When we think about rest, the majority of us turn to getting a good night’s sleep. However, resting and sleeping are not the same thing, and often, sleep alone is not enough to fuel you. If you often wake up exhausted after a good night’s sleep, then it’s likely that you’re not getting enough of the other types of rest experts say we need. 

According to author and TedX speaker Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, there are seven types of rest that every person needs. She says, “We don’t really understand that there are multiple types of rest. As a result, people tend to excel at getting certain types of rest and are completely omitting others, simply because they don’t know they exist.”

In this article we’ll cover the seven types of rest needed to be your most productive self – from physical and mental, through to sensory and spiritual rest – explaining why they’re important and how to get more of them.

What are the seven types of rest?

1. Physical rest

Within our busy lives, it can often seem tricky to find time to rest. But doing so is imperative to our overall wellbeing and can significantly boost productivity levels. Physical rest allows your body to switch off, relax, and recover.

Signs that you’re in need of physical rest include mild body aches, feeling exhausted after a good night’s sleep, and lacking energy to complete everyday tasks.

Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for our daily function. Research shows that a lack of sleep could be linked to increased heart rate and blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and much more. However, there are many other forms of physical rest to pay attention to as well.

Physical rest can be done in short spurts while we’re awake – for example by having a massage, taking a hot relaxing bath, or attending a pilates or yoga class. For prolonged physical rest, consider treating yourself to a day at the spa where you can relax in the sauna, soak in the jacuzzi, or have a swim.

2. Mental rest

Our brains work non-stop all day, so it’s important to take mental rest to recharge. Common signs that you might be in need of some mental rest include not being able to relax or switch your thoughts off, and struggling to sleep because your thoughts keep ticking over. Mental rest can be particularly beneficial for people who struggle with stress and anxiety, or often feel overwhelmed.

Forms of mental rest can include stepping away from your desk after a long day’s work and enjoying a walk outside. Journaling can also be a great tool for helping you get more mental rest. If you struggle with overthinking, especially at night, then you might find it useful to write down your thoughts before sleeping. This can help you to offload them or ‘save them for later’, which may help you to fall asleep better.

3. Social rest

Social rest is all about investing in relationships that are good for you and taking time away from the ones that aren’t. People tend to need social rest when their relationships leave them feeling drained, misunderstood, exhausted, and unable to be their true selves.

Relationships that leave you feeling this way are unhealthy, and might be worth taking some time away from. Healthy relationships, on the other hand, will leave you feeling positive, supported, and empowered.

Social rest can take different forms. For example, some people might enjoy social rest by spending more time with people who make them feel good, while for others it might mean taking a break from socialising altogether and enjoying some ‘me’ time.

If you’re looking to cultivate some new relationships, you might find some useful tips in our article 7 different ways to meet new people. Alternatively, if you’re searching for a romantic relationship, you could visit the dating section of our website or sign up to Rest Less dating.

4. Emotional rest

Emotional rest is all about getting in touch with your authentic self and being honest with your feelings. We each have an internal capacity to handle emotions, but taking on a lot without rest can sometimes result in emotional fatigue.

For example, if you console a friend who’s grieving, offer comfort to a tearful toddler, and spend time encouraging a colleague lacking in confidence all without taking a break, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Other causes of emotional fatigue can also include getting caught up in people-pleasing or feeling like you have to project a perfect version of yourself.

Symptoms of emotional fatigue include struggling to concentrate, as well as feeling irritable and drained. One of the most effective ways to take emotional rest is to offload your feelings. This can be done by talking to a trusted family member or friend, journaling, or through therapy sessions if required. The most important thing is to find a space where you can be completely honest about your feelings.

5. Creative rest

When faced with a project or task, whether at home or at work, many of us tend to react by dedicating a lot – if not all – of our time towards completing it. But have you ever just stared at a blank screen or piece of paper and wondered why your imagination and motivation just isn’t sparking? This could be down to needing some creative rest.

No one can be creative all the time, and resting is actually an essential part of the creative process. It’s often after we’ve allowed our minds to relax and refresh that our most creative ideas appear.

Sometimes, the most effective way to rest our minds is to give our bodies a workout. For example, one study found that when walking outside, people produced twice as many creative ideas compared with sitting in a room. If walking isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of other exercise ideas to get your body moving in the healthy body section of our site.

Stress can also be a barrier to creativity because it gets in the way of our ability to focus. As a result, mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises are also great forms of creative rest. If you’d like to get started, then why not give one of these 9 best meditation apps a go?

Dedicating time towards your hobbies and interests, as well as getting a good night’s sleep, are some other effective forms of emotional rest.

6. Spiritual rest

Spiritual rest is important for everyone, religious or not. If you’ve been feeling a bit lonely or unanchored recently, then you benefit from getting back in touch with your spiritual side.

If you’re religious, this might mean setting aside time to reconnect with your faith and wider community. Or it might mean doing some self-exploration and seeking out a sense of purpose. Other ways of finding spiritual rest include discussing stimulating topics with like-minded people and volunteering. You can find various opportunities on the volunteering section of our site.

7. Sensory rest

Sensory rest is all about giving your senses a break. We often need sensory rest when we overwhelm our senses with activities like watching TV for long periods of time, or when we spend all day staring at a computer screen or mobile phone.

If you think about it, our senses are constantly at work, so it’s no surprise that the busyness of everyday life can begin to take its toll. 

It’s important to allow all five of your senses to rest, and below are a few different ways that you can address each.

  • Sight: Try replacing some time in front of the TV with activities like reading. You’ll find plenty of inspiration in the literature section of our site. Try turning your computer and mobile phone on dark mode. And when you go to bed, consider trying an eye mask to block out any light.

  • Taste: Instead of rushing dinner time, have a go at mindful eating, which is all about appreciating taste and focusing on different flavours.

  • Sound: Try taking some time out of your day to appreciate silence, without any distractions. If this isn’t possible for you, consider getting some noise-cancelling headphones.

  • Smell: Some of the best, most refreshing smells are often in nature, so it’s worth going outside for a walk and taking a few deep breaths in. Alternatively, you could incorporate some of your favourite smells into your day, for example, by buying a scented candle.

  • Touch: Ways of connecting with your sense of touch include taking time to appreciate self-care products, enjoying a long bath, and/or petting a dog.

Final thoughts…

If you’ve tried to fix a lack of energy by getting more sleep, only to feel more tired, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough rest. It’s important to remember that rest doesn’t always equal sleep. Rest can come in many different forms, each of which can be tailored to our various needs.

Figuring out how to rest properly might not be an overnight job, but it’s worth persevering. Because when we do get the rest our bodies need, it can lead to great results. You’ll be on the road to becoming your most productive self, while being in touch and appreciative of the world and people around you.

How do you make sure you get the rest that you need? Have you learnt anything new about rest recently? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below. 

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