On Your Health

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Why It's Important to Allow Yourself to Rest

April is National Mental Health Awareness Month. With the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on people over the last year, it’s more important than ever to advocate for mental health resources and daily routines that promote physical, mental and emotional well-being. 

Even without a pandemic, Americans are stressed. About 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress, and up to 73 percent report that stress impacts their mental health.

Rest is vital for better mental health, increased concentration and memory, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, improved mood and even a better metabolism. 

Importance of relaxation, rest and sleep

So many Americans are caught in the grind of work, family responsibilities and ongoing stress. Often, we only allow ourselves to truly rest on holidays or vacation. However, it’s so important to prioritize adequate rest and quality sleep in your everyday life. Rest and sleep are two different things, but both are equally important to your mental, emotional and physical health. Plus, prioritizing rest can actually improve your quality of sleep. 

Rest can be difficult to define because it can look different for everyone. Rest is any behavior aimed at increasing physical or mental well-being. It can be active, such as going for a walk outside, or passive, such as taking 10 minutes to sit down and breathe deeply. Regardless of how you choose to rest, these daily behaviors can help you recover and recharge from physical and mental effort. That’s why better rest is linked to better physical and mental health. 

Sleep, on the other hand, is a body-mind state in which individuals experience sensory detachment from our surroundings. Sleep is an essential function of the body and impacts every system from our cognitive function to immune health. Quality sleep can help us reset, recover and recharge. It’s absolutely vital to brain function, memory, concentration, immune health and metabolism. Unlike rest, sleep is something your body cannot function without. In fact, if you are sleep deprived, your body will force you to sleep, no matter what you’re in the middle of. 

Rest and relaxation tips

If left untreated, long-term stress can cause chest pain, headaches, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, changes in sexual desire and inability to focus. It may not seem like a big deal to skip relaxation in your daily routine. However, there are several benefits to daily rest and relaxation:

  • reduced stress and anxiety
  • improved mood
  • decreased blood pressure
  • chronic pain relief
  • improved immune health
  • stronger cardiovascular system

So, how can you better prioritize rest? Find small ways in which you can incorporate rest and relaxation into your daily routine. We make time every day to eat, take our kids to school, do errands and go to work. Why should rest be any different? Start by finding a relaxation technique that works for you. This could be meditating, practicing yoga, walking outside, listening to music, reading a book, taking a bath or any combination of these things. When planning out your daily routine, find a consistent time to rest. For example, you could take a relaxing bath before bed, practice meditation each morning or go for a short walk during your lunch break at work. 

Tips for getting better sleep

In addition to daily rest and relaxation, it’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but quality is just as important as quantity. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the most restorative of the five sleep cycles. At least one-quarter of your sleep should be spent in the REM cycle.

How can you ensure that you get enough quality sleep each night? Here are a few tips.

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends.
  • Set your thermostat between 60 and 70 degrees at night.
  • Avoid napping during the day.
  • At least one hour before bed, swap screen time for a relaxing activity such as reading, bedtime yoga or a relaxing bath.
  • Exercise is important, but avoid working out late in the day, if possible. 

If you are struggling to get enough sleep or not feeling rested throughout the day, you may be a good candidate for a sleep study at INTEGRIS Health Sleep Disorders Center of Oklahoma. However, anyone and everyone can benefit from simply taking time to rest and relax during your daily routine. For more healthy living tips, visit our On Your Health blog

 

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