Without rest, there can be no strength.
Without rest, your body won’t adapt to the movements you’re doing, it won’t be able to use the nutrition you’re feeding it, and it won’t be connected enough to maintain awareness when you need it most.
Rest grounds us in the healing side of our nature.
We need to break our body to become stronger, because only by doing that will our body have the signal to heal. Without getting our bodies into a mode of breakdown and stress, it will never have a reason to activate its healing potential.
Your body will stagnate without this balance.
One of the most powerful principles to be aware of is always balance.
In the act of healing your body, you’ll be balancing the breaking of your body. In the act of breaking your body, you’ll be balancing the healing of it.
You need both sides… especially if you want sustainable strength.
Four Principles for Quality Rest:
Light, Nutrients, Activity, Rhythm
Lighting is one of the most critical aspects to consider if you want to improve the quality of your sleep.
And quality is more important to consider than quantity because everyone will require a different amount of sleep depending on their levels of activity throughout the day, stress, and hormones.
This is important to point out because there will be times when you just can’t get the “correct” number of hours per night or your schedule simply doesn’t allow you to get “enough” sleep. This is where quality becomes key.
The quality of your sleep not only makes up for any perceived lack of quantity, it also provides you with sleep that is far more rejuvenating and restful than if you were to focus on just the amount of sleep alone.
It’s the quality of sleep that matters because then your body will regulate to the appropriate amount of sleep that you need. And it all starts at sunrise.
Our bodies have a rhythm that’s adapted to the different levels of light we receive over the course of a full day.
As you move throughout the day, Mother Earth moves as well, giving the sun that consistent rhythm across the sky. This rhythm is called a circadian rhythm, and it not only encourages activity in the morning but it also encourages less activity as the daylight dims and the sun begins to shine somewhere else.
Hormones like melatonin get secreted by your pineal gland when you’re exposed to red or orange hues of light. This gets you feeling relaxed and chilled out, so then you actually want to go to sleep…
but what about those times when you can’t fall asleep?
Or what about those times you felt sleepy earlier in the evening and then couldn’t fall asleep when you laid down to rest?
Well, the likely culprit is light.
Our eyes are adapted to seeing certain colors of light throughout the day.
Bright blue or white light, like the sun or cellphone and computer screens, stimulates the secretion of hormones that put our bodies in states of breakdown and stress (catabolic). More subdued light like orange firelight or red sunsets stimulates the secretion of hormones that put our bodies in states of relaxation and repair (anabolic).
What hues of light your eyes are absorbing determines which of these hormones (catabolic or anabolic) is going to be released.
It is a direct correlation.
Catabolic hormones like cortisol are related to stressful body-states that cause a breakdown in your tissues. So if you’re looking at a bright blue screen late at night, it’s going to make it tougher to fall asleep because your body wants to get up and do stuff.
On the other hand, anabolic hormones like melatonin are related to the opposite body-state, where you’re in a more relaxed/healing condition. So if you’re around natural lighting like campfires or sunsets, it’s going to be much easier to fall asleep and you’ll have a much deeper sleep when you do.
Both catabolic and anabolic hormones are essential to becoming stronger, but a balance is critical to achieving the quality sleep you deserve.
The Universal idea of balance is always present.
It seems to be the perfection everything in the Universe seeks but never fully achieves.
The catabolic, stressful side of your reality is completed by the anabolic, relaxing side of your reality.
It plays out in the mind, the body, and the spirit. Through time, these factors come together in a dance that helps keep you strong, resilient, and adaptable.
But controlling your lighting environment is just one step toward getting fully optimized sleeping patterns.
The next depends on what you’re feeding your body before bed.
The right nutrition at the right time can provide your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs for deep, restorative sleep.
When you’re sleeping, your brain and other organs flush out a lot of toxins that build up throughout the day. These come from common and necessary stresses on the body like learning, working out, or digesting food.
Although necessary bi-products, these toxins lead to things like brain fog, fatigue, lower cognitive performance, lowered immunity, moodiness… I mean, the list goes on.
If your body doesn’t have the nutrition it requires to adequately release all of these toxins from your system and repair the damage they did, you’ll never really have the energy you need to tackle those big projects you’ve always wanted to… or that assignment that seems so intimidating.
Getting quality nutrition will not only increase the quality of your rest, but it will also assist in the overall strength and wellness of your entire body.
This is especially effective when timed well.
It’s just like how coffee is an important part of many people’s ideal morning, having the right tea or the right vitamins in the evening is extremely effective.
Some chamomile tea and magnesium at bedtime does wonders for sleep quality. And reishi mushrooms are said to have a multitude of benefits, relaxation being one of them.
These kinds of medicines help support the brain chemistry that allows us to get the best sleep possible. But what kind of nutrition you decide to exclude and when you exclude it can be an effective way to have better sleep as well.
Like avoiding caffeine after a certain time for example (mine is 2 pm). This is easy to do and has immediate effects on sleep quality because caffeine has a half-life of around 5-6 hours. This means that the cup of coffee you had at 3 or 4 pm only gets halfway out of your system at 8 or 9 o’clock!
Sure, you can probably still go to sleep just fine. But will it be the best quality sleep? Probably not.
Again, it’s quality that’s important. Not quantity.
Another effective strategy is to start your day with high-quality fats and proteins, not sugary cereal products, slices of bread, or high-fructose fruits. This will provide sustainable energy throughout the day instead of the ups and downs that come with easily-digestible carbohydrates and sugar products.
A common misconception is that caffeine is the cause of those all-too-common afternoon crashes. What actually causes this rollercoaster effect is usually the insulin spikes that come with those easily digestible sugars and/or toxins that were in the coffee from mold or bad processing… not the caffeine.
With high-quality coffee and stable insulin (depends on what you eat), you’ll also have high-quality thinking and stable energy.
Nutrition is so important for overall well-being. But its timing can be particularly effective at increasing the quality of your sleep.
It’s one of the few things in life we can have a little control with. So why not?
What you decide to eat and when you eat it has massive benefits to sleep, but what you decide to do has equally as powerful of an effect.
Activities timed around waking and bedtime will encourage your body to either be awake or to be asleep.
For example; if you’re doing burpees and pushups to try and get tired enough to go to sleep, it may get you tired but the quality of your sleep is going to be degraded because of all the cortisol that’s pulsing through your veins.
If you wake up in the morning and lay there checking email or social media on your phone, it makes it harder to get going and feeling awake when you do want to start moving around.
A lot of people talk about morning routines, and they are definitely correct in thinking that morning routines are important. But, what you do before you go to sleep is just as important.
Activities like stretching, breathing or meditating are great ways to get more relaxed and ready for sleep. They also get you into your body so your mind can slow down enough to keep your eyes closed when you lay down.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or any particular technique, just something that gets you breathing into your body and quieting your mind enough to relax.
It’s also effective to pay close attention to what you don’t do.
Avoiding activities like stressful movies or games, intense exercise, and thinking too much about the next day around bedtime can relieve tension and allow for more restful sleep.
Anything you do can become a habit. After enough repetitions and with enough clarity about why you’re doing something, it becomes a habit that you’ve consciously formed.
After a while, these habits become a feedback loop and you’re able to adapt yourself to the rhythms that are specific to your circumstance.
Rhythmic sleep speaks to the idea that you have a biological need to sleep, and that your sleeping patterns are naturally aligned with the rhythms of the sun.
But this doesn’t work for everyone due to certain aspects of their lifestyle and the modern world.
Maybe you work the night shift and so you sleep during the times the sun is high in the sky and then go to work only when the moon rises.
Maybe you travel a lot and are unable to stay adjusted to a regular schedule.
Or maybe you’re just crammed with work from university life, work life, or a new baby that you just brought into the world, and so you struggle to get enough rest.
If you’re unable to follow a sunrise schedule because of these perfectly legitimate reasons, at least make your sleep cycle rhythmic.
Do your best to sleep at the same times every day.
If you can’t get enough sleep one night, be dedicated to making it up to yourself the next night or later that week.
In a situation where you can’t get enough sleep, naps are your best friend. They can help you maintain a rhythm when life circumstances don’t let you. They’re also a tool that many successful people have used to repay sleep-debts they’ve incurred staying up late working on projects and deadlines.
But the important part is making up the debt. Don’t let your sleeping rhythm spiral out of control… just like financial debts, a sleep debt can be crippling and/or fatal.
Do your best to have a routine that gets you into the mood for sleeping, and also a routine that gets you in the mood for being awake.
And do your best to practice these goals every day because sleep is what allows you to be awake and enjoy life.
Quality sleep is critical to success.
It leads to vivid dreams and massive breakthroughs that spur growth on unequaled scales. It also allows you to adapt to one of the only real certainties we can count on in life… change.
You can’t adapt to change if you’re too tired to even notice the details of a life your barely awake enough to live.
So, don’t take rest lightly.
Your life depends on it.
To wrap things up, I’d like to leave you with a few tools to consider trying for better sleep:
- Get a few cheap lamps and some red light-bulbs, this will make it easy to change your light environment before bed.
- Avoid electronic devices or use apps to change the screen color to night mode (f.lux for PC, Twilight for Android, etc.).
- At least turn off bright overhead lights before bed.
- If you can’t do any of this, try getting a pair of sunglasses that block blue light… I know, sunglasses at night. Trust me, it works.
- Coffee and tea are good for the morning but avoid caffeine later in the day.
- Magnesium is effective but a powerful laxative (should be taken carefully).
- Chamomile tea is a safer way to supplement with relaxing nutrients.
- Try some raw honey and diluted apple cider vinegar before bed.
- Breathing exercises and meditation are highly effective relaxation tools.
- Self-massage and stretching are also great options for deeper sleep.
- Sleep induction mats and certain types of music or sounds like rain also help.
- Avoid over-stimulating activities and planning/thinking too much about the next day, this should be done earlier in the evening and avoided near bedtime.
- If your schedule doesn’t allow you to follow the sun’s schedule, be sure to stick to your own schedule and make up any sleep you missed.
- Have routines that allow you to get relaxed and sleepy so when you do go to bed it’s easy to crash out.
- Wake up at regular times and have mourning routines so your body learns when it’s time to get going and doing things.
- Look forward to going to bed throughout the day so you’re mentally prepared to sleep when you’re ready to.
*Remember, these are just tools. It’s up to you to try things out to see what’s practical for your circumstance and what works best for you.
In the next post, I’ll be exploring the next principle of strength: nutrition.
What you choose to give your body will have a profound impact on the person you become, it’ll affect the way you carry yourself in this world, and it’ll give you the necessary ingredients to remain filled with energy and vitality in a world full of challenges.
Until then, Stay Strong Everyone,