2009-10-30 / Columnists

Rockaway Walks Fitness Column

Relax, Rest And Sleep Well
Commentary By Steven McCartney, IPO, HSW, MS

Our brain is important in determining whether or not we can rest, relax, and get a good night's sleep.

The diencephalon is the region of the brain composed mostly of the thalamus and hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, located directly under the thalamus, is responsible for maintaining home ostasis through regulating all processes that affect the body's internal environments; neural centers here regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

It's important to know the differen - ces among relaxation, rest and sleep.

All three allow our bodies to slow down in various stages depending on how healthy we are.


1. Being relaxed (comfort with external environment),

2. At rest (body functions slow down / heart rate),

3. Getting sleep (least tense, organs repair and recover or manifest present condition and eyes are closed REM and non-REM sleep). Deep sleep produces about twice the amount of recuperation as do lighter stages of sleep.

The body must be able to recharge to a natural state of rest (sleep) which is an essential requirement for everyone, young and old. Healthy people sleeping under ideal conditions require less sleep than less healthy individuals. This is due to several factors.

First, a healthy person needs less re - cu peration due to less energy expenditure. Second, a healthy person is capable of a greater proportion of very sound sleep because of less internal body disturbance. Third, a healthy in - di vidual can regenerate nerve energy faster due to the increased efficiency of the person's faculties.

The ideal conditions of sleep are determined by both internal and external circumstances. The more comfortable the sleeper, the sounder their sleep will be. Quiet surroundings promote deeper sleep. Also, the less light in the sleeping area, the less disturbed will be the sleep. It is wise to have your home ventilated so that fresh air is continuously funneled to and through the bedroom. Even polluted air from the outside is better than stale air trapped indoors. Sleeping is also im - proved by working in a fresh air environment during the day.

Exercise helps calibrate our internal organs. Elimination is so accelerated by exercise that extraordinary body cleansing occurs. The body not only eliminates extra carbon dioxide generated during vigorous exercise, but it also occasions the removal of accumulated toxins ingested from nonfoods and drugs and toxins created as a result of overeating, eating wrong combinations, eating under stress, etc.

A pure, less toxic body needs less nerve energy. Less expenditure of nerve energy means less nerve energy need be generated, hence less sleep is required by a person who exercises regularly.

Here are some rules you should try related to diet and sleep:

The more wholesome the food, the less nerve energy is required to digest and use it. Wholesome food lessens sleep needs and increases sleep efficiency. The more unfit the foods eaten, the more nerve energy is expended and the more sleep is required. More - over, sleep will be less efficient when unwholesome foods are consumed.

Individuals who fast require only three to five hours of sleep daily after fasting for a short time. People who eat meat, condiments and cooked foods and who overeat require much more sleep. Despite the extra sleep, you are usually not well rested because of perpetual deficit of nerve energy due to unwholesome practices.

Try not to eat before your bedtime (at least two hours). Just because meals do sometimes cause drowsiness and sluggishness, due to the redirection of blood supply to the digestive organs, you can expect not to sleep well while the body is conducting digestive and assimilative tasks.

Eating more than the body needs imposes more work upon the body. Processing and disposing of food re - quir es a great deal of energy. Improper combinations or unwholesome foods usually end up in a pathogenic mess (radical cells) that drains the body's resources. This drain of energy results in poor sleep and in a correspondingly greater need for sleep. Individuals sleeping 12 hours daily may be less rested than a healthy person who gets only six hours. People who are tense and who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, besides improving their diet and getting more exercise and fresh air, should search for and find a relaxation method that will help them. Your bedding should permit optimal air flow and maintain an even, comfortable body temperature and even distribution of body weight over the underside. Practice good ergonomics, make your environment functional for sleep, rest and relaxing!

Taking rest intervals for a few minutes to an hour within your day not only rests the body, but it also permits the brain to substantially renew its fund of nerve energy. In many countries around the world, the siesta is a normal practice. A one- or two-hour nap after midday refreshes people in many parts of the world. This napping practice contributes to their health and well-being. Methods to relax re - quire practice in order for you to reap the benefits. If you feel you are not accomplishing anything, be patient and keep trying. Try another method if one you chose does not seem to work for you. Give each method at least two full weeks for a fair trial. Relaxation techniques should be practiced at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day, five days a week.

For managing arthritis chronic pain, it is wise to take short rest periods during the day, to avoid undue fatigue and to relieve stress. This is an excellent time to practice relaxation techniques. An advantage of relaxation techniques is that when muscles become less tense they become easier and less painful to move. In addition to releasing tension throughout the body, relaxation exercises help you to sleep better and feel more refreshed. They consist of: Distraction (using our minds to think of something else), Muscle relaxation (it is a combination of physical and cognitive technique), Guided Ima - gery (imagining ourselves in a story told by someone else), Self-Talk (look at the way we talk to ourselves and then changing the conversation), Visu - a lization (we tell ourselves a story or picture ourselves achieving a goalaction plan!), and Prayer or Medita - tion. I will be presenting an 8-session Arthritis Workshop at Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater Senior League (2716 Healy Avenue) beginning October 27 (every Tues - day until December 15) at 11 a.m. The workshop is being co-sponsored by Modell's Sporting Goods on Rocka way Turnpike. For questions or concerns, e-mail me at: steven_ - mccartney@walkprograms.com.

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