Are you getting the right ones for you?
The 7 Types of Rest We All Need, According to a Doctor
Are you getting the right ones for you?
While there’s certainly plenty to rave about when it comes to the benefits of sleep, as it turns out, it’s not the only form of rest that can recharge our almost constantly drained batteries.
According to Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith—a board-certified physician, work-life integration researcher, and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity—we actually require seven (yes, seven) entirely different types of rest.
The clincher? Most of us probably aren’t getting the right ones for the kind of exhaustion we’re experiencing. Cue: Ongoing fatigue. Fun.
So, if you’re constantly tired despite sleeping well and have ruled out any health issues or vitamin deficiencies, you may well need one (or more) of Dr Dalton-Smith’s rest types alongside your eight hours of shut-eye. Below, discover the seven different types of rest you need (and how you can get them).
And as always, with any health issue, the best port of call is your GP — who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.
1. Physical Rest
If you frequently experience muscle pain or tension, often push your body to its limits, or find you tend to catch every cold in town, you probably need some solid physical rest. According to Dr Dalton-Smith, physical rest can be further broken down into two categories: passive and active.
Sleeping and napping actually fall under the ‘passive’ category, while gentle, restorative movements that support circulation and flexibility, such as yoga, leisurely strolls, massages, and stretching, can be classified as ‘active’ forms of physical rest.
2. Mental Rest
Constantly reaching for something caffeinated just to focus? Tend to fall prey to revenge bedtime procrastination because your brain just won’t turn off? Sleep eight hours every night and still feel as drained as you did when you went to bed? With these symptoms, it’s most likely that you have a mental rest deficit.
As much as it feels like the only solution here is a vacation to some utterly Instagrammable European town, Dr Dalton-Smith says achieving mental rest can be as simple as journaling your racing thoughts before bed and scheduling ‘brain breaks’ throughout your workday.
“Schedule short breaks to occur every two hours throughout your workday; these breaks can remind you to slow down. You might also keep a notepad by the bed to jot down any nagging thoughts that would keep you awake,” she explained on Ideas.Ted.Com.
Moreover, while exercises such as yoga, dancing, or running can tire you physically, they can often provide mental rest, helping you to ‘get back in your body' and switch off.
3. Emotional Rest
Not to be confused with mental rest, we tend to need emotional rest when we’ve been suppressing or struggling to acknowledge our true feelings. According to Dr Dalton-Smith, being aligned with what you are feeling, and being able to freely open up about it with someone you trust, is usually a sign of someone who is emotionally rested
“An emotionally rested person can answer the question ‘How are you today?’ with a truthful ‘I’m not okay’—and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid,” she wrote for Ideas.Ted.Com
Seeking emotional rest can also look like cutting back on the people-pleasing front, both in your personal and professional life, as well as making sure you do have people, whether they’re friends, family members or just someone you trust, who you feel safe opening up to.
4. Social Rest
If you need emotional rest, you likely need social rest as well, per Dr Dalton-Smith. A social rest deficit is what happens when we fail to distinguish between the relationships that “fill up our cup” and those that drain us of our energy. Make no mistake, the latter can still take the form of people you love, but if they always “need” something from you, tend to have agendas and never return the favour, they can still deplete your social energy.
Besides cutting back on catch-ups with those who are socially exhausting, it’s important to fill it back up with time spent around those who do revive you.
“To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Even if your interactions have to occur virtually, you can choose to engage more fully in them by turning on your camera and consuming on who you’re speaking to,” Dr Dalton-Smith wrote in Ideas.Ted.Com.
5. Sensory Rest
From the bright light of your computer screen to the open-plan office chatter, the constant buzz of notifications to your colleague’s intense fragrance of choice: daily life is chock full of things that can cause our five senses to feel—often unsuspectingly—overwhelmed. Enter: sensory rest deficit.
To help create a sensorially soothing environment, try popping on some noise-cancelling headphones and opt for some gentle music, white noise or ASMR to find some relief for your ears (and maybe cut back on the podcast chatter, just for a little while).
If your eyes need a break, set some dedicated time away from your screens, ideally minimising device use or eliminating technology before bedtime. Don’t think you have time? Even just one minute spent intentionally closing your eyes in the middle of the day can do a world of good. Beyond that, consider investing in a good eye gel mask or silk mask, especially if city lights tend to disrupt your sleep. If you do need to use your electronics, try putting your device into dark or night mode to give your peepers some reprieve. Take things up a notch by adding a relaxing candle or putting a calming essential oil in a diffuser.
6. Creative Rest
Particularly pertinent for those in careers that centre around problem solving, artistic work, or brainstorming ideas, getting enough creative rest is vital to refuel your passion to keep making and innovating. The key to getting it? Nature.
“Have you ever had a time at the park, on the beach, or in the mountains and you feel better? You felt restored, energised, renewed, and at peace. That is what creative rest is. It’s the rest we experience when we allow beauty, whether it’s natural or man-made beauty (like going to a museum, symphony, or theatre) into our lives. When we let that awaken something inside of us. That sense of awe and wonder,” Dr Dalton-Smith told Maria Shriver.
Studies have even found that bodies of water are a significant way for people to obtain creative rest, and even if heading to the beach isn’t an option, the research indicates that people who find water calming also experience a similar response when they look at images of the ocean or sea-inspired colours, like teal and turquoise.
Nature aside, research has also found that painting rooms (or perhaps choosing bed linen colours) in your house in shades that make you feel more creative can help to inspire you. At a micro-level? It can be as small as changing your phone lock screen to your favourite scenic spot, sprinkling your walls with art you love or placing fresh flowers in your creative working space.
7. Spiritual Rest
What spiritual rest looks like will vary depending on your personal spiritual beliefs, but generally, those who get adequate spiritual rest tend to feel a greater sense of belonging, connectedness, and purpose in the world. Whether that’s through faith-based worship or a non-religious personal practice, adding rituals like prayer, meditation or congregation with a wider community that shares the same beliefs, can help cultivate a sense of spiritual rest.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000. If you are concerned about your health, well-being or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.