Thoughts on Rest

Although I’m really enjoying my experiment with polyphasic sleep, I’ve been troubled by some of the implied values in the rhetoric surrounding its proponents. They desire more productive time in their life and are taking it from they only place they can: a full night’s sleep.

Being productive is a good thing in itself, but industrialization brought with it cold calculations of human worth based on productivity. You are only worth what you produce, and those who don’t or can’t produce are worthless. There is little room for joy or art or play in this view of the world, and there is no space for rest but what is absolutely required.

Rest is a theological concept that has to do with more than just sleep. Rest is connected to the idea of Sabbath, the day of rest mandated for the Jewish people by Yahweh. Sabbath became a broader concept for Christians, who were taught by Jesus that rest is not about legalastic observation of the Sabbath, but rather some broader concept of being in relationship with himself.1

Rest is here seen as a state of being and as a relationship to God in Christ. Rest seems to be a way to describe a life lived in harmony with God and God’s purposes. While productivity is no doubt a part of the rhythms of a restful life, it cannot be the main thing.

So, has my experiment with polyphasic sleep led to a frenzy of productivity? Not really. I’m still adjusting, which means that those extra hours of wakefulness haven’t been of the highest quality. But even when I’ve been alert, I’ve noticed that, so far, I’m not doing that much more, but what I am doing is much less stressful. It seems that having more time in the day produces the novel feeling that there’s enough time. I’m relaxed and unhurried. It’s delightfully strange.

We’ll see how things evolve as I keep on with this. Will I once again fill my waking hours to bursting? Will I maintain the more restful quality of life I’ve been experiencing over the last 2 weeks? Time will tell.


  1. See Mk 2:23-28 and Mat 11:28. 

Observing the (Secular) Sabbath

Mark Bittman details his journey of observing a secular day of rest from technology over the past six months. Fascinating. I think I might just need to sign up. Link after the quote below:

Flying home from Europe a few months ago, I swiped a credit card through the slot of the in-seat phone, checked my e-mail and robbed myself of one of my two last sanctuaries.

At that point, the only other place I could escape was in my sleep. Yet I had developed the habit of leaving a laptop next to my bed so I could check my e-mail, last thing and first thing. I had learned how to turn my P.D.A. into a modem, the better to access the Web from my laptop when on a train. Of course I also used that P.D.A. in conventional ways, attending to it when it buzzed me.

In short, my name is Mark, and I’m a techno-addict. But after my airplane experience, I decided to do something about it. Thus began my “secular Sabbath” — a term I found floating around on blogs — a day a week where I would be free of screens, bells and beeps. An old-fashioned day not only of rest but of relief.

I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.