If you’ve ever felt run down or stressed out, it’s very likely that you’ve been advised to get some good rest. Most of us have been told to treat ourselves to some much-needed rest at some point in our lives, but what does that really mean? The connection between rest and wellness, both physically and emotionally, is believed to be stronger than most of us ever imagined thanks to the results of a survey conducted in November 2015 called The Rest Test.
The Rest Test
The purpose of The Rest Test was to see how people rest, the reasons they do it and the benefits that rest can have on our health and overall wellness. More than 18,000 people from countries all around the world took part in this survey, so that researchers could gain a broad understanding of the concept of rest in different cultures.
The survey was conducted by Hubbub; a pioneering collection of researchers at Wellcome Collection and published on BBC Radio 4. The results of The Rest Test were extremely insightful and can show us a lot about how important rest is in our lives. More than two thirds of the respondents in the survey believed that they were not getting as much rest as they needed.
One of the questions in the test asked participants to state the activities they found most restful. The overwhelming majority picked activities that focus on relaxing the mind rather than the body. Reading, spending time in nature and walking and listening to music all appeared in the top five restful ventures. Other activities included having a bath or shower, watching TV and doing nothing in particular.
The Benefits of Rest
A relaxed mindset and a decent amount of sleep are essential features of a healthy, balanced life. There is a whole host of physical and mental health benefits that you will start to feel as soon as you increase the amount of rest you get, including:
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
You might have noticed that the more tired and run-down you are, the more you crave fatty, sugary snacks. This is because the part of the brain that controls sleep is the same part that controls appetite and metabolism. Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted a study in 2010 that monitored the links between sleep and weight loss. They found that dieters who were better rested lost, on average, 56% more body fat than those who suffered from lack of sleep.
Getting a good amount of rest can boost heart health in a number of different ways. Firstly, plenty of stress-busting rest and relaxation can help to combat a number of health problems connected to high blood pressure. In addition to this, another study by the University of Chicago found that there is a stronger connection between cardiovascular disease and sleep deprivation than previously realised. Researchers found that adults who got less than six hours sleep per night were more at risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Boosting Exercise levels
Exercise is key when it comes to staying healthy. Studies have shown that a good amount of rest can help boost activity levels during the day and vice versa. Researchers at Stanford University found that football players who got more sleep at night could sprint faster, had more stamina and experienced less fatigue than their teammates.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to see what a difference rest can make to your exercise regime. By getting more sleep, you’ll find that you’re able to make small lifestyle changes such as getting up earlier so you can go for a jog or swim before work or at the weekend.
Sharpening your Mind
You’d be amazed at just how big of an impact a decent night’s sleep can have on your memory, productivity levels and attention span. Being overtired and under-rested is likely to leave you feeling a bit dopey and forgetful, so if you really want to impress your boss and excel at work, ditch the late-night working hours for an earlier to bed and early rise routine instead.
Worried about how much rest you’re getting?
We’ve covered just a few of the many links between rest and wellness. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting the amount of rest you need and it’s affecting your work, social life or physical health, then you could try making small changes to your routine such as:
- A hot bath in the evenings
- More exercise during the day
- Cutting down on caffeine
- Closing your laptop at least an hour before bed
If these changes don’t help to improve your sleep, stress levels or fatigue, then you should arrange to explore other possible causes and options with your GP.