7 Types of Rest and Why They’re Important

Sleep and rest are different. There are seven types of rest, including physical, mental, sensory, creative, social, emotional, and spiritual rest. Each type of rest should be incorporated into your daily routine for improved well-being.

You know how vital getting a good night’s sleep can be to your overall health. But, despite getting quality sleep each night, perhaps you still struggle to get through the day.

That’s because your body needs to experience several types of rest to feel balanced and refreshed.

This article will delve into how sleep and rest differ, the seven types of rest, and why each one is important. Plus, we’ll share tips on how to incorporate each type of rest into your routine and answer your most commonly asked questions about rest.

Sleep vs. rest: What’s the difference?

There’s a considerable difference between sleep and rest. Sleep is a passive and unconscious form of relaxation. During sleep, your body goes into a deep yet temporary state of unconsciousness.

At this time, your body is busy repairing and regenerating cells that were damaged during the day. Sleep may also help reduce the risk of potential medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Resting, or active rest, is a form of conscious and therapeutic relaxation—although not on the same level as sleep. Active rest doesn’t create hormonal changes needed for cellular repair—nor does it induce REM sleep, which is vital for complex mental regeneration.

7 types of rest

1. Physical rest

As mentioned before, this form of rest has two components: active and passive. Both are fundamental to good health—and sleep, the inactive state of physical rest, is crucial for optimal overall health.

Active physical rest involves conscious actions that promote relaxation. Examples of active rest include yoga and getting a massage. Ergonomics is also essential to avoid awkward body posture and minimize repetitious movements that can contribute to musculoskeletal problems.

Both both active and passive physical rest are about “shifting your brain and body to a parasympathetic state,” says Celine Tien, founder of Flowly, a biofeedback app for managing the nervous system. “Giving your brain and your body a chance to rest, digest, and recover—really it’s to bring yourself a moment to rest and relax.”

Everyone can benefit from physical rest, especially those who don’t get adequate sleep. Developing a consistent bedtime routine and making time each day for restorative active rest aids emotional and physical health.

2. Mental rest

Are you plagued by constant mind chatter, brain fog, low energy, and depend on multiple cups of java to get through the day? If so, you need a mental rest break—now!

Our non-stop lives mean many of us are almost always working, which usually leads to burnout. That’s when taking regular breaks comes in.

Mental rest can be achieved by purposely taking time out of your day to slow down and disconnect from stressful situations. During your work day, schedule a 10-minute break once every two hours. Go for a walk or do some meditation.

According to Tien, mental rest is especially useful for individuals who have challenges with anxiety and other mental health disorders due to the constant fight or flight mode they may find themselves in.

3. Sensory rest

Between cell phone notifications, emails, kids running around, background noise, and numerous other stimuli vying for your attention, it’s no wonder you’re on sensory overload.

Whether you attend daily Zoom meetings or are continually exposed to overly bright lights, too many stimuli could lead to sensory overload syndrome if left unchecked.

Sensory rest, like mental rest, requires frequent breaks away from overwhelming stimuli. When you find yourself overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, put away all unnecessary electronics, turn off bright lights, take a break from loud noise, and shut your eyes for a few minutes.

According to Stephanie Thomas, author of the upcoming book, The Little Book of Rest, a good way to avoid sensory overload is to “take just a moment to think about all of your senses and essentially figure out what is happening in [the present] moment.”

4. Creative rest

Whether it’s brainstorming new ways to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the monthly budget or practicing a new musical instrument, our minds tend to be in constant problem-solving mode.

Sometimes spending too much time in this mode can drain a lot of your creative energy. A depletion of creative energy leads to reduced innovation, and being creative becomes challenging.

To restore your creative energy, turn off the problem-solving part of your brain for a while. Lose yourself in a good book or go for a hike. Once you’ve filled up on creative rest, the innovative part of your mind will come to life again.

5. Social rest

Do you find it hard to say no when asked a favor? If so, you’re not alone. If not kept in check, people pleasing can be extremely draining—mainly because you’re giving away your time to help and support others without receiving much support in return.

These activities can emotionally drain you, whether it’s taking care of loved ones, helping your coworkers with a big project, or doing a favor for friends.

One way to rebalance social rest in your life is to spend as much time with people who can recharge you emotionally. Another way to gain social rest is by using the word no more often. Just because someone asks a favor doesn’t mean you’re obligated to say yes every time.

Instead of agreeing to help every time you’re asked, consider the pros and cons of deciding to help.

6. Emotional rest

Sometimes people conceal their true feelings to avoid sharing difficult feelings with those closest to them. In the case of people pleasing, an individual may agree to do someone a favor out of fear of displeasing a friend.

If this sounds like you, then it may be time to hit pause and devote some time to emotional rest. Try surrounding yourself with supportive people who you can be comfortable with.

7. Spiritual rest

Despite its name, spiritual rest isn’t necessarily associated with religion. Instead, spiritual rest means connecting to something bigger than yourself and discovering a deep feeling of belonging and purpose. Is your job unfulfilling? Or maybe you feel a bit flat despite succeeding at a difficult task?

It may be time to reconnect by giving back to your community through volunteering or working for a cause that makes you feel like your actions matter.

How to tell what kind of rest you need

Everyone should aim to incorporate all of the seven forms of rest at one point or another. But it can be overwhelming to try and fit every form of rest into a daily routine.

A good place to start is by taking this extensive quiz. The quiz asks questions related to daily living to help determine which form of rest you should focus your attention on.


What are some ways of resting?

Here are a few ways to get the rest you need for a well-balanced life:

  • Stick to a regular bedtime routine.
  • Make time for meditation every day.
  • Disconnect from overwhelming stimuli each day for as long as possible.
  • Take a 10-minute break from work every two hours.
  • Unplug from all screens one day per week—or, better yet, for an entire weekend each week.
  • If unplugging from your phone seems a bit too dramatic, try deleting your social media apps one day out of the week.
  • Connect with people who love, support, and understand you.
  • Learn to say no more often when asked to do favors that drain you of your creative energy.

What’s the best form of rest?

Without a doubt, sleep is the most important form of rest. Your body needs deep restorative sleep to repair any damage from the day.

Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. A 10-minute afternoon nap may refresh you, but seven to eight hours of sleep is needed for optimal health.

Stay away from screens for at least two hours before hitting the hay to increase your chances of sleeping well.

What does mental rest look like?

Mental rest is what we all need as it allows us to take a break from the constant hustle of everyday life.

Despite getting a decent night’s sleep, you may find yourself drinking multiple cups of coffee throughout the day and experiencing irritability, forgetfulness, and difficulty focusing.

To fix this problem, take multiple breaks throughout your workday and try to disconnect from your phone as much as possible.

Having difficulty catching Z’s? We’ve rounded up the best things to do if you can’t sleep.

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