What if modern medicine didn’t exist? Rest and sleep

Resting is a classic, time-honored tradition. Long before the techniques of “modern medicine” existed, when you got sick, you went to your place of rest or sleep and you didn’t get up until you felt better. In fact, I always remember this about the Bari Indians of the Colombian Amazon region with whom I spent some time. Within this native and then isolated group, when one felt poorly one would take to her/his hammock, stay there and not eat until they felt better. Resting and saving all energies for healing was the cure.

This was the case with my grandmother. I’ve told you how she inspired my interest in bone health and that she passed away at the age of 102 after experiencing a hip fracture. Well, when she fell in the bath tub and broke her hip at age 101, my dad asked her if she wanted to go to the doctor. She replied, “No, I have been there before” and that she had taken care of her sons for 100 years and now they should take care of her. Her inner wisdom told her to take to her bed where she spent one year pain-free and mentally alert watching Ronald Reagan and MASH on TV and resting with her family and friends attending to her.


My grandmother chose rest. Yes, I can hear you shouting, “but what the heck… she was 101 years old!” Well, my point is that even us youngsters might do well to rest more often. My grandmother and the Bari Indians in a sense were very wise, understanding the body’s need to reserve its energies for healing. That is the need for rest.

Today most of us feel the need to “push through it” when we feel exhausted or ill, rather than listen to what our body is telling us. Even as more and more research appears on the healing potential of rest and sleep — or how your body responds when you don’t get enough.

For example, we know that sleep plays an important role bone health. In the South Dakota Rural Bone Health Study, men who were sleep deprived (which the study considered less than 6.5 hours a night) had smaller, thinner, and weaker bones than men who were not sleep deprived, and women who were sleep deprived had lower bone density than the women who were not sleep deprived.

I personally find that getting to bed by 10:30 PM and raising at 6:30 AM leaves me vital and energetic. When I get fatigued in the afternoon, I remind myself to take a few minutes to meditate or even nap. Such a short break refreshes and enlivens my body, mind and spirit.

Adequate rest and sleep both have been part of our innate healing process for hundreds of thousands of years. The next time you hear your intelligent body providing the call to rest, sleep or take a refreshing break, I hope you will recognize its wisdom. Myself, I’m off to take a swing in the hammock right now.

Be well and thrive.


Specker, B et al.2007. Volumetric bone mineral density and bone size in sleep-deprived individuals. Osteoporosis International. Volume 18, Number 1, 93-99, DOI: 10.1007/s00198-006-0207, URL: http://www.springerlink.com/content/g263772865842g60/export-citation/ (accessed 08.22.2011)


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