The 7 Types of Rest

We’re becoming more and more aware of just how important high-quality sleep really is. That feeling you enjoy after a luxurious eight-hour slumber is pretty hard to beat. Even better is the way the ensuing day can seem to just fall into place. Interactions are fluid and the world feels like a gentler, brighter place. The wide-reaching effects of proper sleep on our relationships, work and overall emotional disposition cannot be underestimated. 

Is there more to the rest solution than just sleep? According to Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine physician, work-life integration researcher, speaker and best-selling author, there most certainly is. 

Dr Dalton-Smith talks about the seven types of rest, which we, as human beings, need to various degrees at different stages of our lives. Our ability to function optimally and ‘show up’ in the world is directly impacted by our deficits in these areas. 

The seven types of rest:

  • Physical – the need for cellular repair and the slowing down of accumulated thought momentum
  • Mental – the need to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life, and to connect to ‘presence’ and stillness
  • Emotional - the need to be ‘seen’ and to express our authentic selves
  • Spiritual - the need to connect to something greater than ourselves to provide us with comfort and a ‘reason for being’
  • Social - the need to declutter our social schedule and factor in some quiet time
  • Sensory – the need to monitor the quality of our sensory intake
  • Creative - the need to allow ourselves the freedom to access true beauty and inspiration though nature and creativity

Physical Rest

Sleep mostly falls under the physical and mental rest categories. It offers the vital time we need for our bodies to repair and replenish as well as for our minds to slow down and reboot. It’s important to make sure that we maintain good sleep hygiene - which includes a regular bedtime routine - in order to maximise the benefits of sleep and physical rest. 

Mental Rest

Given our busy lives and the huge volume of information that comes at us on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that we’re hungry for this form of rest. In addition to sleep, we get access to mental rest through presence and meditation. When we become highly attuned and focused on ‘living in the now’ as far as possible, we limit the onslaught of the general day-to-day anxieties that take over when we become too future-focused. When we find our minds running away with us, it can be useful for us to come back to the breath, or to a single word or mantra on which we hone our focus. Repeating “I am here now”, for example, is a simple and powerful way to bring you back into the present moment. Meditation is a hugely beneficial practice that supports mental rest. A 20-minute meditation is said to be the equivalent to two hours of sleep in terms of mental rest. You may be surprised to hear that rock climbing, yoga, martial arts and even long-distance running are all examples of ‘moving meditation’. In fact, many forms of physical activity are, as they require presence. This is often why they leave us feeling so rejuvenated. 

Emotional Rest

We all walk around wearing masks to some degree. Life is one big stage, and we play multiple roles: a daughter, a husband, a colleague, a friend. This requires a huge amount of energy and resources. The more time we spend with our masks on, the more tired we feel. When we truly allow ourselves to be who we are, we have access to an unlimited amount of energy. It’s so important to have people in our lives with whom we truly resonate - people who ‘see us’, and with whom we feel completely at ease to be ourselves. It’s not surprising that many of us are deficient in this type of rest, particularity with the pervasive presence of social media and feeling the need to showcase perfection. The fast-paced, highly competitive workplace is another area where mask wearing has become the norm as we hide our vulnerabilities and cover up any traces of weakness. Particularly in leadership positions, we underestimate the energy required to ‘hold the fort’ and guide others. In order to top up, we need to connect with our tribe - those who understand us – and just be who we are. Another option is to speak to a coach or therapist, which can also be a great way of facilitating the letting go of emotional inhibition. 

Spiritual Rest

Spirituality is a belief that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s a connection to source energy, nature, the divine or God. We might term it differently and follow various faiths and practices, but in essence it carries the same value. Many of us can start feeling lonely, disconnected and finite – particularly in challenging times such as these. We may feel alone even though we have loved ones in our lives.  A connection to some form of spirituality that allows us to align with universal energy, creation, God, or whatever we want to call it, could support us in feeling comforted, expansive and part of something more…

Social Rest

We all feel a degree of obligation around social commitments. Although we tend to wear our busy social schedules like badges of honour, racing from one thing to the next can be exhausting. One of the positives of COVID-19 has been the relaxation around these pressures we’ve felt for so long. We’re all finally allowing ourselves to just ‘be’, and to take the time off to engage in other activities that add value, like spending more time outdoors or in quiet reflection. This will likely be a change that stick, as we’re coming to realise what’s truly important. 

Sensory Rest

Our senses are bombarded on a daily basis. For those of us who are introverts and highly sensory, a day spent under poor fluorescent light in a noisy open-plan office can be draining and energy-depleting.  Like junk food, other junk sensory inputs have just as big - or even bigger - effects on our overall wellbeing. Big crowds, noisy venues with poor acoustics, and over-demanding children (or co-workers!) can all leave us feeling exhausted. A useful hack is to practise sensory deprivation wherever possible. Use a sleep mask and earplugs at night, wear glasses that block harmful blue light while working on your computer, and try a sensory deprivation or floatation tank for a good dose of much-needed ‘nothingness’. Switching off your phone notifications and spending a weekend away in the mountains without the sound of traffic can also go a long way in supporting this type of rest. 

Creative Rest

This is an area of rest we underestimate. It is the type that comes from walking in nature, browsing inspiring art galleries, or watching a ballet or theatre production. Being in these spaces allows us to transport ourselves to another world - to be inspired. It is energising and invigorating. If we’re designers, writers or anyone in a particularly creative field, we need the creative surge that comes from these types of inputs even more, if we are to access and express our creativity.

On reflection, it makes sense that so many of us feel fatigued or lackluster even when we are getting ‘enough’ sleep. It can be powerful to reconnect with the different areas of rest, and to get the right balance that will allow for inspiration, creativity, love and abundance to flow. We could all be happier, healthier human beings - and that’s the difference that makes the difference.

To find out more and take the ‘rest quiz’, visit


Kate Aitken is the marketing manager at Wellness Warehouse, as well as an internationally accredited health coach, and a passionate wellness advocate who believes that the key to living life well is in supporting innate wellbeing through food and lifestyle choices.