Carnegie Mellon University

May 2020 Director's Corner: 
Importance of Rest

When I started this series of articles on ways to foster children’s development as innovators poised to improve life on earth for their own and future generations, I could not have even imagined how quickly lives across the globe would change nor how creatively diverse individuals would rise above the fear to make it better.  Innovations in care and cures, business models and technologies, entertainment and philanthropy emerged as distinctions blurred between work and home, virtual and actual, essential and optional.  But the pace of innovation has been staggering, and we are now experiencing the exhaustion and growing impatience of our community.

The abrupt loss of our comfortable routines afforded new choices, while the stay-at-home order resulted in much more available time.  After an initially slow start, we have been blessed with incredible support from leaders in all sectors to help us both survive the pandemic’s impact and manage our choices and time.  Perhaps you remember that choice, time, and support were the first three ingredients in my recipe for fostering innovation.  Now, the fatigue and irritation that many of us are experiencing signal the importance of the final ingredient: Rest. After months of near constant innovation within our own homes and families to invent new daily routines, convert living spaces into work and school spaces, devise do-it-yourself methods to replace services no longer available, etc., our brains and our bodies desperately need rest.

Significance of Sleep: Start with getting a good night’s sleep, which research shows is necessary for physical healing, boosting the immune system, improving concentration, and consolidating memory.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep a full one-third of each day and that young children need almost 12 hours of sleep per 24.  In other words, sleep should be a big item on our daily To Do lists.

Separation from Screens: One factor in adult exhaustion during this season of working from home is the increased hours of screen time that have replaced face-to-face interactions and the decrease in breaks between meetings for the stretching, walking, and socializing that help invigorate us to concentrate on the next task.  Sleep experts also recommend separating from our screens several hours before bedtime in order to allow our bodies to relax and fall asleep more easily.  Though there is less research on this topic with young children, there is ample research showing the benefits of engagement in play, manipulations of tangible objects, and time outdoors.

Respect for Recreation: Purposely taking time for enjoying leisure activities is relaxing and refreshing for both mind and body.  We may have to use a little more imagination than usual to create fun respites for ourselves and our children when many of our typical recreational facilities are closed, but here is where life with young children has its benefits.  They find joy and humor in the simplest pleasures, and their laughs are contagious.  Pause to be present in the moment with them, and feel free to let yourself go with their flow.  Reading, playing board games, scavenger hunts, taking walks around the block, and even bath time can be done with creative twists, especially if we invite the children to suggest silly modifications and we are willing to play along.

Whatever our “new normal” may be for the summer and beyond, caring for ourselves and our children by ensuring adequate rest is essential.  Prioritizing respite, and helping each other to make it practically possible, will help us most effectively capitalize on the choices we have, the time we are given and the support available to drive our personal and professional innovation to new frontiers.