The second fundamental of health is Leisure. By this I mean rest, relaxation, meditation and especially sleep. It is when we sleep that our bodies rebuild and repair. Sleep is essential for our mental, physical and spiritual well-being, but it isn’t just the quantity of sleep, it’s the quality that’s so important. There are four phases of sleep. Once the fourth or deepest phase is attained, the body goes through a sort of sleeping rhythm, alternating between dream sleep and non-dream sleep. Distinct types of emotional and physical healing and building take place during these two distinct types of sleep. Both are necessary to maintain our health. Researchers have shown that sleep deprivation, and even poor quality sleep, suppresses the immune system and is severely detrimental to our health.
People who have trouble sleeping often feel the need to resort to sleep-inducing drugs. Although these drugs will put you to sleep, they interfere with the natural rhythm of sleep and never result in quality sleep. Herbs like hops, valerian and passion flower help induce a more natural sleep and are better alternatives for people who have trouble sleeping. (These three herbs are available in a sleep combination appropriately named Herbal Sleep.)
I also consider meditation to be an important part of this fundamental of health. Over 600 medical studies have proven that the regular practice of meditation offers countless psychological and physical benefits including improved health, reduced effects of aging, reduced stress and anxiety, lowered blood pressure and risk of stroke, increased intelligence and creativity, improved memory and learning ability, increased energy and sense of well-being, and improved function of the immune system. Many meditators have reported that they have found it easier to reduce alcohol use, stop smoking, and let go of unhealthy habits after being on a regular program of meditation. More about meditation, including how to do it, will be found in our Lesson on Meditation.