By Lawrence Wilson, MD
Millions of people throughout the world do not get enough rest and sleep. In fact, they falsely believe that rest and sleep are a waste of time and energy. This is the opposite of the truth and may be the most ignored cause of disease next to bad nutrition.
This article discusses the great need for sleep, the many benefits of sleep, the harm that occurs when one does not get enough rest and sleep, and finally how to sleep better. Let us examine why each person today needs much more rest and sleep than in past generations.
Most People Are Exhausted. Fatigue is epidemic. Studies by American, British and Australian Traffic Safety Agencies report that 20%-30% of traffic fatalities involve a fatigued driver. If you need coffee, soda pop, chocolate, anger, worry or other stimulants to get going in the morning or keep going, you are not getting enough sleep.
Prolonged fatigue contributes to nutritional imbalances that may not be so easily undone by just sleeping. However, rest and sleep are still important steps as part of a total program including nutritional balancing and sauna therapy to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome and many other conditions with fatigue as one of the symptoms.
All Healing Requires Extra Sleep. During the day, one primarily uses the sympathetic nervous system, associated with spending energy and tearing down the body. This is balanced by the parasympathetic system, associated with rest, nurturing and regeneration of body tissues. This is equally important and takes place when one is resting. One may call it maintenance or repair time.
If you skimp on regenerative activity by not sleeping enough, physical and mental performance suffers, as well as one’s work and relationships. Illness develops because there is not enough time to repair damaged tissues in the body. If you have a chronic illness, you definitely need extra rest and sleep.
Cleansing and Rebuilding the Body Require Energy. Elimination of toxins, an issue for everyone, occurs primarily at night while the body rests. The removal process requires energy and one’s energy is finite. If you use most or all of your energy running around all day, you will not detoxify well.
Most Emotional Processing Occurs During Sleep. Often, during the day, thought processes are not completed due to interruptions or other distractions. The mind completes these processes during sleep. You may notice that problems that seemed difficult are solvable or even solved after a good night’s rest. This can be due to increased energy, but is also due to actual problem-solving that goes on during sleep.
In fact, many types of emotional development and processing of one’s past take place during the sleep state in many people. Thus, not giving yourself enough ‘down time’ is harming yourself in an emotional way as well as a physical one.
Spiritual development and sleep. Resting is not just about physical and emotional processing. An area that is not often discussed is spiritual development. By this I mean a specific progression of development of the subtle human bodies, such as the etheric body or etheric double, as it is sometimes called.
It is called this because it is shaped somewhat like the human body, but a little larger so it looks like a double body to someone who has the ability to see it in the human aura or energy field. It is also called theetheric double because, when developed fully, it is large and consists of two human bodies, one right side up and the other upside down.
This type of development is of the greatest import today to assure a long, healthy physical life and for the development of wisdom and knowledge as well. It is spoken of in some Oriental texts, but not mentioned much in most Western spiritual books that often focus more on religious aspects rather than energetic aspects of what may be called development of the higher human faculties.
This particular development requires a tremendous amount of extra rest and sleep. I cannot overstate this fact. This is the reason that many so-called “spiritually oriented” types of people need extra rest all the time. This is also the reason that many teenagers, especially women, need a lot of rest. They are developing their etheric bodies, although I know this sounds esoteric, and the rest is part of the process. They often need a nap during the day plus 10 hours or more of sleep, at times. At other times, they may not need quite this much, and it can vary during the process.
I encourage all readers to pay attention to this need, not to just try to avoid it with stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, and to find jobs and activities in which they can take time in the afternoon, perhaps, to lay down and rest, even if it is just for 15 minutes or so. State laws in America require a 15-minute break in the morning and again in the afternoon. Although this is hardly enough time, it is a start and anyone in any job should, if possible, take advantage of this rule.
In short, there is no substitute for sleep. Also, sleep is anything but a waste of time. It is an essential part of each person’s daily life that can also be a rich time of not only rejuvenation, but of insights and other healing processes.
Sleeping actually involves at least four aspects of human physiology. These are:
1. Rest. The body simply rests. This is extremely important for a number of hours each day. Otherwise, the body literally can wear out sooner. Rest is the time the body begins to regenerate itself.
2. Muscle relaxation. Although this is similar to rest, it is listed separately because it is somewhat different. The muscles require a special type of rest that is somewhat unique. Just putting your feet up on the couch or in bed is excellent to relax most of the musculature of the body, another necessary aspect of rest and sleep.
3. Dreaming and rebuilding the body. This aspect of rest requires that the conscious mind be put aside for a time. Also, the best time for this process is the hours before midnight. The other processes are not time-dependent. The reasons appear to be complex, but the deep rebuilding of the body seems to occur the most in the hours before midnight to 1 AM. This is why going to bed as early as is conveniently possible, and no later than 9 or 9:30 PM is excellent. It is also why if you travel, stay on the local time zone with your sleeping habits. Do not stay up until midnight just because you are accustomed to a different time zone, even for a few days.
4. Processing and learning. This is divided into many aspects that are more esoteric. Most people travel out of the physical body in what is called the finer body. They literally learn study, teach, heal, assist others and may have other experiences during the sleep state.
Dreaming is another very important activity that only occurs during the sleep state. Dreaming is not a solitary phenomenon, meaning that it can have many different meanings. Even higher animals such as cats and dogs engage in dreaming.
Dreams can represent processing of one’s past or even just daily events. In most people, dreams are often also processing other phenomena such as information from television shows and radio programs that the mind needs to mull over, as it were, and make more sense of. Dreams can also foretell the future, to a degree, as many people know. Dreams can also have to do with people and events far away, as many people also know.
Even unpleasant dreams, nightmares, premonitions and other phenomena may be important, at times, and should not be stopped by not resting or with the use of drugs. Of course, some dreams are due to just overeating or some other physical health condition. However, dreaming is a fascinating subject that could fill an entire article of this size.
If one does not sleep enough, or does not sleep well for some reason, the dreaming process is interrupted or prevented, and this always impacts one’s health and one’s spiritual and mental development. It is another reason why adequate rest and sleep are so critical for everyone, particularly the young, who are often the ones who do not “have the time;” or are “too busy” to stop and rest often.
During periods of deep physical rest or sleep, the astral body usually separates from the physical body. This is also an essential process if one is to progress spiritually. It is a complex phenomenon that is beyond the scope of this article.
Also during the sleep state, everyone works with guides, angels or whatever you prefer to call them, on healing and learning. While this can occur at any time, it is easiest during the sleep state because waking consciousness often gets in the way of the healing work that needs to take place. Most people are far more receptive to this help while in the resting state. Only deep meditation, which is also most restful, compares to sleep in this regard.
NEXT: PART 2 REST & SLEEP