Why Sleep is Not Enough Rest

Don't get me wrong, sleep is the most important type of rest that your body needs. Lack of enough sleep has been linked to memory issues, mood changes, trouble concentrating, and weakened immunity. However, our bodies also need to rest in other ways beyond sleep. With the constant streams of information and conversation that come at you from so many directions, your brain also needs downtime. Downtime used to be more normal than it is today and as technology and culture changes, downtime is becoming a rarity. To put it into perspective, when was the last time you spent at least 3-4 hours completely unplugged? Sleep does not count.  

Most of us think downtime is watching Netflix, or mindlessly watching vines & youtube videos but though you may find that mind-numbing and relaxing it is not the rest your brain may desperately need. Have you noticed that after binge-watching a show the next thing you want to do is find another show to binge-watch? Professionals suggest that binge-watching shows can act like a drug giving you such a high but and then leaving you emotionally spent and even depressed. 


We are used to consistently overcommitting, over-working & over-doing and consequently leaving no time to rest outside of sleep. Not to mention that mental exhaustion can also lead to two things: the need to sleep all the time, and the inability to fall asleep which affect your overall health & wellbeing. Our brains are actually designed to have regular rest periods. Did you know the brain actually has two main modes of processing? 

- Action-Oriented Mode: lets you concentrate on tasks, solve problems, and process data - its what what you use when you're working, watching TV, scrolling through Instagram...etc. 

- Default Mode Network (DMN): it switches on whenever your mind takes a break to wander inward- like when you are reading a book and realize you didn't absorb anything on the pages because you were thinking about something completely unrelated. 

Believe it or not, it is actually possible to spend even hours on the DMN mode like when you take a long walk in the woods or during a long & lonely car drive. According to the experts, spending time on DMN gives your mind a chance to reflect and sort things out. It helps you expand on and solidify lessons you've learned, think and plan for the future, and work out problems. Most 'aha' moments, creative ideas, & memory-making moments happen during DMN so it is very important so make sure to always leave room for it! 

To rest your brain you need to spend time not actively focusing on and engaged in the outside world. Find 'activities' that will allow your mind wander and daydream. I know, easier said than done - so here are few tips that will help you wander more effectively: 

+++ ditch the phone. Mute or completely turn off your phone or any other mode of communication (TV, computer, smart-watch, Radio). Research also shows that walking through nature will prove much more relaxing than walking through the busy streets of the city just because the city noises can easily become extremely distracting. I like to leave the house without my phone. I purposefully forget it and I honestly never miss it. It's amazing what freedom comes from knowing you will have zero interruptions on what you are about to do next.'

+++ do something. This is completely up to you! For some people meditating in the woods is easy but I need to be doing something more thought provoking. I usually go to a library, work on a painting, practice photography, build a puzzle, learn a new song on the piano (paper music sheets) or cook something new. It's not that your brain needs to be staring into a blank wall to rest, it simply needs to be able to focus on something with no outside interruptions. It is very good for your brain to work uninterruptedly and let it do it's thing. Other activities known to be fertile ground for DMN are fishing, gardening, painting a room, washing dishes, folding laundry...etc.

+++ journal. I am believe that journaling is good for both those who don't like it and for those who do. Journaling is one of the best ways to process your thoughts. If you tend to be an over-thinker, analyzer or creative -- journaling is exactly what you need and only for one reason: to declutter and organize your brain. I don't think whether you keep your journals & refer back to them later matters as much as the fact that you take time to sit down and process what you are thinking in the moment. My brain always feels much lighter after I jot down a few things on paper (and trust me I never refer back to them!)

Allowing time for mental breaks will boost your creative thinking, your ability to come up with solutions and new ideas, improve your mood & happiness. Let us know, what are some of ways to give your brain a break?