Today I want to pick up where I left off in the C.R.E.A.T.I.O.N. Health model that I started telling you about a couple weeks ago. We began with C, which stands for choice. I hope you’ve been conscientiously making good, healthy choices, whenever possible!
The next letter in the acronym is R, which stands for rest. Intuitively, we all know that rest is important, not only for our health, but for the way we feel and even act. You know how it is. On those days when we’re short on sleep, we often tend to be short on patience, and in extreme cases, we can even be short-tempered. But some of the most surprising bits of evidence about the importance of sleep turned up as I was doing some research a few years ago for a cover story entitled “The Rest of the Story,” that I wrote for Vibrant Life magazine.
Did you know that sleep deprivation elevates the risk of heart disease in women? Reader’s Digest published an article in 2005 citing a Harvard study of 75,000 women in which heart disease and high blood pressure were linked to a lack of sleep. Other studies indicate that a lack of sleep is associated with higher levels of stress hormones, elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain, diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, impaired sexual functioning, and proneness to injuries. And these are just a few of the hazards of sleep loss. Does that make you think twice about burning the midnight oil? It does for me!
Actually, while we’re on the subject of rest, I want to make an important distinction. There’s actually a difference between sleep and rest—although both are important for the body. Here’s how Webster defines rest: “To cease from action or motion: refrain from labor or exertion. To be free from anxiety or disturbance.” In other words, rest provides our body with the opportunity to slow down, to change our pace and take a break from the hustle and bustle of life—a chance to renew. It’s an ancient concept, as old as Creation itself. The Bible tells us that during Creation week “on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2).
Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest (available at www.amazon.com) refers to a group of people, Seventh-day Adventists, who live in Loma Linda, California, one of the world’s four Blue Zones (the world’s healthiest places), who actually follow this principle and benefit from it. “They take a Sabbath Saturday they call the ‘sanctuary in time,’ Buettner says. “No matter how busy, no matter how stressed out they are, they'll take that 24 hours and focus on their God" (“Can 'Blue Zones' Help Turn Back the Biological Clock?” NPR story, June 8, 2008). According to Buettner, taking a weekly rest is one of the secrets of longevity.
Are you tired? Are you weary? Are you stressed out? Jesus says, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Now that’s an offer that’s just too good to refuse!