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Sleep And Rest

Sources: A Handbook Of Health

Why We Need Rest. A most important element in a life of healthful

exercise, study, and play is rest. Even when we are hard at work, we

need frequent breathing spells and changes of occupation and amusement

to keep one part of our muscles, or our brains, from poisoning itself.

But after a time, in even the strongest and toughest of us, there comes

a period when no change of occupation, no mere sitting still, will rest

; we begin to feel drowsy and want to go to sleep. This means partly

that the fatigue poisons, in spite of fresh air and change, have piled

up faster than we can burn them, so that we need sleep to restore the


All day long we are making more carbon dioxid than the oxygen we breathe

in can take care of; while we sleep, the situation is reversed--the

oxygen is gaining on the carbon dioxid. This is why the air in our

bedrooms ought to be kept especially pure and fresh.

But the need goes deeper than this: sleeping and waking are simply parts

of the great rhythm in which all life beats--a period of work followed

by a period of rest. Continuous, never-ceasing activity for any living

thing quickly means death. While externally the body appears to be at

rest, the processes of growth and upbuilding probably go on more rapidly

when we are asleep than when we are awake. The benefits of exercise are

made permanent and built into the body during the sleep that follows it.

The more rapidly young animals are growing, the more hours out of the

twenty-four they spend in sleep. When you sleep, you are not stopping

all the useful activities of your body and mind, you are simply giving

some of the most useful and most important of them a chance to work. The

only likeness between sleep and death is that in both the body is quiet

and the eyes are closed. Really we are never more alive and growing than

when asleep.

It is of the utmost importance that young children especially have all

the sleep they need, and that is precisely all that they can be induced

to take. The best rule for you, then, to follow, is to go to bed when

you feel sleepy, and to get up when you wake rested. Every child under

twelve should have at least ten hours of sleep, and every grown person

eight, or better still, nine hours. Time spent in sound, refreshing

sleep, is time well spent. If you cannot sleep well, it is a signal that

something is wrong with your health, or your habits--a danger signal of

great importance, which should be attended to at once. The best and only

safe sleep-producer is exercise in the open air.