"AND on the seventh day God ended his work which He had made; and he
rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed
the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all
his work which God created and made." Genesis 2:2-3
Of course, God did not rest on the seventh day because He was tired or
fatigued. To rest simply means to cease a particular activity. In this case God
had ceased His work of creation and was sanctifying (setting apart) the seventh
day for something else, namely, fellowship with Adam and Eve as they enjoyed the
newly created earth together. Thus, the seventh day was set apart for all time,
and ever after was to be kept holy as a reminder of the truth about our earth's
creation and as a day to worship God.
Notice that with the creation of our world activity preceded rest. The
principle of activity preceding rest is an important one for our health.
Physical and mental activity both require energy and create waste products. As
the energy level goes down and wastes accumulate, we experience fatigue and a
desire for rest. During rest, energy is restored, and the waste buildup is
diminished. An important difference between physical and mental activity is that
physical activity usually leaves the muscles relaxed, whereas prolonged mental
activity alone leaves the muscles tense. Rest and sleep are dependent upon our
ability to relax; the person who is tense is not relaxing, and therefore cannot
really rest. In our sedentary society, unbalanced by too much mental and not
enough physical activity, we need more muscular exercise in order to truly
relax, rest, and counteract fatigue.
Fatigue is protective in that it serves to make us aware of our need of rest.
It is not a good idea to ignore this signal or to try to counteract it with
drugs. The "coffee break" is anything but restful. Coffee and
cigarettes provide an artificial stimulation, but without any recuperation. The
underlying fatigue is still there. As fatigue increases, efficiency and
Relaxing with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs is not recommended. They all
have dangerous side effects and do not teach one how to relax naturally or how
to avoid the causes of tension. They do not supply any energy, but actually
cause the person to borrow excessive amounts of energy from his own emergency
reserves, some of which are never replenished. Fatigue is actually increased
instead of decreased by the use of these drugs.
There are many other factors that can produce fatigue, such as overeating,
lack of exercise, stress, stale air, and not drinking enough water. There is
also "pathological fatigue" that may be caused by diseases like
anemia, heart failure, depressed thyroid or adrenal function, cancer, or any
chronic infection. Unaccountable or persistent fatigue should be reported to a
In spite of our fatigue we are a very recreational society. We have
recreational vehicles, recreation balls, recreation parks, and on and on. The
work week has shortened over the years. Some industries are moving toward a
30-hour work week and experimenting with 20. Our leisure time is lengthening,
and there is more money to spend--at least there is credit. Is all our
recreating helping us obtain the rest we need? To help ourselves, let's first
learn to pronounce the word a new way. Instead of' "wreckreation,"
let's say "re-creation." For those who are tired of feeling
"wrecked" after their recreation here are some suggestions for
"re-creative" activities. Make them something different from your
usual work, done at your own pace-no deadlines. Of course, you should enjoy
them. Something of a practical or creative nature is ideal. Having the activity
be something outdoors with the family is nice, but it needs to he engaged in
with the heart (cheerfully, not grudgingly), and it should be noncompetitive.
The less expensive the better. It should he engaged in more frequently for
shorter durations, rather than saving it all up for a two-week annual vacation.
How many come home from their vacation needmg a vacation to recuperate from their vacation? Our "recreation"
could even come on a weekly basis. After all, God Himself worked six days, then
rested the seventh. He invites us to do the same today. We all need a rest, or
break, from the routine of our major activity. For the person felling trees or
doing construction work a rest could mean sitting down with a good book. But for
the salesman or secretary, resting might mean an invigorating hike in the
mountains. Our ability to rest also depends upon our ability to shift gears.
Some people take their work home. They can pick up work, but they can't lay it
down. They seem unable to cease. We should be able to say along with the
one-hundred-year-old man, who, when asked the secret of long life, responded,
"When ah works, ah works hard, and when ah sits, ah sits loose-like."
Other ways to help bring relaxation include taking a warm bath or a shower,
sitting or reclining comfortably while listening to soothing music or reading
something uplifting. Enjoyable, non-stressful hobbies, being out in nature,
doing some simple deed for somebody else, and prayer are also forms of
Physical work usually makes muscular relaxation automatic afterward. But it
is surprising how much useless muscular tension we can maintain. Clenched fists
and set jaws, furrowed brows and jumpy knees, even squinting eyes are
tension-producing habits to overcome. Progressive muscle relaxation exercises
can help in breaking these habits, as long as they are used to illustrate the
difference between how a tense and a relaxed muscle feels and to practice
relaxing areas of tension. However, many teachers today use progressive muscle
relaxation, as well as transcendental meditation, autogenetic training,
hypnosis, biofeedback, deep-breathing exercises, and visualization exercises to
elicit the "relaxation response." The so-called relaxation response is
basically another name for a particular altered state of consciousness with a
high alpha brainwave index. When we train ourselves to enter into this state to
help us relax, there may be some unhealthful side effects, such as brain damage,
insanity, and spiritualistic or psychic phenomena. These techniques that overtly
or covertly teach people to enter into an "alpha state" are not
necessary for health or to relax, especially when there are equally effective
and safe methods such as we have already recommended.
Rest is so important to life that the vital organs are designed with built-in
rest periods. The heart rests between each heat, and the lungs between each
breath. The stomach rests between each meal if it is given time. The central
nervous system is recharged during sleep.
Rest and relaxation cannot take the place of sleep. Human beings were
designed to be awake during the day and asleep at night. We are
"larks," not "owls." Wakefulness and sleepiness are normally
controlled by enzymes and hormone systems within the body which remain fairly
fixed, even if one were to remain isolated in total darkness or total light.
These "internal clocks" can he nudged forward or backward a few
degrees. They may also be ignored, but not without negative consequences. It is
better to avoid rotating-shift work. These workers are twice as likely to have
trouble sleeping. They report less job satisfaction and have lower work
productivity. They tend to use more coffee to get going and more alcohol and
sleeping pills to go to sleep. Many shifts rotate in the wrong direction. It is
better to go from days, to evening, to nights (rotating clockwise), not the
other way (days to nights to evenings--rotating counterclockwise.) Also, most
shifts rotate too frequently. Workers should stay on a shift at least ten days,
since it takes about five days to adapt. The more slowly the shift rotates the
better. Here are some additional suggestions. Gradually change the hours of
sleep when nearing the end of the shift, and on days off between shifts,
adjusting clockwise three hours per day in anticipation of the next shift so
that the change isn't quite so drastic Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and other
drugs that complicate and confuse the body's normal functioning. Practice strict
regularity in all aspects of the daily schedule even on the days off.
With increased air travel, jet lag becomes a problem for many. To reduce jet
lag, get enough sleep before you leave; in flight, eat little, and take no
alcohol or caffeine; reset your watch to your new time zone; and adapt to your
new time by walking, talking, and keeping occupied till bedtime.
As a rule, plan to go to bed early (before 10 PM.). It has been estimated
that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. Studies
have shown 7-9 hours of sleep per night to be most healthful. Nine or more hours
have been associated with decreased health and six or less with the poorest
The first prerequisite for a good night's sleep is daily exercise. Remember,
activity precedes rest. In our sedentary society imbalances between physical and
mental activity are common. To much brain work and not enough physical work
cause the muscles to be in a state of tension. (However, too much exercise too
near bedtime can keep you awake.) Tension lessens the depth and soundness of
sleep. The quality of sleep depends on the ability to relax. City living, with
all its light and sound, is not very conducive to sleep or test. Noise pollution
is doubling about every 10 years. We may not even be aware of all the sounds
that are around us, but they can still affect us by producing tension and
It is better to wear pajamas or a warm nightgown and use lighter weight
covers, than to use heavy blankets. Do not cover the head while sleeping. Leave
the windows open several inches to allow fresh air in the room. Beds should not
sag or be too soft. Pillows should be flat, except in cases of hiatus hernia or
heart failure where the head should he elevated a few inches. Avoid starting new
activities late in the day. Allow yourself time to wind down. Have an evening
ritual. Avoid stimulants such as television, drugs, and rich, spicy food at
night before going to bed. Big evening meals interfere with good sleep,
especially in children. If needed, naps should be taken before lunch, not in the
evening. Even a fifteen-minute rest before lunch is worth about forty-five
minutes of nighttime sleep. Keep well hydrated. Stay alert and active during the
waking hours. The quieter and darker the room, the better the sleep. Patients
with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may do better sleeping on their
stomach with a pillow under their chest. People with back problems can try
sleeping on their side. All these suggestions should improve the quality of
Sleeping pills alter the sleep cycle and decrease REM sleep. As the body
tries to make up the lost REM sleep, too-frequent dreaming and nightmares occur
which disturb the sleep even further. Thus, the regular use of sleeping pills
does not promote good sleep and can make insomnia worse. Sleep complaints should
he considered as any other health problem. They are only symptoms. The cause
should be ascertained and corrected. Is the problem acute or chronic? Keep a weekly
24-hour log. Compare your living habits with ones that promote good sleep,
such as those suggested in this article. Not following good "sleep
hygiene" habits is responsible for 60 percent of all disorders. Daytime
drugs affect us at night too. Anxiety is the chief cause of insomnia, whereas
depression tends to cut sleep short in the mornings.
The most outstanding symptoms of sleep loss are depression and apathy,
interspersed with irritability and aggression. The best way to recover from a
bad night is to resume the normal schedule. If a nap is needed, it should be
short, no more than 30 minutes, and not in the evening.
Those who still have trouble falling asleep can try a little hops or catnip
tea before bedtime. Slow, deep breathing or soaking in a neutral bath for ten
minutes may help. Blot the skin dry and move slowly and quietly.
Don't panic. Worrying and concentrating on sleeping will drive it from you.
Just resting in bed will do you good anyway. But let's face it, when there's a
serious concern on our minds, these tactics are like aiming a pea shooter at a
charging elephant. The cause of the concern must be squarely dealt with. If ii
is an interpersonal problem, then make things right as fast as you can.
"let not the sun go down on your wrath." Ephesians 4:26. If it is a
financial problem or some other circumstance that is threatening, we need to do
our part and leave the remainder with God. Remember; to rest means to cease our
activity. It also means to cease from our worries and the cares of the day. We
are given only one day at a time, and no one knows what the next day will bring.
It could be better than we think, especially if we heed the invitation of a
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in
heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30