The Waking Rest-Activity Cycle

Your body is built for regular breaks throughout the day – much as it’s designed to sleep about eight hours a night.

These regular breaks are called “ultradian rhythms” that correspond to our active and resting cycles. Just like eye blinks and heart blinks, ultradian rhythms are built into the body’s control systems. They are characterized by extended “peak” periods (about 90 minutes) of high-output focus and productivity, followed by shorter “trough” periods (about 20 minutes) of lower-energy, reduced-output recovery times.

These energy troughs might seem like a drag and tempt you to reach for the coffee, but they serve an important purpose: They compel you to take a physical and mental rest; to recover from one “up” period and prepare for the next.

Taking a “rest” just means you need to take a break from your work and allow your mind to do its own thing.

Skipping breaks affects your cognitive capacity and your mood suffers. As the day wears on, your willpower gets depleted, and you become more vulnerable to cravings, impulses and inflammation.

Want to avoid that? Here’s how to identify and make the most of your ultradian rhythms:

  • Be on the lookout for signals that you need a break: fatigue, brain fog, loss of focus and productivity, yawning, food cravings, thirst, difficulty keeping your eyes open.
  • Take a truly restorative break: refill you water bottle or tea cup; have a healthy snack; get outside; do a little deep breathing; take a walk; do an easy manual task; connect with someone you enjoy.
  • If you have been sitting still, move. If you’ve been exerting yourself, slow down. If you have been focusing intensely let your mind wander.
  • Resist the temptation to rely on coffee, sugar, and refined-carb infusions as replacements for your breaks; these only run your battery down further.
  • Web surfing, social media, and digital gaming are also inadequate substitutes for an actual break. All are too stimulating.
  • Try setting an alarm on your phone that reminds you to check in with yourself every 90 minutes. After a while you won’t need the reminder.
  • Plan for a couple of breaks a day, one in the morning and one midafternoon. A 20-minute break is ideal, but any pause, even 5 or 10 minutes, is better than nothing. The longer your break, the more your body can restore and repair itself.


Recipe of the Week:

If you are a fan of Mexican food, then this recipe for Mexi-Cauli Rice will quickly become a staple in your kitchen. Great by itself, or top with shredded chicken or grilled shrimp with salsa and avocado.

Quote of the Week:

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you”

Stephanie Bennett Henry

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