The 7 types of rest you should be getting—and what happens if you don't

Make sure you're factoring in these types of rest into your life, if you're in need of an energy boost

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While relaxing and recharging may seem like a fairly simple concept, there are actually many different types of rest that we should be ensuring we get enough of. In fact, it is thought that there are seven different forms that your body needs, says Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director at Healthspan. "These include physical, mental, social, creative, emotional, spiritual and sensory types of rest," she explains.

What's more, it's likely that they will all be particularly fatigued right now. "As well as the stress from the usual pressures of daily life, the pandemic and Christmas will have also taken a toll on our ability to recuperate," notes Dr Brewer. It doesn't help, adds Sarah Cox, an energy healer and founder of Zephorium, that we often resist the pull to stop. "We have been taught by our culture to override tiredness," she points out. "Instead of allowing our body to tell us that it is time to recalibrate, we tend to push through." If you often feel tired in winter, factoring in the right downtime is essential—here's how to recharge properly (and it's much more than just how to sleep better, although that's important too)...

What are the 7 types of rest you need to get?

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As well as getting a good night's shut eye, there a seven key types of rest we need to factor into our lives to avoid burning out. According to Dr Brewer, these seven types of rest are: 

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Social
  • Creative
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual 
  • Sensory

1. Physical rest

"Physical rest gives our body a chance to recover and refuel after movement, be it a fitness class or a physical day with the kids," explains psychotherapist Anna Mathur "The more we use physical energy, the more physically tired and depleted we become. Maybe your job is physical, such as something that requires a lot of standing, lifting, moving, or handling. 

"Perhaps you lean on physical exercise that raises your heartbeat and has you leaping around, to benefit your mental health. Or it might be that your lifestyle has you racing around at 100mph from one thing to another, from school drop off to work." You need to allow time to recover from the intensity.

How to get more physical rest

"Slow down and rest physically through intentional relaxation, such as stretching or meditation, or passive relaxation—like an evening on the sofa," suggests Mathur. "Lessening the demands on your body some days of the week will help restore you and replenish that physical energy before you get back to it."

But the most important way to recharge physically is sleep. "It allows your body time to recover and repair," insists Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at Chemist Click. "It is therefore important to practice good sleep hygiene. Late nights, sleeping too long and waking up late can actually leave you feeling worse. Try to go to bed early and get up after eight hours." 

Dr Brewer agrees. "Good quality sleep is important, and a lack of it quickly leaves you feeling tired, irritable and exhausted. Studies show that a sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night is associated with the lowest risk of any chronic disease and premature death at any age." Want a little help? Try these best sleep aids.

2. Mental rest

"Almost everything in our modern culture requires great expenditure of our mental energy," says Mathur. "We are bombarded with visual imagery and electronic sound—like music and notifications—almost constantly, both within and outside our homes. Whether it's a news article, advert, text message, or email, they all require mental energy as our brains race to process and assess each piece of information." 

She notes that whether your work requires a lot of concentration—like being a business analyst, lawyer, technician, and engineer—or you are juggling the demands of a family and running a home, you will be analyzing what's coming in from the world around you. This is where mental rest comes in. "It gives our minds respite from the constant processing of information," she adds.

How to get more mental rest

"We have to be very intentional about finding ways to place boundaries around how in touch we are with the world, particularly since the technological environment we live in aims to lure us to click, refresh and engage as much as possible," says Mathur. 

"Consider screen-free time to help your mind wind down before bed. Perhaps lie for a moment with your eyes closed and an eye mask on, or invest in some best earplugs for sleep or noise-canceling headphones, to give your brain a break from processing noise momentarily." She recommends staying in touch with friends with a phone call, walks, or coffee instead of via hastily tapped-out messages. Additionally, Dr Brewer adds that activities like meditation and yoga (try yoga for beginners if you're new to practicing) can be really helpful to factor into your diary. 

3. Social rest

Many people may not realize how much energy socializing uses up, but it's a lot. "Social rest is needed after a hectic social schedule," says Dr Brewer. "Especially in the winter, after a festive season with lots of parties, work functions, and get-togethers with family and friends." Although it may also be required during spring and summer when there may be lots of weddings and holidays filling up your calendar. "It can also apply to taking a break from certain relationships," says Kristina Rhianoff, a yoga teacher and former professional dancer. "They could be personal or professional relationships that have become a bit toxic or emotionally draining."

How to get more social rest

"Try sitting with yourself and your thoughts for 15 to 20 minutes," recommends Rhianoff. "Assess how are you feeling and acknowledge those feelings without looking for confirmation from others. It’s your time with just yourself that helps you to understand yourself better." A digital detox ould also be beneficial to promote a clean social break. 

Dr Brewer suggests, "Switch off your phone, avoid checking social media, and have a quiet night in catching up with reading or TV." Need some inspiration? Here's our pick of the best self-help books for self-improvement.

4. Creative rest

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"This type of energy is spent when we produce creative work, be it a written piece or a painting," explains Mathur. "Consider architects, writers, designers, and artists—all are relying heavily on the creative parts of their brain to produce work to briefs and specifications." This is why creative rest is key. "It offers respite from a constant focus on, or production of, creative work and thoughts," she explains. 

"As therapeutic as it may be for many, to create—and it can so beneficial for mental health—creative energy is a source we draw from which needs to be replenished through space from work and productive thoughts." She notes that when we ignore or override this need for rest, we can find ourselves feeling creatively ‘stuck in a rut’ and uninspired, which can feel disheartening.

How to get more creative rest

"Rather than inventing new things, focus on what is already present in the now with mindful meditation," suggests Dr Brewer. Need some guidance on how to wind down? Try one of these best meditation apps. Similarly, Mathur recommends stepping away and taking a breather, or focusing on a creative task that has no other purpose than to feel therapeutic. "Putting boundaries around the amount of time you focus on a creative task can ensure you don’t get overwhelmed or burnout out," she explains. "When we get into the flow of a creative task, it can feel hard to step away, but setting a timer to remind you to take a break and switch your focus."

5. Emotional rest

"This is needed after an emotional time such as a row with your loved ones, a bereavement, or even an intense romantic fling," says Dr Brewer. Some may use up more of it than others if they are a parent, carer, or work in a role that requires connecting emotionally to others, notes Mathur. "Our emotional energy is another resource we have, an amazing one which allows us to nurture and connect richly with others," she explains. "But like all other resources, we don’t have it in endless supply without cost."

How to get more emotional rest

If you're wondering how to relax your mind to recharge emotionally, there are a number of options. "You may need to offload stressful thoughts to someone who is a keen listener," suggests Dr Brewer. "Exercise is also a good way to help reset your emotional equilibrium." 

It's also important to place boundaries around the tasks and relationships that relentlessly drain you. "Perhaps you speak to someone often who you are spending emotional energy on in terms of listening and supporting them, and you decide to limit the length of the meetings or phone calls while you replenish your emotional energy," recommends Mathur. "Or, perhaps you could choose to not answer calls, emails, or phone messages between certain hours so that you create some space between engaging emotionally in relationships."

6. Spiritual rest

Similarily to emotional rest, your inner self needs time to rest and recharge. "This [type of rest] may be needed if you have lost your sense of purpose or feel drained from giving more and more of yourself to others," says Dr Brewer. While this may feel like a less vital sort of rest to consider, continually dismissing it may lead to issues in other areas of your life. "Consider your wellbeing to be a ‘Jenga Tower’," explains Emma Arden, a health coach. "You can remove pieces and it will remain stable, however when enough pieces are gone, it will collapse. Your needs are interconnected, if you neglect one, you will be unbalanced."

How to get more spiritual rest

"Take a step back and focus on nurturing your inner self," recommends Dr Brewer. "Say 'no' to unreasonable demands, and accept that you can’t change the world single-handedly." Unsure what you want to strive for in life and focus your energy on? Here's how to enlist goal setting to refocus your efforts— you could also invest in a goal planner to help you find more purpose and meaning. 

7. Sensory rest

Another form of rest that might not be on your radar. "Our senses are constantly engaged," says Mathur. "Whether it be hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting. And the more senses that are engaged at any one time, the more depleted we can feel as we process the world around us." How does it get used up? "You might feel touched-out at the end of the day if you’ve had kids climbing on you," she explains. 

"You may also feel overwhelmed by lots of audio and sound input if you work in a loud or busy environment. When you feel touched-out, you might crave physical space. When you’ve had too much noise, you might crave silence. When you’ve been exposed to strong smells all day, as in certain jobs, you might want to escape that scent that has a strong connotation of work or stress."

How to get more sensory rest

"Perhaps you want to lie down and close your eyes for a moment, or seek a quiet corner to do some simple breathing exercises," suggests Mathur. Additionally, Arden recommends dedicating time to focus on one sense. "Turn off notifications and listen to an album from start to finish," she explains, of how this can be put into practice. "Wear clothing that is soft or comfortable, use calming scents like lavender or camomile, and hold a calming item such as a crystal." But for Kanani, the best way to recharge in this way is to take time away from the blue light emitted by computers, phones, and tablets. "Blue light blocks a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy," he explains. "This can leave you feeling stimulated at night and be unable able to get into a deep sleep, which will leave you feeling tired."

Which type of rest is most important?

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There is no one type of rest that's superior to the rest, urges osteopath Anisha Joshi. "Our bodies need multiple different types of rest, and each is important as it helps us recharge in different ways and stops us from burning out or breaking down," she explains. "The various types of rest all interlink and support the optimum functioning of the body."

Above all, we need to reframe what rest is in our minds. "It doesn’t always mean we need to be asleep, and can mean many different things," says Cox. "We all know the saying 'a change is as good as a rest'. That's why we feel so good when we go on holiday—we have changed our behavior and habits which create new neural pathways in the brain, and this feels refreshing to our tired minds and bodies."

w&h thanks Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director at Healthspan (opens in new tab), Sarah Cox, energy healer and founder of Zephorium (opens in new tab), Anna Mathur (opens in new tab), psychotherapist, who is working with jewelry brand Recognised (opens in new tab), Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at Chemist Click (opens in new tab), Kristina Rihanoff, yoga teacher and former professional dancer at (opens in new tab), Emma Arden, health coach at (opens in new tab), and Anisha Joshi, an osteopath for their time and expertise.

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. 

While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.