-on violating.

When I became aware of this false mental model driving my decisions and behavior, it was a turning point.

I encourage you to look closely at your patterns of behavior.

Observe what you say to others and what you say to yourself.

If you believe things like, “no pain, no gain,” or that “sleep is a crutch,” you may have a mental model that is keeping you from living rested and may be harming your health. Rest today because you deserve to rest every day. 

I recently wrote an article on my “violation-is-the-price” mental model and how I made my peace with it. If you have a limiting belief or mental model that you know is driving your behavior around rest, you may find it insightful: https://strengthandshieldcoaching.com/are-you-just-getting-through/

How do we get good rest - and how do we get good at resting?

We’ve talked about the benefits of rest, and we’ve talked about what might be keeping you from living rested – now I want to share HOW to get good rest today. 

Eat a diet consistent with your unique nutritional needs.

Nutrition is a critical factor for your sleep.

 Here’s the thing: if you are not giving your body the nutrition that it needs, then you will have low energy regardless of how much rest you get.  

 Don’t confuse the low energy coming from eating wrong for your metabolic type with the low energy that comes from needing sleep. If you are eating according to your metabolic type, you will have energy, and you will also be able to sleep deeply.

 You will dramatically improve your ability to fall asleep, sleep well, and live rested by making some positive changes to your nutrition.  

 Adhering to a nutritional protocol aligned with your Metabolic Type® will make a world of difference.  

 Eliminating stress-inducers like artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup will have a huge and positive impact.  

 And lastly, limiting stress-inducers like sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will help tremendously. I wrote an article on how sugar, alcohol, and caffeine impact your energy levels – I highly recommend you check it out! https://strengthandshieldcoaching.com/is-your-energy-drink-making-you-tired/

 Giving your body the nutrition it needs avoiding stress-inducing foods is a critical factor for getting healthy rest! Get healthy rest today!

Establish a healthy bedtime routine.

We are diurnal beings: biochemically we are designed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. If it’s dark, your body tends to want to sleep.

 If you’ve noticed that you’re sleepier during the winter months, that could be because it is darker earlier.

A healthy pre-bedtime routine includes a commitment to being IN BED by 10 pm.

One hour before you plan on going to bed, at 9 pm at the latest, turn off all of your devices and begin preparing your body for sleep. This means no TV, no phone, no computer – no screens.

Do something that relaxes you, such as praying, reading a book for leisure, or taking a warm bath.

Over time, your mind will recognize the pre-sleep pattern from your routine. By establishing a habitual pre-bedtime routine, you’ll help yourself fall asleep faster.

Optimal sleep is possible when you have a healthy, habitual pre-bedtime routine. Get some healthy rest today and tonight!

Set the right conditions for healthy rest with good sleep hygiene.

Here are five ways in which you can set the conditions for healthy sleep today:

1 – Establish a healthy pre-bedtime routine!

2 – Protect your bed. Your bed is for two things, and one of them is sleeping.  

It’s not for reading a book; it’s not for watching TV. If you want healthy sleep, you should not have a tv in your bedroom. Fact.  

When you use your bed for alertness-inducing things like watching tv, this confuses your body about what it should be doing in bed. With one notable exception, you want your body to know if it is in bed, it’s there to sleep.

3 – Blackout your room. There should be as little light as possible in your room during sleep time. Get light-canceling curtains. And unless it is necessary because you have small children, put away the night light.

4 – Lower the temperature. The ambient temperature in your sleeping space should be 68 degrees or less. Play with this a little bit – colder is typically better for deep sleep, but only to a point, and you still have to balance it with how much you want to pay for air conditioning during hot summer months. If your a/c bill will cause you sleep-depriving stress, keep the temp at 70! Balance is important.

5 – Minimize sleep interruptions as much as possible. If your cat wakes you up through the night, maybe it is time to consider whether your cat needs to be permitted in your room while you’re trying to sleep. I understand that there are factors outside your control you’re not going to turn your child away if they wake you through the night – but decrease sleep interruptions as much as possible.

Setting the conditions for healthy sleep is so important! Optimal is possible. Optimal sleep is even more possible when you set yourself up for sleep success. Get healthy sleep and rest today!

Rest Insider Info!

If you want to sleep well, you need to BE WELL. Rest today to BE WELL.

Being well means you have the energy you need to feel fully present, be optimally productive, and crush it in life.  

As a health detective, I’m looking for clues that tell me why you are struggling with low energy. I’m an investigator looking for cause and effect. Your symptoms give me clues into what your root cause issues could be. I want to share some of these clues with you – this is insider info right here!

If you have trouble falling asleep, that could be a pathogen in your intestinal tract. Pathogens are most active in the evening and at night. Their increased activity is an internal stressor that causes a physiological stress response, including cortisol release, which keeps you from falling asleep.

If you’re falling asleep just fine, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a pathogen. But if you have trouble falling asleep, that’s a clue that you might have a gut pathogen.

If you’re waking up between 2 am; and 4 am, that could be a few things. You could have low blood sugar, hormone imbalance, or a detoxification issue. 

In eastern medicine, between 2 am and 3 am is considered “liver time.” If your toxic load exceeds your body’s filtration and detoxification capacity, that could be waking you up.

If you generally feel tired all of the time, it could be leaky gut or damaged gut lining, both of which decrease nutrient absorption. Lethargy and all-the-time fatigue can also be caused by food sensitivities or dysfunction of the HPA axis – the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis – caused by chronic stress of any kind.

If you get your best sleep in the morning – like, between 6 am; and 9 am – that points to a potential neural health issue, which can also be caused by chronic stress.

If you’re having any trouble sleeping – falling asleep or staying asleep – that points to mental and emotional stress and gut dysfunction. Melatonin, the sleep chemical, is made in the brain and the gut.

When we investigate and discover what factors are keeping you from sleeping well, we can start the process of transforming sleep stress into sleep success so that you can have the energy that you need to feel fully present and be optimally productive. Good rest is crucial for your body so start now and rest today!

Optimal is possible!

As a high-performing, driven woman who struggles with low energy, rest can feel elusive or even ineffective. By understanding why we need rest, gaining insight into why we don’t rest, and taking steps to get better rest, you can start the process of transforming exhaustion into energy.  

I’d love to hear from you!  

With what do you most connect? Did one of the reasons to rest stand out to you? Do you resonate with one of the reasons we don’t rest?  

What one action are you committed to taking today to get more and better rest?

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