It’s immensely important. And as you might know - we like to talk about it. From the role of sleep in our working lives, to the necessity of duvet days, to the different ways we can take time off - it’s a big thing for us.
The business world never stops moving, and keeping up means it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Staying late at the office, or powering through the day with too many espressos at lunchtime, can be the kind of thing that sends us on a downward spiral. The more hectic and stressful work life is, the easier it is to compromise on rest for the sake of getting more done.
You don’t need us to tell you that rest is important, for health, productivity, creativity and sanity. A long read to get stuck into can illuminate the big ideas in ways a blog can’t always manage. So if you’re taking some time off soon - and you definitely should - why not pick up a few of these to enjoy in your downtime?
(We’ve included some links for convenience - there’s no affiliation, we’re not making any money if you click, and you’re just as welcome to request them at your local library instead.)
Books about rest
1) Rest - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
We’ve referenced this a few times in previous blogs, and for good reason - it’s a call for recognising that work and rest aren’t polar opposites: "Many of us are interested in how to work better, but we don't think very much about how to rest better."
The subtitle is ‘Why you get more done when you work less’, which is a great attitude to have. We’ll keep a keen eye on the author’s upcoming book, 'Shorter: How Working Less Will Revolutionise the Way your Company Gets Things Done’. How very Timetastic.
2) Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker
This mega-bestseller is popular for good reason. Revelation after revelation takes up each page in this easily readable work. Walker is a neuroscientist who’s spent years researching the importance of getting not just enough sleep, but good quality sleep. From ensuring mental performance and emotional health, to disease prevention and weight control, sleep is the ultimate necessity. Have a read - you’ll never stay up too late again!
3) The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age - Claudia Hammond
Drawing from the largest ever worldwide survey into rest, this research-backed tome explores how to rest better, rest more, and get the most out of life in work and leisure.
The author also wrote Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, about how our brains perceive the passage of time - great for understanding how to make the work day go quicker and holidays last longer. She's clearly an expert in how to best spend time.
4) The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience and the Secret World of Sleep - Dr. Guy Leschziner
This one makes a good complement to Why We Sleep, and seeks to answer the question, “what happens to our brain at night?”
A mix of weird real-life stories and brand new neuroscience, this book explores many of the fringe cases in sleep medicine to provide insight into what most people do when they turn off the lights. Nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, and more fun stuff.
5) How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy - Jenny Odell
Do we need to be online all the time? This passionate polemic questions our participation in the digital space of modern times. It looks at how to filter out the pointless inanities of online life, and escape the attention-grabbing outrage cycle that turns our anxieties into profit.
It shows a new path to reconnecting with ourselves and our environment - something desperately needed by those of us burnt out by digital devices. We’d first recommend going out and leaving your phone - then turn your precious attention to reading this book.
6) Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology - Cal Newport
A more practical companion to the above, Cal Newport's slim volume teaches us how to make technology work for us, not the other way around. Resisting the addictive pull of devices engineered for compulsive use is simple, if not easy, if you put a few systems in place.
With a little planning and mindful technology use, our minds rest better at night and work better in the day. Cal's other book, Deep Work, is also a great read on keeping your brain in shape to produce your best work.
7) The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere - Pico Iyer
This short read was one of the first books published by the TED imprint, after Iyer's great talk on stillness did the rounds a few years ago. It explores how staying in one place (physically but also spiritually) can be an exciting prospect, despite our anxious need to constantly move.
A mix of mindfulness, travel, and simple observation of the things around us, it’s an easy and readable reminder that we don’t need to be connected to everything all the time. Don’t expect a hands-on guide - it’s a poetic meditation that you can take your time to savour.
8) Wanderlust: A History of Walking - Rebecca Solnit
Resting isn’t just about sitting around doing nothing (although that is perfectly reasonable behaviour). Walking is a way to rest the mind and rejuvenate the senses. Like shaking up a snow-globe, a proper constitutional will clear whatever's stuck in your head and bring you a much needed sense of peace.
This book will help you fall for walking again, and argues "for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk, in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world."
9) Do Pause: You Are Not A To-Do List - Robert Poynton
A short, easy read that combines pretty much everything from the above.
"Machines are designed to run constantly; people aren't. Our coping mechanisms are meditation apps, weekend breaks and annual holidays, but things soon revert. To prosper, we need a more sustainable approach - an ability to pause."
Do Pause (from the great Do series) looks at the necessity of taking a time-out: from tiny breaks to epic sabbaticals. It's precisely researched and will help you take back control of your time and energy.
10) The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough - Matthew Edlund
It’s in this landmark book that we first came across the four pillars of rest - physical, mental, social and spiritual. It’s a research-backed rethinking of how rest fits in to the rest of our lives. The book also contains a practical 30-day plan to reset your rest habits, and is written by a psychiatrist and expert on sleep medicine.
The parts on ’social’ rest are some of the most interesting. Recharging our energy in the company of others is easy to overlook, but for many of us it can be really important. That’s right - going to the pub is good for you.