The power of rest

For some reason society has taught us to totally undervalue rest. We grew up in a world where “doing more” meant being better. Working longer hours equalled more success, looking busy was more important than whatever it was you were actually doing. Let alone looking after yourself.

Sleep was seen as something to try and need less of, rather than one of the most valuable things to our physical and mental health, especially our focus and memory.

I’ll never forget when I first realised just how important sleep was for me, and finally understood why sleep deprivation really is a form of torture. In my early twenties I was in a relationship with a guy who snored (I know, I know – nightmare). I was having a rough time in my life with work, and obviously a relationship that wasn’t working out, so I thought it was understandable that I was miserable, my brain felt foggy all the time, and I couldn’t function properly at work. It wasn’t until we broke up and I could finally sleep alone again that I realised – I hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in probably a year! As soon as I started sleeping properly again it dawned on me that it was sleep (or the lack of it) that was making me feel so bad! 

Needless to say, if a guy snores in my bed these days, it’s an instant deal-breaker…

I feel like in our society, resting can be seen as weakness. We were taught we had to power through, not take sick days unless it was vital, doing nothing or needing too much sleep was seen as laziness, having a packed schedule showed that we were popular, and more successful. Resting was quitting, not trying hard enough, doing nothing was a negative instead of seen as something essential that actually helped us to recharge, boost our energy, and give our brains and bodies valuable down-time.

I’d like to think that times are changing, but if you ask me we still have a long way to go. Things are changing in the way we think about work and that we can be more productive if we work smarter instead of longer hours, but how about in the ways we think about rest?

We’ve got on board with the idea of “effective working” but what about “effective resting”?

The truth is, we haven’t been taught to be good at resting. How much of your “time off” do you actually spend half “on”? Or more importantly, on a screen? Or doing something equally unhealthy that doesn’t allow your brain and body proper rest? How often do you go to bed for an “early night” and end up scrolling through instagram for hours instead of sleeping? (Don’t lie, I know we all do this one!)

We’ve got used to this world that is always moving at top speed, where everything needs to happen in an instant, where we can’t wait too long for a reply from a message, for our food to arrive, for an uber to come and pick us up to take us where we need to go as quickly as possible. Where literally hundreds of notifications a day are battling for our attention, their electronic ‘ping’s constantly determined to disturb our peace. Where if we stop for a moment we feel like we’ll miss something or fall behind.

It’s not just our inability to properly rest, or the amount of screens trying to distract us and fool us into thinking we’re relaxing when we’re really not – it’s also the guilt that comes with switching off. The endless FOMO that has us fooled into constant motion.

But if we’re honest, whether we’re trying to “do” or “do nothing”, how much of our time is actually spent just doing half of either?

I think the key is to give yourself the time to do both effectively. Allocate dedicated time to being  fully “on”, use all those tips and tricks you’ve learnt on the internet or on training days at work, in self-help books and cosmo quizzes, but – equally importantly – also dedicate time to switching off.

After all, effective rest is the thing that will actually allow you to effectively work better. Your brain needs the off-time to recalibrate, function better, and process things. It’s in the rest time that your brain has it’s best ideas, when those light-bulb moments come. Not when you’re trying your hardest to focus. It’s the resting moments that allow you to be at your best.

And it’s rest that allows you to focus more when you are switched on. I’m a big believer that to work at our most productive levels, it’s essential to have time off. That if we want to be fully focused when we’re working, we need to give ourselves the time and space to do nothing in-between. 

For me, I think the best ways I’ve found to rest ‘effectively’ are to do the things that really get you back in touch with yourself, and allow you to completely switch off from everything else – get out in nature, take a bath, read a book (it’s supposed to be the best thing for your brain), or meditate. I also think doing something creative just for the love of it is a great way to switch off. I journal, or make collage vision-boards out of old magazines. Anything that taps into something you loved when you were younger, like drawing, is great! I like to think of effective resting as really tapping into those base things that you have always loved and maybe don’t have as much time for as an adult – something that grounds you, that’s just for you

How rare is it to do something just for yourself and just because you love it?

And of course, the most important thing is to sleep. I definitely used to undervalue the power of sleep but, needless to say, after snoring-gate I realised how much it matters. 

These days I notice so much difference when I sleep well. My mood is better, and my brain functions so much better. Mattress brand TEMPUR® conducted a survey for World Sleep Day and found out that people voted bad sleep as the number one thing to affect their brain function and memory, even more than being hungover or stressed! It’s amazing to think that making sure we get enough hours in (the survey showed that people who had 7 or more were the happiest with their sleep quality) can make such a big difference to our lives.

In our busy, instantaneous world, we’re all always looking for the next thing to make us feel better the quickest….turns out it could just be getting a better sleep!

Instead of treating our bodies like they should be invincible and carry on, we should be giving them the care they need – the fact is that we need rest and sleep in order for our brains and bodies to recover, heal, and process the day’s information. Without it, there’s no wonder we can’t function properly!

4 out of 5 Brits also agreed that the best way to improve their sleep quality was having the right mattress, and I definitely agree with this one – a comfy mattress changes everything! Just like with ‘effective resting’, we should be practicing the most effective sleeping!

When it comes to mattresses and pillows, TEMPUR® are in a league of their own, with their unique feeling and memory foam material that works to evenly distribute weight and pressure and work with your own body to give you the best night’s rest! I have to give a shout out to their pillows too – personally I find that getting the right pillow makes the biggest difference to how I sleep – and there’s nothing like a memory foam one to mould to exactly what your body needs!

And if you want to know how I know this….well, these days I don’t date men who snore. No, the guy I’m dating right now has a TEMPUR® mattress and pillows, and honestly it’s got to be one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. Maybe that’s what happens in your thirties, you date guys who have good beds instead of….well, you know! Call that what you will, but I’m here for it! And if you’re doubting me, maybe get back to me after you’ve tried a TEMPUR®  bed for yourself! 

This post is in conjunction with TEMPUR® for World Sleep Day, but as always all thoughts, words and images are my own.

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