Sleep: knowing your body, part 1

After taking a break for the summer to explore my own body and health, and to reconnect with why I’m writing this blog and get some inspiration for new posts, I’m back with a new series that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: knowing your own body and what does and does not work for you.  Everyone is different, and while there is a lot of health, fitness, and diet advice floating around out there, not everything is going to work for everyone.  It can be difficult to sift through all of the advice, so this series will cover how to sort through it all and find what works for you.

Let’s start by talking about the topic American culture seems to talk about easily, but isn’t so good at practicing — rest.  What is rest?  Merriam-Webster defines rest in a few different ways:

A bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; freedom from activity or labor; a state of motionlessness or inactivity; the repose of death.

Obviously, “the repose of death” is beyond the scope of this blog.  After all, I’m talking about how to stay healthy while alive!  But the other definitions offered give a comprehensive overview of how and when we rest.

Firstly, rest is defined as “a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities,” which leads me to believe that, here, they are referring to sleep, and honestly, this definition doesn’t do justice to the important role sleep plays in a healthy life.

According to Harvard Medical School, getting enough sleep allows people to

  • learn and remember new information,
  • make healthier food and drink choices,
  • move through their day safely and with fewer mistakes.

Enough sleep also improves cardiovascular health, mood, and the immune system.

So, how much sleep is enough?  The National Institutes of Health recommends 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night for adults, but keep in mind that this is an average range and that some people might need more sleep.  Ok, 7 to 8 hours, that’s kind of helpful, but it’s a range, so how do you know how much sleep you need?  The only way to know for sure is to pay attention to how you feel with various amounts of sleep.  If you normally get 7 hours of sleep, see if you can get 8 hours and notice how you feel.  Are you more rested?  Did you wake up before 8 hours?  Are you still looking for more sleep?  If you’re trying to get 8 hours of sleep, but consistently wake up after sleeping for 7 hours and you feel well-rested throughout the day, then you probably only need 7 hours.  If you still have trouble getting up after 8 hours, you might need a little more sleep.  After some experimenting, I have discovered, for example, that I do best with 8.5 or 9 hours of sleep.  I don’t always get that much sleep, but now that I know how much sleep I need to function well, I do my best to get to bed early enough to get that much sleep.

Next week, I’ll dive into the other aspects of rest — taking a break from work and taking time to be inactive.

Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.