The Seven Types of Rest Your Body (and Brain) Absolutely Need

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Believe it or not, getting proper rest and recovery goes beyond laying on the couch or tucking yourself into bed at a reasonable hour. In fact, Sandra Dalton-Smith, M.D., has identified seven types of rest that are crucial to the human body. Here’s what to know about all the different ways you can restore your body so you can perform your best in all areas of life.

What’s the difference between sleep and rest?

Before diving into the seven types of rest, it’s important to understand the distinction between rest and sleep. While sleep is restful and restorative, it’s only one type of rest. In general, rest can include several different activities, such as yoga, stretching, and even mental activities such as time off of work. If you’re getting plenty of sleep and you’re still feeling exhausted, it may be time to explore what types of rest you’re deficient in.

The seven types of rest

  1. Physical rest: Physical rest involves helping your body recover and maintain its functionality. Physical rest can be passive (e.g., napping or sleeping), or active (such as stretching, yoga, foam rolling, or getting a massage). After physical rest, your muscles should feel loose and limber, ready to tackle a workout or a family walk.
  2. Mental rest: Mental rest gives your brain a break from racing thoughts, ruminations, endless to-do list items, or complex work projects. You can focus on mental rest through meditation, short breaks from work, and pursuing relaxing hobbies in your downtime.
  3. Sensory rest: In today’s high-tech world, we’re constantly interrupted by outside stimuli, from cell phone notifications to the sounds of our co-workers chatting. These sensory stimulations can overwhelm your brain. To counteract overstimulation and get sensory rest, try closing your eyes momentarily, using noise-cancelling headphones, or, if possible, spending a few minutes alone in a dark, quiet room.
  4. Creative rest: Are you frequently called on to be the “idea person” on your team? If so, it’s important to find inspiration through intentional creative rest. Some sources of creative rest might include spending time in nature, pursuing a creative project, or filling your workspace with objects that spark joy, wonder, and curiosity.
  5. Emotional rest: We all have that friend (or maybe we are that friend) who always says yes and can be depended on in a crisis. While that’s an admirable quality on the outside, this person might be emotionally drained from their people-pleasing tendencies. Try prioritizing emotional rest by getting in touch with your authentic self and honoring your emotional needs by setting boundaries with friends and family.
  6. Social rest: Consider a few of the most important relationships in your life: Do these relationships give you energy, or do they drain you of energy? If it’s the latter, prioritize spending your free time with those who uplift you or fill you with positive emotions. Consider taking a step back from friends or family members who leave you feeling exhausted or down.
  7. Spiritual rest: Spiritual rest, according to Dr. Dalton-Smith, is “the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance, and purpose.” You can implement spiritual rest through prayer, volunteering for a purpose you believe in, or joining a spiritually-minded community.

While all types of rest are important, prioritizing physical rest will put you in the right headspace to improve other areas of your life. With precision medicine, you can learn more about how to reset your circadian rhythm, how many hours of sleep you need per night (which could be more or less than the generic “eight hours” recommendation), and what active recovery practices would make the biggest impact on your life. Learn more about our precision medicine plans here.