Why Rest is ESSENTIAL to creativity and healing

Running on empty isn't our goal; why rest is essential to creativity and healing with Dr. Aoife Earls ND, Naturopathic Doctor in Oakville Ontario

This little mon­key is a cutie, and he’s my cutie, but as you can tell, REST is not in his primary goals :)

He’s almost 3, and already rul­ing the roost. Sleep has not been his MO since he arrived, and hon­estly it’s taken its toll on this tired mama. I’ve been tak­ing a hard line on rest in my life and it’s helped a lot.

I work with mostly moth­ers in their ‘prime of life’, but many of them don’t feel like the ages they are, and frankly most of them are like me, very tired. They want to do more for them­selves, but they are sup­port­ing aging par­ents, suf­fer­ing from the loss of fam­ily mem­bers as begins (if not it has already happened) while rais­ing young fam­il­ies. The one main thing we work on togeth­er is get­ting them back to sleep, and pri­or­it­iz­ing rest. Why?

Sleep depriva­tion is akin to driv­ing drunk, as described by the National Sleep Foundation. We don’t form memor­ies prop­erly, our sup­posedly “super­i­or” human brains actu­ally can­not use their thoughts the way they should because our brains are designed to go into REM cycles dur­ing sleep for heal­ing and clean­ing. Our brains without this time to heal and rest can begin to work against us, and our hor­mones cortisol and adren­aline designed to sup­port us in stress­ful times actu­ally push this sleep depriva­tion fur­ther, believ­ing from a bio­lo­gic­al level that we need to push through to survive.

The fatigue is a sign of need­ing more REST, less activ­ity, earli­er bed­times, less “yes” and more “no”. But when you’re exhausted, what is “yes” and “no” in itself are dif­fi­cult decisions to make. So what to do?

  1. Routine
  2. Rectify
  3. Rejuvenate


  • 1. Our bod­ies crave routine in rest, and that first place to begin is your bed­time hour. If you’re going to bed late as a par­ent to get more “you” time, you’re actu­ally not get­ting the you time, you’re feed­ing the “stress” you. It’s a hard real­iz­a­tion, but it’s an import­ant one. More sleep = more even­tu­al “you” time. I’ll talk about this in a minute.
    Solution: Whatever your nor­mal bed­time is, cut it back by 30 minutes. If you go to bed at 11:30, get your­self ready and phys­ic­ally and in bed for 11 pm. Then ini­tially if you can­’t sleep, do some­thing calm­ing. Reading, med­it­at­ing, listen­ing to music…anything that gently engages your mind while your body is just lying there. See if you can observe over 2 weeks that you are actu­ally tired or more able to rest at that earli­er time. If not, read on!


  • 2. Undoubtedly as you start to identi­fy your need for sleep (and some nights might be bet­ter than oth­ers) you might notice you actu­ally have a prob­lem rest­ing. For some people, their stress hor­mones have become dys­reg­u­lated (not doing what they are sup­posed to do) and they actu­ally pre­vent you from sleep­ing. This is when you might reach out to a health pro­fes­sion­al to sup­port you and find out if you have a bio­lo­gic­al reas­on you are not sleep­ing. Or, you might dis­cov­er you can sleep through the night and are get­ting more sleep, but you real­ize that lying down for the night you have a lot of wor­ries in your head, and it’s hard to organ­ize and calm your thoughts and the feel­ings that go with them.
    Solution: Reach out to a health pro­fes­sion­al (psy­cho­lo­gist for anxi­ety, natur­o­path­ic doc­tor or med­ic­al doc­tor for mind-body com­bin­a­tion of sleep deprivation)


  • 3. Once you are get­ting more sleep, then it is about find­ing out where in your life you actu­ally are giv­ing your resources, time, or energy away that are con­trib­ut­ing to your energy fatigue. In this instance for myself, I am very care­ful how I expend my energy around 5 – 7:30 where my son is at his most tired and we need to get him fed, bathed and into bed. I am also care­ful to make sure I am fed and have a snack if he is tired as sim­pler examples.
    Solution: Look at your life for areas of energy depriva­tion and make dif­fer­ent choices.

Then I can con­cen­trate on the things that make me feel happy, reju­ven­ated and pas­sion­ate (like writ­ing, talk­ing to friends or fam­ily, or watch­ing some­thing on TV that makes me laugh).

Changes are not easy, but they are neces­sary. I prom­ise, REST is the very first stage. 

Download this quick ref­er­ence guide sum­mary to see where you might be hav­ing chal­lenges with your sleep.

Dr. Aoife ND 


Sleep depriva­tion increases form­a­tion of false memory.Lo JC, et al. J Sleep Res 2016 — Clinical Trial. PMID 27381857 Free PMC art­icle.
Effects of sleep depriva­tion on cog­ni­tion.Killgore WD. Prog Brain Res 2010 — Review. PMID 21075236
The sleep-deprived human brain.
Krause AJ, et al. Nat Rev Neurosci 2017 — Review. PMID 28515433 Free PMC article.

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