Go ahead, hit that snooze button.
Rest days and sleep play an instrumental part in living a healthy lifestyle. Without proper rest and recovery time, the body is not given the break it needs to repair and build muscles, relax the brain, or help you maintain alertness throughout your day.
So, how much sleep is enough?
In an issue of Sleep Health, the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, they broke down sleep recommendations into nine age-specific categories (shown below).
- Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
- Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
- Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
- Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
- School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
- Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
- Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
Instead of using this as a hard and fast rule, think of it as a guideline for roughly how much rest you should be getting each night. The standard rule of thought is a minimum of 7 hours of sleep to improve health.1
As for rest days away from your typical gym routine, it’s suggested that one to two rest days between workouts is ideal, but listen to your body – if it’s asking for a break, give it a break.
Why Rest Days Matter
Whether your goal is to lose weight, become healthier, stronger, or otherwise, rest days should be a part of your journey to get there. All exercise puts physical stress on the body (which can be good), but too much of this can lead to fatigue, injury and even reverse or stall your progress.2
You need to allow your body enough time to rebuild muscle tissue and generate new energy for the next day.
What You Should Do on Rest Days
Rest and recovery days are not necessarily an excuse to eat whatever you want and remain completely inactive. A rest day can mean the difference between taking a day off from your normal routine, and instead switching it out with something lighter, like yoga or a short jog instead of a full run.
If you’re in the mood for something even lighter, try stretching. Stretching has been shown to decrease stress, reduce pain and stiffness, improve health, enhance range of motion, improve muscular function, reduce risk of injury, enhance performance, improve blood flow and circulation, minimize wear and tear on joints, and improve overall quality of life.3
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Rest
- Your immune system weakens.
- Your brain begins to get fuzzy and can impact decision-making, problem-solving, memory, reaction time and alertness.
- You can gain weight. Sleep deprivation could wreak havoc on your hormones and cause you to crave more carb-loaded and sugary foods.
- Your looks can suffer. No one wants additional wrinkles, under eye dark circles or a “tired” looking appearance.
The takeaway is that it’s completely and 100% OK to give your body a break. In fact, it needs a break every now and then.
So go ahead, get some extra shut-eye and you’ll be ready to get back to your busy routine… tomorrow.