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 mentally and physiologically while we sleep and even how much 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 or adequate rest.
When individuals are sleep-deprived their most common complaints are mental fatigue or confusion and musculoskeletal discomfort. These conditions are relieved by subsequent rest. 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 neurotransmitting 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’! This is where 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 important. There is a relentless force acting upon our physical structure, day by day, week after week: 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, myofascial problems and even headaches are the result.
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 and relaxation. 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 inactivities 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 stresses 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.