Just Getting Sleep Isn’t Enough: The 7 Kinds Of Rest Your Body Needs

Although we’re in the mattress review business, we also write articles about  restorative sleep and wellness. One of the most understood aspects of human physiology is the element of rest. In fact, Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest, has this to say about what it takes for us to be well rested, and it’s a lot more than just getting 8 hours of sleep.

She states that “staying busy is easy. Staying well rested-now there’s a challenge. How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life?”

In a recent TED presentation, Dalton-Smith insists “we go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep — but in reality we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need” and outlines the seven types of rest that are essential for human flourishing. 

Deep REM sleep is just one of the many kinds of sleep

In fact, getting your sleep hygiene routine down is just one aspect of a whole body approach to restfulness. Like the facets of a diamond, its clarity is the result of many precisely calculated elements. If you’re interested in a mattress, you can check out our Trusted Dealer program to find a great deal on a mattress we’ve personally curated and reviewed.

To understand the full scope of rest and rejuvenation that your body needs, even beyond the spectrum of restorative sleep, here are the seven elements that are part of a truly holistic approach to resting wellness.

1. Physical Rest

This is the usual definition of rest that we’re all familiar with. But while we know we need to spend a decent number of hours in bed to stay healthy, a steady drumbeat of research shows that a large proportion of us still don’t get enough physical rest.  Physical rest encompasses sleep, napping, lying still, and any calming and stillness that allows muscles and connective tissue to be at rest and not under strain. Sleep is included in this category. Sleep rest can be greatly improved with a proper mattress that provides support, comfort, but most importantly, facilitates restful, restorative sleep and sleep induction. 

Sleep induction is the phenomenon of falling asleep, and is often the critical element that is a concern when evaluating sleep. Check out my blog about best mattresses for restless sleepers for more information on this sub-topic

2. Brain Or Neurological Rest

If your mind is constantly a racing whirlwind, spinning from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you need more mental rest, and even if you sleep a solid eight hours a night, you’re not going to feel fully recharged until you get it. 

Try taking short breaks during the day where you distance yourself from work activities. Find a quiet space, break room, and enhance your distraction by bringing a puzzle or writing an entry in a journal (journal keeping is enriching, and surprisingly accumulates rapidly into a tangible legacy of your life that you can share later).

“The good news is you don’t have to quit your job or go on vacation to fix this”, says Dalton-Smith. Don’t just write this little life hack off either. Once you try it, you’ll understand the benefit. I take multiple breaks every 60-75 minutes, and noticed that my productivity dramatically increases during the uptime I am writing content for this web site as well as others.

3. Sensory Rest

Want to know how much of your life is being vaporized by staring at screens all week? Check the screen time on your phone- you will likely be shocked. Staring at screens all day and all night means your eyes never get a break, and it’s likely that you are damaging them. 

Factor in the background noise of urban environments, endless pinging notifications, and ambient high frequency noise that all of us are forced to digest, and the amount of sensory overload your brain has to process is overwhelming and unhealthy. Deadly, in fact.

Humans are only meant to process high speed, high density amounts of data when we are in fight or flight mode, which should be infrequent.

Unfortunately, our brains are in flight or fight mode an average of 7-9 hours per day, numbing our body’s ability to alert to situations requiring immediate escape. 

To remain alert and maintain fast response time when we are threatened, it is important to teach your brain to slow down by reducing stimuli. Your brain needs a rest now and again. Silence is by far the best therapy to reduce stimuli that constantly zaps your mind, wearing it down until it can no longer process fine bits of information and store them to memory. If you don’t own a pair of noise cancelling headphone, get a pair. 

Also, use earplugs when driving or when in high decibel environments, as it is a positive stop to prevent your mind from dumbing down stimuli which also prevents you from feeling rested and energized. 

Evolution gifted us with the insatiable appetite to create, to invent. Our brains need the challenge, the stimulation, and the reward…so that we rest easily.
Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest

4. Creative Rest

Start creating. There are thousands of web sites that are full of tips on how to be more creative, but just as important as striving to put out new ideas is remembering to pause and take in the building blocks out of which they’re constructed. To do this, we need to be makers.

Evolution gifted us with the insatiable appetite to create, to invent. Our brains need the challenge, the stimulation, and the reward…so that we rest easily. As the author of this article, I’m also an artist, working in 3D architectural murals. I spend at least two hours a day taking to time to create.

As a fringe benefit of being mindful of my creativity, I’ve also created an art business, almost accidentally. When I’m falling asleep at night, I ponder new ideas and new ways to invent, just as my ancestors would have ages ago. 

5. Emotional Rest

What is emotional rest? “Having the time and space to freely express your feelings and cut back on people pleasing,” Dalton-Smith explains. “Emotional rest also requires the courage to be authentic. An emotionally rested person can answer the question ‘How are you today?’ with a truthful ‘I’m not okay’ — and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid.”

In other words, we all need the space to stop pretending for ourselves and others and get real about our feelings sometimes. Bottling up your feelings, swallowing the anger or sadness you feel about the bumps and grinds in your life, all contributes to emotional exhaustion and again, sucks energy from your brain, gumming up the machine with too much data, data that often snowballs as your mind attempts to unravel and process it.

Empty your thoughts by having meaningful conversations with others, embracing loved ones, calling and reaching out to family and friends. All of these actions will calm you, and help you mind to rest. The rush of dopamine that you get after someone has thanked you for coming to their rescue- helps calm your brain, balance s your neurochemistry and makes you rest easier. Most importantly, stop dwelling on things you can’t control Let it go.

6. Social Rest

Some people energize you. Others drain you. If you spend too much time with the latter type, you’re going to need some emotional, or what I call, social rest. Create a core group, your wolf pack, and nurture those relationships. 

Spending time with them will bring you social rest. If your life is largely spent caring for others, enabling others, trying to solve everyone else’s problems and not attending to your own well being, you will always have a feeling of exhaustion, of being lost, and even being alone. You’ll feel exhausted and tired.

7. Spiritual Rest

All humans, no matter their religious affiliation or lack thereof, have a need to feel connected to something larger than themselves. This doesn’t require a deity or figurehead, either. But to feel rested and calm, we all need to believe in a higher sense of purpose, aspire to something larger than ourselves, and seek it our for tranquility and peace. 

This could be a favorite novel, the perfect piece of jazz, your playlist, a teacher, a pastor or rabbi, but the good news is that science shows simple interventions can give you a quick dose of awe that should lead to measurable increases in well-being. 

So next time you think to yourself, “I’m tired,” don’t leave your complaint at that. Instead, dig a little deeper and try to identify just what sort of rest you’re lacking exactly. Once you know what you’re missing, you’ll be in a much better place to figure out how to recharge effectively.