Inside: Are you exhausted and depleted? Still tired after getting plenty of sleep? Find out which of these seven types of rest you might be missing.

When he was younger, our dog’s idea of heaven was the local doggy daycare. The more dogs, the more tail-wagging, barking—and butt-sniffing. He’d stay there forever if he could.

But our dog couldn’t stay for too long. Because if he did, he’d emerge glassy-eyed, as if out of a Lord of the Flies scene. Then he’d crash at home for two days due to the sensory overload.

As humans, we also get overstimulated. We might not be crammed in a space full of other humans, but we, too, need a break from the non-stop noise of life. We need the quiet of sensory rest.

Are There Different Types of Rest?

Sensory rest is only one kind of rest we need. In her book Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith lays out seven types of rest. According to her studies, we all need physical, mental, sensory, emotional, creative, social, and spiritual rest.

If you’re tired no matter how much sleep you get, you might have a deficit in one (or more) of these areas. This article will show you how to identify those rest deficits so you can address them and recharge your energy.

Rest Vs Sleep: Are They the Same Thing? 

You know through experience that those weekend sleep catch-up sessions (if you manage to get one) can leave you more sluggish than before. And going to bed earlier doesn’t solve your chronic exhaustion either (although it sure feels good). 

 “Just get more sleep” isn’t always the answer. If only it were that easy.

Despite getting enough sleep, many people still struggle to get through the day. That’s because sleep isn’t the same as rest. Sleep is one kind of rest—but it isn’t sufficient for us to feel rested. 

The main difference between sleep and rest is consciousness. When we sleep, we enter an unconscious state that allows our body and mind to restore and repair itself. Most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function optimally.

Rest, on the other hand, is a conscious state of relaxation that involves your whole being. When we’re missing one of the seven types of rest, it can leave us exhausted—as if we didn’t get enough sleep. 

Adequate rest (and sleep) allows our bodies and minds to recover from the stresses of daily life. It ensures that we have the most energy and live our best lives. 

What Are the Seven Types of Rest?

So here are the seven types of rest and ways to incorporate them into your life.

1. Physical Rest

Physical rest involves taking time off from your body’s physical demands to help it recover. This type of rest is the easiest to recognize. Your body will tell you when it’s tired, hurts, or getting sick. The most important thing is for us to listen to our bodies. 

You’ll need more physical rest if you work a physically demanding job as opposed to an office job. But if you can’t make it through your office job without mega-doses of caffeine, it might also be a clue you need more physical rest. 

Physical rest can be passive (i.e., sleep) or active (i.e., light activity).

Ways to get physical rest:

  • Go to bed earlier
  • Take a nap on the weekend
  • Lay down if you can’t nap
  • Take an evening bath
  • Get a massage
  • Do stretching exercises
  • Go for a relaxing walk

2. Mental Rest

Today’s 24-7 lifestyle means a stream of non-stop information. We face a barrage of notifications to respond to, decisions to make, tasks to complete—and expectations to manage. Knowledge workers, in particular, experience more information overload than ever before.

Mental rest means giving your brain a break from thinking and processing. 

When you have a deficit of mental rest, your mind might race at night and keep you up. You may have trouble concentrating on the task at hand. Or you might feel like a snapping turtle with those around you.

Ways to get mental rest:

  • Schedule (and take) mini-breaks
  • Put away your phone
  • Let your mind wander 
  • Keep a notepad at your bedside to write down your worries 
  • Eat a meal mindfully
  • Engage in a hobby that takes your mind off your problems

RELATED: 25 Unique Ways to Get the Mental Rest You Desperately Need   

3. Sensory Rest

If mental rest is a break from information, sensory rest is a break from stimulation. Sensory rest happens when we step away from sound, light, smell, and other inputs. 

You’ll recognize the need for sensory rest if your eyes throb from staring too long at a screen. Or if you’ve got a migraine from the office LED lights. Or if the Saturday morning congestion at Costco makes you want to run for the hills.

The key is to create small moments of sensory deprivation.

Ways to get sensory rest:

  • Unplug from technology 
  • Turn down the lights for 15 minutes
  • Make your home a cozy space
  • Close your eyes and focus on deep breathing
  • Use a Christian meditation app
  • Visit a secluded area in nature

4. Emotional Rest

Emotional rest is becoming authentic and taking care of our emotional needs. Many of us carry more inside than we’re aware of. 

Other people’s impossible problems have become ours. We give until we’re bone-dry. Or we harbor pent-up emotions that threaten to spill out the next time someone cuts us off.

God did not intend for us to carry overly heavy burdens alone. He wants us to lay them down at His feet instead. He wants to help us carry these burdens. 

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus reminds us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

Let’s take Him up on His word. 

Ways to get emotional rest:

  • Check in with your own emotions
  • Journal in a favorite notebook
  • Pray and give situations to God
  • Process feelings with a trusted friend
  • Choose not to people-please
  • Give yourself permission to say no

5. Creative Rest

Creative rest involves taking a break from the work of creating or problem-solving. You’ll need creative rest if you’ve been working without a break. This type of rest will also help you if you’ve hit writer’s block, burned out, or lost your passion altogether.

Rest is part of the creative process—not something we do apart from it. This type of rest allows our creative juices to keep flowing. And if you love what you do, getting creative rest ensures that you continue to love it. 

When God created the universe, He modeled this rhythm of work and rest for us. He created for six days and rested on the seventh day.

Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Ways to get creative rest:

  • Engage your sense of awe and beauty
  • Explore nature (especially a new place)
  • Admire other people’s creativity
  • Work on a different creative hobby
  • Redecorate your home or workspace
  • Switch up your daily routine
  • Plan something fun or different

RELATED: How You Can Use Creative Rest to Restore Your Creativity

6. Social Rest

As followers of Jesus, we seek to love everyone, but let’s be honest. Some people are easier to love than others. One friend might recharge us, while another drains us. If your social battery is in the red, you need social rest. 

Social rest is taking a break from exhausting social interactions in favor of enjoyable ones. This kind of rest isn’t about the absence of people, but rather the presence of rewarding relationships. It’s about finding rest through being with “your people.” 

Of course, if you’re an introvert, it might also mean getting some alone time.

Ways to get social rest:

  • Prioritize time with your loved ones
  • Connect with friends who understand and accept you
  • Seek out positive people who make you laugh
  • Choose in-person interactions over online ones
  • Spend time alone to recharge 

RELATED: How to Deepen Friendships as an Adult, According to Experts

7. Spiritual Rest

The busyness of life can leave us disconnected from God. Our fragmented, digital world can also cause us to feel detached from each other. Amidst our day-to-day responsibilities, we might even lose our sense of meaning.

Spiritual rest helps us to reconnect with God, our community, and our deeper purpose. 

Jesus invites His disciples to this kind of rest in Mark 6:31: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” 

We’ll find this kind of rest primarily through the spiritual disciplines.

Ways to get spiritual rest:

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Bonus Tips for Incorporating the Seven Types of Rest

1. Develop self-awareness.

Pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. Just as you wouldn’t want to ignore your body’s cues for hunger or thirst (or a bathroom break), listen to your body when it’s tired or overwhelmed. 

Don’t ignore cues for rest, as they’re signals to you. Address them when possible. With practice, you’ll recognize which of the seven types of rest you need. 

2. Bundle different types of rest.

If you’re like most people, you don’t have much time to rest. Once you’ve developed self-awareness, you’ll be able to combine two or more kinds of rest at the same time. 

For example, you might visit an art museum with a good friend (creative and social rest.) You might pray through your problems while taking a hike (mental, emotional, and spiritual rest).

Or turn the lights off and tuck yourself under a heated blanket mummy-style (physical, mental, and sensory rest).

3. Pace yourself throughout the day.

Do you remember the last time you were still recovering from a cold but had to go back to work? To survive the workday, you paced yourself and took it easy.  

If you’re depleted or burned out, you should have a similar mindset. You might not be able to drop all your responsibilities, but you should prioritize rest by seeking small opportunities to do so throughout the day.

Pace yourself—life is not a race.

4. Don’t depend primarily on your phone for rest.

In general, our phones are great sources of distraction and entertainment, but not deep rest. If you learn to avoid using your phone as your default source of rest, you’ll feel more rested.

Make a rest toolkit instead. Compile a list of other ways of rest you can choose from when needed. Include all the necessary supplies in one place.

If you want to decrease your screen time, you need other options to keep you from picking your phone back up.

5. Have a work shutdown ritual.

Setting boundaries with people isn’t easy, but often setting boundaries with ourselves is the most difficult—especially if you work from home. Set an end time that you’ll stop working each day, and then stick to it.

Mark this time with a work shutdown ritual. This routine might include reviewing current to-dos, tying up loose ends, decluttering, planning, or a simple ritual.

A shutdown ritual will signify to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Not only will it help you release work-related concerns, but it’ll also give you time to rest each evening.

Recharged and Ready 

After coming home from the noisy doggy daycare, our dog got the rest that he needed. When he had recovered in his favorite cushy bed, he was fired up for the next adventure. 

And so it is for us, too. When we get enough of the seven types of rest, we’ll feel recharged. We’ll be ready for the next thing God has in store for us.

So what are you waiting for?

Recap: The Seven Types of Rest

1. Physical Rest: rest from demands on the body

2. Mental Rest: rest from thinking/processing information

3. Sensory Rest: rest from outside stimulation

4. Emotional Rest: rest from emotional demands

5. Creative Rest: rest from creating and problem-solving

6. Social Rest: rest from draining relationships in favor of fulfilling ones

7. Spiritual Rest: rest through God, community, and purpose

Bonus Tips:

1. Develop self-awareness.

2. Bundle different types of rest.

3. Pace yourself throughout the day.

4. Don’t depend primarily on your phone for rest.

5. Have a work shutdown ritual.

Which of the seven types of rest do you get the most? Which do you need more of?

For more on this topic:

25 Unique Ways to Get the Mental Rest You Desperately Need   

How You Can Use Creative Rest to Restore Your Creativity

How to Keep the Sabbath in Modern Times (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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About the Author

Helen Rees

I am a Christian, wife, stepmom, psychiatric nurse, and writer. I write about research-backed ways to navigate the challenges of fast-paced modern life while growing in your Christian faith.

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