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A Beautiful Night's Rest
Erik Boemanns
February 1, 2002

“Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.” Common words any time we’re faced with the flu or a cold.  Commonly ignored words.  Last winter I was working 80 or more hours a week, riding on a train with a thousand other people, and walking in the 20 degree New York City streets. 

Does that sound like the perfect environment for getting sick?  It was; I coughed for four out of six months that winter.  It wasn’t a mild cough either, as all of my coworkers can attest.  I saw a doctor; the cough was a side effect of Post Nasal Drip, nothing medically serious.  I combated it with Sudafed, Robitussin, Dayquil, and Nyquil. 

Sick leave is often so limited that people can’t take the appropriate amount of time to heal properly.
Fast forward to this winter.  Being unemployed has given me a unique opportunity to rest.  At the onset of a cold that could spark the marathon coughs, and a potential case of the flu, I slept, slept, and slept some more.  I got 12 to 14 hours of sleep some nights.  Here’s the amazing thing: I didn’t get sick.

As it turns out, rest really does help our body fight illness.  When we’re getting sick, our busy lives make us push on, and let the disease get a firm grip on us before we admit defeat.  Then, we rush back to work before we’ve fully recovered, and get hit with a second wave. 

Most of corporate America, and even the education system, doesn’t really give credit to the importance of taking the sick leave at the first sign of illness, rather than the full onset.  Instead, the drive to keep attendance high brings contagious, but not visibly ill people in contact with the others in their group.  On top of this, sick leave is often so limited that people can’t take the appropriate amount of time to heal properly, which only prolongs the recovery.

This approach ultimately sacrifices productivity, despite its attempt to limit the amount of time employees are allowed “off the hook.”  Sick employees at work stay sick, and are not productive while they are there.  They infect others, further diminishing the effectiveness of a department.  Rather than letting one person go home for four days at the first sign of illness, companies end up having ten people all take two days, and then work at diminished capacity for another five days. 

I now have a newfound respect for the power of rest.  Perhaps others can find this respect sooner rather than later. If you’re unsure, sleep on it. - Copyright 2002 - Email us at
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