Which is best, sleep or rest? Well, we need both. If you find sleep elusive, you can turn towards rest. Rest is the next best thing, and perhaps what you need right now. Quality rest leads to quality sleep.
Embrace Your Rest time
Resting helps your sleep-self remember the magic of sleep. See if you can embrace every opportunity to rest through the day. With mindful awareness, you know are resting. Let your sleep-self know, reminding it: “Ah, now I am resting…” “This is rest, this is relaxing…”
When it comes to bedtime, think of the night ahead as a holiday. On holiday, you can do what you like, you are completely free. You could read, knit, do a puzzle, stroke the dog, start your memoirs… (ideally away from blue-light LED screens). What would you enjoy? What is restful? You cannot control when you sleep, but you can control what you do when you are not sleeping.
Your ‘Rest Opportunity Window’
Focusing on rest, not on sleep, reduces sleep stress. Sleep stress is the demoralising worry that comes of thinking you ‘should’ be asleep, when you aren’t. In fact, there’s no need to worry about losing sleep if you replace it with quality rest.
Sleep science recommends we have eight hours sleep. Perhaps with less, you will feel under par – but not necessarily! Human bodies are extraordinarily resilient and responsive. I suggest you aim for eight hours, about 80% of the time. I mean, eight hours of rest. Can you create an eight-hour ‘rest opportunity window’. If you cannot find a straight 8 hours at night, then divide it into chunks, and top up your rest in the day. Some bodies actually prefer two rest periods (more on biphasic sleep patterns in future blogs). If you have not slept well, promise yourself a rest or a nap later on.
Restful Activity, or Restful Resting?
How do you know whether to rest in bed, or to do something actively restful? For myself, I check within. “Can I imagine getting up?” I ask myself. I consult my body, “Do I want to read, or walk around, or write?” If I feel the answer is ‘yes’, then, I go with that. If I sense my bodying saying, “Urgh, no…” I stay put. Sometimes, I lie on my back with my knees up. Then I meditate, daydream or muse, before curling onto my side again. Whatever you choose, practise trusting your body. Rest as deliciously as you can.