The 7 types of rest everyone needs – and how to get them

Do you wake up exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep? You might be dealing with a ‘rest deficit’.

These days, it’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t describe themselves as ‘exhausted’. Despite developments in sleep science and increased interest in the secret to getting a good night’s rest, many people feel more tired than ever. So, what gives? 

The answer, according to Dr Saundra Dalton Smith, a physician, researcher, speaker and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, lies in the types of rest most people are getting. As important as sleep is to your body’s ability to function, Dr Dalton Smith says, it’s not the only way your body needs rest – and it’s this misunderstanding that is leaving so many people so exhausted.

“We like the thought of it being simple – that if we go to sleep that should solve all of our restorative needs – but unfortunately, there are types of rest that sleep cannot solve,” she tells Stylist.  

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It’s this issue that underpins much of Dr Dalton Smith’s work. Based on her experience working as a physician and researcher, she says there are actually seven unique ‘types’ of rest the human body and mind need to thrive, and that when you don’t get enough of one or more of these different forms of rest you end up in a ‘rest deficit’, which can lead to you feeling exhausted, burnt out and overwhelmed.

That’s why some people wake up exhausted after a good night’s sleep. They may be getting enough of one type of rest – physical rest, which sleep is a form of – but they’re not getting enough of the other six types of rest, which are as follows.

1. Mental Rest

If you often find your head in a spin because you’re focusing on too many things at once, chances are you’re in need of some mental rest. 

Basically, it’s anything that gives your brain a break from thinking and focusing too hard – meditation, a walk around the block or doing something mundane like hanging the washing out or tidying up.

2. Sensory Rest

Although you might not realise it on a day-to-day basis, your senses are continuously overwhelmed by new sights, smells and sounds, from the bright light of your phone or laptop screen to the background noise of the TV. 

Sensory rest is all about taking some time to unplug from all of these external stimuli and give your senses a much-deserved break. 

When was the last time you unplugged and gave yourself some sensory rest?

3. Creative Rest

If you have a job where you have to find solutions to problems and/or come up with new ideas, chances are you’re using up a lot of creative energy – and you’ll need some creative rest to balance this out. 

According to Dr Dalton Smith, creative rest is about reawakening “the awe and wonder inside each of us” – anything that helps you to feel inspired, like doing a creative hobby, listening to some great music or being around nature, is a great way to achieve creative rest.

4. Emotional Rest

Holding onto your emotions – either to please others or simply because you feel unable to express them – requires a lot of energy. 

Emotional rest is all about processing those emotions and feeling like you can share them with those around you, i.e., being your truest self.

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5. Social Rest

Social rest isn’t about spending time alone (although if you’re introverted, you might find some time alone to be restorative, too), but about spending time with people who support and bring out the best in you, rather than those who drain you.  

6. Spiritual Rest

The final ‘type’ of rest Dr Dalton Smith describes is spiritual rest – the ability to connect with something beyond the physical and mental. 

If you’re religious, this might mean practising your religion or going to Church. If not, it might mean engaging with something which gives you a sense of purpose, like volunteering, or doing something that grounds you. 

How to work out what ‘type’ of rest you need

Reflecting on the types of energy you expend throughout the day will help you to identify which rest ‘types’ you need more of.

While you’ll probably need a little bit of all the different types of rest in order to function well, certain people will need certain types of rest more often than others. What type this is – and how much of it you need – will depend on the types and quantity of energy you expend on a daily basis.

But how can you work out what types of rest you’re missing? And how can you go about getting them in the future? According to Dr Dalton Smith, the most important thing you can do is take some time to reflect.

“You’re using all seven areas throughout the day to some level, so really identifying which form of rest you need more of starts with a little bit of self-reflection and awareness of where you’re pouring out most in your day,” she says. “What does your day to day look like? Is your day spent brainstorming and coming up with new ideas? Or is your day spent face-to-face with people discussing hard emotional stuff like a counsellor or a therapist?

“Depending on where you’re pouring out the most energy, it’s going to have a huge effect on the area that you’re most likely to have a deficit in, especially if you haven’t already thought through what recovery looks like for that position or job.”

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At a time when we’re facing rising levels of burnout, stress and emotional overwhelm, Dr Dalton Smith believes it’s time we stopped treating rest like a treat, and started building it into the structure of our day-to-day lives.  

“I’d like for people to really break away from that thought process of, ‘I need a vacation or time off three times a year, and I’ll recover during those periods,’ because that’s a very sad life, if you’re depleted all the time until that vacation,” she says.

“We have to have an ongoing recovery process that we can incorporate into the middle of our day. Because that’s the goal – to live a well-rested life, where you’re still producing at a high level, but you’re also recovering between all that production.” 

Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Dr Saundra Dalton Smith (FaithWords) is available to buy now. 

Images: Getty

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