Too much activity can lead to a suppressed immune system, increased perception of pain, anxiety, depression, mental confusion, injuries due to clumsiness or improper spatial awareness-- to name a few results. Contrary to popular opinion, caffeine cannot overcome sleep deprivation. In fact, some studies show drinking a hot beverage such as cocoa, tea or coffee can make a sleep-deprived person drowsy in spite of the caffeine.
"But," you say, "I'm so busy I don't have time to scratch my elbow. How can I possibly find time for a nap?" If you are like most of the world, you might even think it is lazy or childish to take naps. You might think that because your schedule only allows 4-6 hours of sleep per night that
you would have to take a 3 hour nap to catch up on all your needed rest. The amazing fact about rest is that it doesn't have to take much time from your busy schedule. A 15-20 minute nap in the afternoon (around 2 or 3pm) has been shown to increase productivity, creativity and alertness as well as boost the immune system. Think about it! What was the most common treatment for illness prior to anti-biotics? You've got it! Rest! If rest is that helpful to people recovering from illness, think of how much more powerful it could be to the healthy person.
Now, what I am not saying is that you can skimp on your sleep for days and weeks on end and then make up for it by "power napping". The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep, though some need as little as 5 or as many as 10 hours rest. Infants should have a minimum of 16 hours while teens need at least 9 hours. Children younger need at least 12 hours. All sleep and naps need to be done on a consistent schedule in order for the body to benefit. Irregular sleep patterns can be almost as harmful as insufficient sleep.
Think of sleep as a bank from which you make withdrawals. When you don't get enough, it is comparative to an overdraft. Ineffective scheduling affects sleep patterns and quality just as not balancing your checkbook can lead to poor money management.
That being said, the world, in general, does not give enough credit to the Jewish tradition of Sabbath-keeping. Now, grace-based believers, I know it was originally created for a specific people for a specific time frame. However, the day of rest brought not only spiritual rejuvenation but also great physical benefits.
Even the Earth was given Sabbaths. Today's commercial farm land has been so overworked that the soil is depleted from many of it's nutrients. So many things in our present world have been affected by the lack of Sabbath resting that it would take another post or two to detail. I'm not one to say to you that you will die and go to hell for not keeping the Sabbath but I do think we need to re-examine the whole concept again as we live in this sleep-deprived world.
I heard it said once, "So what if you're tired. The world is RUN by tired people! Get used to it". Perhaps that is our problem! Perhaps that saying is too true!
Whatever the problem, we could all benefit from more times of rest and relaxation. I, for one, am trying to learn how to rest. One of my goals this year is to increase productivity by becoming a "do-nothing" once in a while. Won't you join me?
Ooh, and there is one more inescapable element--Faith.
St. Augustine said that the soul will find itself restless until it finds it's rest in God.