American free-market capitalism has socialized us to believe that we are nothing more than our labor and what we can produce. We have become nothing more than our profession or academics. We have become so disconnected from our body, from our sense of self. We see our bodies as only vessels for labor.
We weren’t made to live like this. We weren’t meant to neglect our bodies in this way. We’re no longer taught the true meaning of self-care and rest, or even how to do it. We don’t remember how to thank our bodies for all that they do, nor do we remember how to connect with ourselves and the earth through our bodies. Our bodies are so much more than our labor.
Sleep is one of the most important parts of our life. It impacts how we exist in our waking moments, and more importantly, our physical and mental health. The prevailing norms of 24/7 work and workaholism teach us that sleep is not necessary — this starts as late nights in school, all-nighters in college, and constantly working throughout adult careers.
We’re told that we’re only deserving of rest and sleep if we work hard, if we have been productive or efficient enough. This sends the message that sleep is exclusive to certain people. Empirical evidence supports this, showing that those of a higher socio-economic status tend to sleep more; and in the United States, where race and class are inextricably linked, Black people tend to get less sleep than white people.
Empirical evidence supports this, showing that those of a higher socio-economic status tend to sleep more; and in the United States, where race and class are inextricably linked, Black people tend to get less sleep than white people.
A study on sleep was done to address insufficient sleep as a public health issue. The results showed that Black people got less restful and deep sleep, and the racial disparities of sleep can be attributed to a variety of intersecting factors. These include the mental health impacts of racial discrimination and various socioeconomic factors, including neighborhood, educational attainment, and jobs.
Racially marginalized groups tend to work long hours at multiple shifts and jobs, which are generally more physically demanding. This leaves very little time to rest as exhaustion builds up. Insufficient sleep can have negative implications for health outcomes, and this furthers the racialized health gap in this country.
This racialized sleep gap has its roots in the institution of slavery that built the U.S. economy. Enslaved people were often made to sleep in tight quarters, surrounded by others, which has been shown to negatively impact sleep. Moreover, they weren’t given enough hours to sleep, waking up early to face grueling, exhausting physical labor. Overwork and minimal rest became the norm for this type of labor and persisted across centuries.
Rest has remained exclusive — available only to those who can afford it. It has remained exclusive to those who reap the fruits of others’ labor, who exploit bodies and brains simply to turn a profit. But it is time to change. It is time to be intentional about rest. Rest when your body is asking you for it.
White supremacy and capitalism don’t want to encourage rest — hard work and minimal rest will yield the most. But rest is not only an act of self-care and caring for one’s health. Rest is an act of resistance. Rest is a way to reconnect with one’s body, to divest from the idea that our bodies are nothing more than the labor they can provide. It is essential in reclaiming it from the chains of capitalism. Rest is an essential act of healing.
Rest comes in many forms. It comes in the form of napping, of a good night’s sleep, of a long shower, of a face mask and a movie. It comes in the form of taking care of your body, of letting you stop working to spend time with your loved ones and yourself. It comes in the form of understanding that you are worth more than what you can produce.
It is time to stop punishing our bodies for not working hard enough. It is time to reclaim our bodies. It is time to listen to our bodies. It is time to show ourselves love, to relax, to care for ourselves. It is time to rest.
It is time to stop punishing our bodies for not working hard enough. It is time to reclaim our bodies.
There are multiple organizations made for BIPOC individuals looking to rest and resist. The Nap Ministry, founded in 2016 by Tricia Hersey, examines naps as a form of liberation. They provide multiple services, including collective napping, writing services, lectures, coaching, and performance art. You can follow the Nap Ministry on Instagram for daily quotes and reminders to shed the chains of capitalism and rest.
Rest For Resistance similarly strives to create healing spaces for QTPOC, in which they are uplifted and given access to mental health support. They have a newsletter with many articles written about personal experiences with mental health by and for QTPOC. Furthermore, they hold collective meditation practices as a form of rest.
You are so much more than your productivity and efficiency. You deserve rest.
Last updated 11/20/20
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