The Different Types of Rest We Need (Outside of Sleep)

by JJ Virgin on August 15, 2023

Without consistent, quality sleep, you just can’t expect any other aspect of your health to improve. I break out all the stops to help me snooze, from a sleep mask and proper lighting to prioritizing a refreshing morning routine that helps me sleep better each night. 

But did you know there’s more to rest than simply sleep? We wear out our bodies and minds in tons of different ways, and giving ourselves time to relax and recharge is crucial for our overall well-being.  

According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, there are seven different types of rest your body need to truly keep your energy levels and mental capacity high. They are:  

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

How Do I Know If I Need More Rest?  

Before we dive deeper into the different types of rest, let’s look at some of the symptoms you might be feeling if you’re missing out on any of the seven:   

  • Feeling tired, groggy, unfocused, or cranky throughout your day, even when getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night 
  • Stress from feeling like your life is non-stop action and hustle from the moment you wake up till the second your head touches the pillow at night 
  • Achy joints or random pain without knowing where it came from
  • Difficulty focusing, especially on more than one task at a time
  • Wondering where your “me” time went
  • Bouts of anger and irritation
  • Feeling as though you’re holding back on showing the authentic version of yourself
  • Diminished capacity to problem-solve

If any of these could apply to you, it’s likely that you need to slow down in some areas of your life and give your body and brain time to rejuvenate.  

What Are the 7 Types of Rest?  

Exploring the different types of rest can help you determine which ones you need to start prioritizing to help better serve your body.  

1. Physical Rest  

Sleep is one type of passive physical rest. We use the term “worn down” a lot when we’re talking about a lack of sleep, and it’s a little more literal than you may realize—when you don’t get enough Zzzs, your cells don’t have time to go to work regenerating the tissues that make up some of your critical body parts like your bones and intestines.You’ll start to feel not just tired, but as if your body just can’t keep up with daily life.  

But there’s more to physical rest than just sleeping at night. Your bones, muscles, and joints work hard for you all day. Without time to recover, they can become swollen, achy, and painful. Along with  discomfort, this could slow you down from exercise that helps keep you healthy, accelerating the bone and muscle loss that can already come with age.  

One way to give your body physical rest is to prioritize restorative activities like stretching, yoga, massage therapy, and using a foam roller.  

The other step that’s absolutely crucial in physical rest is eating protein first at every meal. One of protein’s many roles is acting as your body’s maintenance crew, heading to your cells to help them rebuild and repair when activities like exercise, illness, and just daily life break them down.  

If your body doesn’t have adequate protein to support that repair, all the stretching in the world won’t give your muscles the true restoration they need.  

So what’s the adequate amount of protein? In general, I recommend aiming for 100+ grams per day, broken down about evenly between three meals. (If you’re not splitting the amount evenly, have higher protein in your “bumper meals,” aka your first and last meals of the day for optimal muscle maintenance.) Your personal amount will depend on a few factors, including your current health and goals.  

If you’re just not sure how much protein you usually eat or how to start integrating more into your diet, I’ve got just the solution—try my free 7-Day Eat Protein First Challenge. You’ll be able to find out exactly how much protein you need each day. Then, all I want from you is to track your protein intake, get your recommended amount from delicious smoothies and incredible meals, and see the benefits firsthand. Along with giving your body the support it needs to support physical rest, I’m willing to bet a whole hunk of quality, grass-fed protein that you’re going to feel more energized, too.

2. Mental Rest 

Ever open a cupboard and instantly forget what you needed in there? Or stare at the same page of your book for ages, not comprehending a single word of what you’re looking at?  

You might need mental rest.  

In our stimulating, non-stop connected world, it can feel nearly impossible to give your brain a moment to catch up and process everything you’re taking in—and that’s draining your mental capacity. 

Researchers have long tried to figure out why mental rest is so important for your brain. In one study, they looked at the state of mental wandering that people entered when they were wakefully resting during an MRI.  

They found that when you’re in go-go-go mode, your body suppresses the neural processors that help you learn and process your thoughts. But in a more restful state, like taking a bath or daydreaming, the neural processors are free from suppression (ever have a great idea come to you in the shower?). The researchers posited that not only does this help you improve cognitive function and spark creativity, it’s also critical for forming a sense of self that comes as you recall and process memories.2 

Take some advice straight from the title of the study: “Rest is not idleness.”  

In the same way that you challenge your brain with cognition-boosting activities like puzzles or learning a new skill, also dedicate time to mentally restorative moments like taking breaks during work, allowing your mind to wander while on a walk rather than listening to music, or taking up a practice like meditation.

If meditation sounds like the last thing you’d want to do—trust me, I resisted it, too. During the pandemic, I decided to commit to a meditation practice just to see if I could, and now it’s part of my daily routine that I can’t go without. I’ve even gone on meditation retreats! The work of Dr. Joe Dispenza changed the game for me (and helped me lose weight, too), and it’s a non-negotiable these days when it comes to helping me calm my brain and reduce stress.

3. Sensory Rest  

We’re living in a plugged-in world, and it’s taking a toll on our circadian rhythm.  

The constant onslaught of blue light from your phone and computer screens, the bright lights of offices and stores, the pings of your devices, and the noises from everything from blaring TVs to honking horns do a number on your senses.  

Blue light, for instance, can suppress your melatonin, the hormone you need to fall asleep at night.3 So every time you watch a TV show or scroll through your phone hoping it will help you fall asleep, you’re actually sending a message to your body that it should hold off on producing the melatonin that will make you tired. 

If you ever feel totally overwhelmed by the end of the day, like you’ll snap if hear just one more email notification pinging from your phone, you could need some sensory rest.   

Schedule time each day to totally unplug, like going for a walk around the block without any devices or headphones, or sitting in a quiet and dark room and taking a few deep breaths. Blue-light glasses can also help hinder blue light’s ability to suppress melatonin, helping reduce the sensory overload and still get great sleep.4 My friends over at True Dark have the most stylish pairs, and you can get 10% off with my code JJ10.**  

4. Social Rest 

Having a strong and supportive network is crucial for your well-being at any point in your life, but especially as you grow older. Good friends can help stave off the isolation and loneliness that can come with age.  

One study even found that frequent dates with pals helped keep the brain young, lowering the risk of dementia and improving cognition.5 More research is needed as to why that is, but researchers suspect that the socializing and sense of support those get-togethers bring can help build up cognitive reserve, the buffer that protects your brain from faster decline. 

But if the thought of making plans with friends exhausts you, or if you find yourself declining calls from those close to you, it’s possible you’re in need of social rest. It’s time to ask yourself hard questions about the people around you: Is this really a strong, supportive relationship? Or do they ask more of you than you have the capacity to offer, without giving much in return? Do you feel like you’re always needed, without your friends or family acknowledging that you need to take care of yourself, too?  

It’s always smart to evaluate your relationships and pull back a little when you need some time to yourself. And it’s never too late to develop new, more expansive friendships, too! Joining a local club, connecting with people who share in some of your hobbies, or fostering a deeper connection with your favorite acquaintances could help you earn more relationships that feel less like social work and more like social support.  

5. Emotional Rest 

Do you ever feel like you’re holding back on your true feelings, keeping everything bottled inside because you have to put up a solid front for people?  

This can happen in lots of different settings—maybe you’re trying not to let employees know that your business isn’t as successful as they think it is, or you don’t want your friends to know your family life isn’t as serene as it appears. 

When you can finally get these burdens off your shoulders, you’ll experience the emotional rest you need to sort through your issues, tackle them, and make peace with the outcome.  

This doesn’t mean you have to start unloading your inner emotions on everyone you see, but it is important to find some sort of outlet to release yourself. Talking to a therapist or life coach, journaling, or confiding in a trusted friend can all be ways to let out the real you. 

6. Spiritual Rest 

Humans need to have some sort of purpose and sense of belonging in life. People find it in a wide variety of ways, from being part of a church to finding a deep sense of fulfillment in their work, taking care of families, or serving their community.  

If you start to feel like nothing matters—you feel like your job isn’t making an impact on the world, or that no one in your life really needs you—you are likely in need of spiritual rest.  

Finding ways to connect with yourself and your community can give you opportunities to find purpose. Volunteering is a great one. Not only do you get to help your neighbors, but there are health benefits to it, too! Researchers have found that volunteering helps older adults reduce functional limitations and their risk of dementia, as well as stave off symptoms of depression.6 

They don’t know exactly what mechanisms are at play that cause this, but most researchers agree it boils down to one philosophy: help others, and you help yourself, too.  

7. Creative Rest 

You ask a lot of your brain every day, from deciding what you’re going to eat for lunch to coordinating weekend plans to brainstorming at work. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, or feel like you’re staring at the same screen over and over with no new ideas coming to mind. 

If you’ve ever felt like you just can’t solve another problem or miss a totally obvious solution that was sitting right in front of you, it’s a sign your brain needs some creative rest. 

The best way to get creative rest is to open yourself up to taking in new experiences—which can be simpler than it sounds. Instead of your regular walk around the neighborhood, drive to a local park and take in the scenery there. Rather than put the same station on the radio, try to find new music you might like. Invite a friend over to try a new recipe, or check out that local museum you’ve been meaning to get to.  

Even if you’re not totally inspired by the new recipe or music, you’re at least giving your brain the chance to break from the drudgery of its routine.  

Prioritizing All Types of Rest  

Now that you know more about the different types of rest, think critically about which ones you need. Start with the type of rest that you think you need the most, and act as if you have a prescription to get that type of rest.  

Prioritize that rest the same way you would taking a medication for an illness, or wearing a cast to protect a broken bone.  

It doesn’t have to be a giant life overhaul! Just small, manageable steps that help you get the rest you deserve. You can sign up to volunteer today if you’re lacking spiritual rest, or head to a new park after work if you really need some creative rest. When you do, you’ll discover what you’ve been missing, and be better equipped to handle everything life throws your way. 

One thing that always helps me feel rested, balanced, and in optimal health is B-Complete, a comprehensive blend of B vitamins that support everything from my immune health to my energy levels to my cognition. When I have these health needs met, it’s easier for me to get all the different types of rest I need.  

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.   

**I couldn’t make it without supportive relationships, and I bet you feel the same! That’s why my team and I offer you products and services we believe in. If you happen to purchase something I recommend here, I may receive some kind of compensation. However, I only bring you partners whose content and core values will serve you with the same commitment to excellence my team and I strive for every day. Please be in touch with any concerns.   


  1. Elkhenany, H., AlOkda, A., El-Badawy, A., & El-Badri, N. (2018). Tissue regeneration: Impact of sleep on stem cell regenerative capacity. Life sciences, 214, 51–61. 
  1. Immordino-Yang, M. H., Christodoulou, J. A., & Singh, V. (2012). Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 7(4), 352–364. 
  1. Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B., Rajaratnam, S. M., Van Reen, E., Zeitzer, J. M., Czeisler, C. A., & Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96(3), E463–E472.  
  1. Sasseville, A., Paquet, N., Sévigny, J., & Hébert, M. (2006). Blue blocker glasses impede the capacity of bright light to suppress melatonin production. Journal of pineal research, 41(1), 73–78.  
  1. Sommerlad, A., Sabia, S., Singh-Manoux, A., Lewis, G., & Livingston, G. (2019). Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II cohort study. PLoS medicine, 16(8), e1002862. 
  1. Anderson, N. D., Damianakis, T., Kröger, E., Wagner, L. M., Dawson, D. R., Binns, M. A., Bernstein, S., Caspi, E., Cook, S. L., & BRAVO Team (2014). The benefits associated with volunteering among seniors: a critical review and recommendations for future research. Psychological bulletin, 140(6), 1505–1533.