7 Types of Rest (And Why They’re Important!)

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I'm a Certified Health Coach, longtime blogger, and host of Elizabeth Eats on YouTube. In addition to writing recipes (I love to eat!), I'm a strong believer that life is too short to settle for anything less than living your best life.


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Today, we’re talking about a super important topic that not many people know much about—the 7 types of rest.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: simply getting more sleep is not going to cure your chronic exhaustion. There are seven different types of rest, and getting more sleep is just part of the rest equation.

I, for one, have ended countless days crawling into bed completely exhausted.

However, despite sleeping a full 8 hours, there are times when I would wake up in the morning still feeling sluggish, fatigued, and drained of energy.

Sound familiar?

If you’re anything like me, then you might be wondering why sleep just isn’t cutting it. Haven’t we been raised on the idea that a full REM cycle is a key to waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?

(Spoiler alert: it’s not.)

In the past, I wholeheartedly believed that getting adequate sleep would be the cure to my daily afternoon yawns. That is until I stumbled across an eye-opening TED​​ Talk by Saundra Dalton-Smith.

In her TED Talk, Dalton-Smith explains why we are so tired and then, of course, she tells us exactly what to do about it.

And let me tell you, my sleep, rest, and relaxation haven’t been the same since.

Dalton-Smith explains how sleep and rest are not the same things. However, many of us consider the terms to be interchangeable.

That’s why whenever we hit that mid-afternoon slump, we immediately assume that we simply need a few more zzz’s.

However, she tells us that there’s more to it than that.

In the wise words of Saundra Dalton-Smith, “we go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep—but in reality, we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need.”

Want to know the real reason why you’re tired? Stay tuned.

To feel and function at our very best, we need total restoration through these 7 types of rest:

1. Physical Rest

I think it’s safe to say that we all know what physical exhaustion feels like. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open —or you’re on that endless cycle of yawns— a quick fix could be going to bed a few minutes earlier.

If it’s not quite bedtime, I am all for opting for a mid-day catnap.

Whenever your body is asleep you’re catching up on passive physical rest, which is what so many of us traditionally consider to be “rest.”

However, there is an additional component of physical rest, known as active physical rest.

This type of rest consists of restorative activities like stretching, massages, and yoga.

Unlike a decent night’s sleep, active physical rest isn’t technically required for daily functioning.

However, it helps improve the body’s circulation and flexibility, and professionals recommend getting some in a few times per week.

2. Mental Rest

Mental fatigue can look like a lot of things. Brain fog, the infamous post-lunch slump, that hazy point in your workday when you realize your last email made absolutely no sense…you get the picture.

If we don’t give ourselves a mental break, we are almost guaranteed to hit a wall.

So, to give ourselves a mental reset, we should be making a conscious effort to turn our brains off during the day.

A terrific way to do this is to schedule short breaks every couple of hours to take a walk, grab a bite to eat or practice mindful breathing.

Breaks like these remind our bodies to slow down, which gives us the capacity to tackle an additional two hours of productivity afterward.

3. Sensory Rest

Take a quick second to survey the room around you. How many lights are on? Are you staring into a computer screen? If so, for how long? Is there any background noise? Funky smells?

No matter where you are —in the office, a coffee shop, or at home— things of this nature can overwhelm our senses. If you don’t make a conscious effort to keep these stimuli in check, you might find yourself experiencing sensory overload.

To give your senses a little rest, take a few moments to close your eyes and recharge. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, you could also designate an “electronic-free” day, where you purposely unplug and give yourself a chance to unwind and reset.

4. Creative Rest

I am a firm believer that we all use our creativity at some point throughout the day.

Everything from pitching meetings and problem-solving to gratitude journaling and writing content utilizes those creative juices.

If you take a moment to think about it, I’ll bet you use your creativity more than you think.

That being said, wouldn’t you want to make sure your creativity is in full supply?

Giving yourself a creative reset looks different for different people, but it could be anything from taking a brisk walk through nature to getting lost in your favorite book or even practicing a quick gratitude ritual.

Activities like these relieve the pressure to create and offer some inspiration, which in turn replenishes your creative resources.

5. Emotional Rest

Here’s the situation: you just arrived home from a long, hard day of work only to be greeted by a crying toddler and an empty kitchen.

You’re off to do whatever’s next on your mile-long to-do list when a friend calls and is audibly upset.

She asks if you could come over and —before you know it— you hear yourself saying yes.

(Because it’s not like you have anything else you should probably be doing, right?)

How many of us can relate? Saying “yes” is a dangerous game, and as a chronic people-pleaser myself, it’s something that I used to struggle with.

A great way of experiencing emotional rest is taking a “yes” vacation. A super simple way of implementing this is to say “I’ll think about it” whenever your gut reaction is to say “yes.”

Try it for a week or so, and see what happens.

Emotional rest is one of the most important types of rest for anyone whose day-to-day work or life is emotionally heavy.

This includes people like therapists, activists, teachers, and —you guessed it— parents.

Emotional rest gives your brain a much-needed pause and can be achieved simply by taking a few quiet moments for yourself.

Or, you can offload to a therapist or friend with whom you’re able to fully be yourself.

6. Social Rest

Introverts know just how exhausting socializing can be. To give ourselves social rest, it’s important to balance any draining social encounters with rejuvenating ones.

An easy way to differentiate between the two is to make a list of all the people in your life that you find easy to be around, enthusiastically supportive, and genuinely kind.

Then, make a second list of all the people you find draining, demanding, or simply exhausting to spend time with.

From there, make a conscious effort to maximize time spent with the former group of people and limit the time you spend socializing with the latter.

Trust me, you will start to feel loads better after tackling this type of rest.

7. Spiritual Rest

Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), all humans need to feel connected to something larger than themselves.

Spiritual rest is the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental realms and feel a deep sense of love, belonging, and purpose.

If you’re feeling a bit disconnected from the rest of the world, then you might need a little spiritual reboot.

For my religious bunch, this could mean devoting a few minutes to prayer each day.

You could also try your hand at a morning meditation.

Spiritual rest could also be achieved by devoting some time to volunteering in your community or participating in something that grounds you and makes you feel larger than yourself.

Not sure where to start? Your local church, community center, and employer are great places to start if you’re looking to get into community service.

How do I know which of the 7 types of rest I need?

At one point or another, you are going to need all of them. And sometimes you are going to need several kinds of rest all at once. I know that I could use both a mental and sensory reset right about now.

However, when trying to figure out what kind of rest your body is craving, what it comes down to is how you spent your day.

What sort of things did you do? How did you feel throughout it? How are you feeling now?

Figuring out which types of rest you need is all about being mindful and checking in with yourself.

Did you slug through your workday in a zombie-like fashion? Then you might need a mental or sensory reset.

Are you struggling to write your latest blog post because words just don’t seem to fit? Sounds like it’s creative rest time.

Have you finally finished what felt like forever building your dream home? Congratulations! But now it might be time for a little spiritual rest.

You are the one who knows yourself the best, so take the time to check in. Resting is all about doing what feels best for you.

Why is it important to rest?

If you didn’t already, I hope you now realize that rest is so much more than getting a full night’s sleep. Put simply, the 7 types of rest give us beautiful ways to recharge our minds and bodies.

Rest replenishes anything that has become depleted throughout the day and allows us to be our fullest, truest selves.

“Rest is the most underused, chemical-free, safe, and effective alternative therapy available to each of us,” Dalton-Smith tells us.

Not only does it nurture your body, but adequate rest activates your body’s inner healing—which is something I’m convinced we can never have enough of.

Take a minute to check in with yourself. Where do you feel rested? And which aspects of your life could use a little reboot?

If your sleeping habits aren’t quite doing it, then it might be time to work these 7 types of rest into your daily routine.

Trust me, it’s going to change your life.

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth

I'm a strong believer that life is too short to settle for anything less than living your best life. 

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