The Need for Rest and Recovery
Just as there is a natural rhythm to life, there is a natural rhythm to health and healing. The human body is designed to run like clockwork. In fact, the body contains several internal regulatory systems that ensure our organs (such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, lungs, and intestines) and immune, hormonal, and chemical systems function smoothly and rhythmically by balancing periods of biological activity with rest. Governing these complex processes is an actual structure that we refer to as the “body clock,” or the master system that regulates and interacts with the body’s “secondary” timing systems. Healthy sleep patterns are critical for regulating these processes.
We all know what happens when we don’t get adequate nighttime rest: We feel pretty lousy the next day. And no wonder, because when we’re tired from too little sleep, we become vulnerable to a cascading effect of negative biological consequences. We may become both mentally and physically sluggish in ways that profoundly affect our quality of life and make us much more prone to accidents or illness, including chronic disease.
Since our body clock regulates everything from sleeping and eating cues, core body temperature, hormone production, the regulation of insulin and glucose excretion, cell regeneration, brain wave activity— the list goes on and on— ignoring its cues costs us economically (in lost wages); socially (in poor communication and inter personal stress); mentally (by prompting everything from depression to psychosis, depending on how “broken” our clock has become); and physically (in the suppression of the immune system and the weakening of the body’s overall ability to fend off illness and re-generate health).
So learning to identify and respect our unique circadian rhythm is essential to wellness and disease prevention. All it takes is a willingness to listen in to the subtle— and not so subtle— cues our biological clocks give us throughout the day and to adjust our lifestyle choices so that they acknowledge and support these natural signals. When you become attuned to the unique rhythms of your own body, you’ll find that there is beauty to this synchrony.