The 7 types of sleep, explained


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You know how vital getting a good night’s sleep can be to your overall health. But, despite getting quality sleep each night, perhaps you still struggle to get through the day. 

That’s because your body needs to experience several types of rest to feel balanced and refreshed. 

This article will delve into how sleep and rest differ, the seven types of rest, and why each one is important. Plus, we’ll share tips on how to incorporate each type of rest into your routine and answer your most commonly asked questions about rest.

Sleep vs. rest: What’s the difference?

There’s a considerable difference between sleep and rest. Sleep is a passive and unconscious form of relaxation. During sleep, your body goes into a deep yet temporary state of unconsciousness. 

At this time, your body is busy repairing and regenerating cells that were damaged during the day. Sleep may also help reduce the risk of potential medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes

Resting, or active rest, is a form of conscious and therapeutic relaxation, although not on the same level as sleep. Active rest doesn’t create hormonal changes needed for cellular repair — nor does it induce REM sleep, which is vital for complex mental regeneration. 

7 types of rest

1. Physical rest

As mentioned, this form of rest has two components: active and passive. Both are fundamental to good health — and sleep, the inactive state of physical rest, is crucial for optimal overall health. 

Active physical rest involves conscious actions that promote relaxation. Examples of active rest include yoga and getting a massage. Ergonomics is also essential to avoid awkward body posture and minimize repetitious movements that can contribute to musculoskeletal problems.

Both active and passive physical rest are about “shifting your brain and body to a parasympathetic state,” says Celine Tien, founder of Flowly, a biofeedback app for managing the nervous system. “Giving your brain and your body a chance to rest, digest, and recover — really it’s to bring yourself a moment to rest and relax.”

Everyone can benefit from physical rest, especially those who don’t get adequate sleep. Developing a consistent bedtime routine and making time each day for restorative active rest aids emotional and physical health.

2. Mental rest 

Are you plagued by constant mind chatter, brain fog, low energy, and depend on multiple cups of java to get through the day? If so, you need a mental rest break — now!

Our nonstop lives mean many of us are almost always working, which usually leads to burnout.  That’s when taking regular breaks comes in. 

Mental rest can be achieved by purposely taking time out of your day to slow down and disconnect from stressful situations. During your workday, schedule a 10-minute break once every two hours. Go for a walk or do some meditation

According to Tien, mental rest is especially useful for individuals who have challenges with anxiety and other mental health disorders due to the constant fight or flight mode they may find themselves in.

3. Sensory rest 

Between phone notifications, emails, kids running around, background noise, and numerous other stimuli vying for your attention, it’s no wonder you’re on sensory overload.

Whether you attend daily Zoom meetings or are exposed continually to overly bright lights, too many stimuli could lead to sensory overload syndrome if left unchecked. 

Sensory rest, like mental rest, requires frequent breaks from overwhelming stimuli. When you find yourself overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, put away all unnecessary electronics, turn off bright lights, take a break from loud noise, and shut your eyes for a few minutes.  

According to Stephanie Thomas, author of the upcoming “The Little Book of Rest,” a good way to avoid sensory overload is to “take just a moment to think about all of your senses and essentially figure out what is happening in [the present] moment.”

4. Creative rest

Whether it’s brainstorming ways to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the monthly budget or practicing a musical instrument, our minds tend to be in constant problem-solving mode. 

Sometimes spending too much time in this mode can drain a lot of creative energy. A depletion of creative energy leads to reduced innovation, and being creative becomes challenging.  

To restore creative energy, turn off the problem-solving part of your brain for a while. Lose yourself in a good book or go for a hike. Once you’ve filled up on creative rest, the innovative part of your mind will come to life again. 

5. Social rest

Do you find it hard to say no when asked a favor? If so, you’re not alone. If not kept in check, people-pleasing can be extremely draining — mainly because you’re giving away time to help and support others without getting much support in return.


These activities can drain you emotionally, whether it’s taking care of loved ones, helping your co-workers with a big project, or doing a favor for friends. 

One way to rebalance social rest in your life is to spend as much time with people who can recharge you emotionally. Another way to gain social rest is by using the word “no” more often. Just because someone asks a favor doesn’t mean you’re obligated to say “yes” every time. 

Instead of agreeing to help every time you’re asked, consider the pros and cons of deciding to help.

6. Emotional rest 

Sometimes people conceal their true feelings to avoid sharing difficult feelings with those closest to them. In the case of people-pleasing, an individual may agree to do someone a favor out of fear of displeasing a friend. 

If this sounds like you, it may be time to hit pause and devote some time to emotional rest. Try surrounding yourself with supportive people with whom you can be comfortable.  

7. Spiritual rest 

Despite its name, spiritual rest isn’t necessarily associated with religion. Instead, spiritual rest means connecting to something bigger than yourself and discovering a deep feeling of belonging and purpose. Is your job unfulfilling? Or maybe you feel a bit flat despite succeeding at a difficult task?   

It may be time to reconnect by giving back to your community through volunteering or working for a cause that makes you feel your actions matter. 

How to tell what kind of rest you need 

Everyone should aim to incorporate all seven forms of rest at one point or another.  But it can be overwhelming to try to fit every form of rest into a daily routine.  

A good place to start is by taking this extensive quiz. The quiz asks questions related to daily living to help determine which form of rest you should focus your attention on.


What are some ways of resting? 

Here are a few ways to get the rest you need for a well-balanced life: 

  • Stick to a regular bedtime routine.
  • Make time for meditation every day.
  • Disconnect from overwhelming stimuli each day for as long as possible.
  • Take a 10-minute break from work every two hours. 
  • Unplug from all screens one day per week — or, better yet, for an entire weekend each week. 
  • If unplugging from your phone seems a bit too dramatic, try deleting your social media apps, or at least ignoring them for one day out of the week.
  • Connect with people who love, support, and understand you.
  • Learn to say no more often when asked to do favors that drain you of your creative energy. 

What’s the best form of rest? 

Without a doubt, sleep is the most important form of rest. Your body needs deep restorative sleep to repair damage from the day.  

Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. A 10-minute afternoon nap may refresh you, but seven to eight hours of sleep is needed for optimal health. 

Stay away from screens for at least two hours before hitting the hay to increase your chances of sleeping well. 

What does mental rest look like?

Mental rest is what we all need as it allows us to take a break from the constant hustle of everyday life. 

Despite getting a decent night’s sleep, you may find yourself drinking multiple cups of coffee throughout the day and experiencing irritability, forgetfulness, and difficulty focusing. 

To fix this, take breaks throughout your workday and try to disconnect from your phone as much as possible. 

Having difficulty catching Z’s? We’ve rounded up the best things to do if you can’t sleep

This article originally appeared on Saatva and was syndicated by MediaFeed

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5 sleep tips from former US presidents

5 sleep tips from former US presidents

Presidents have a complicated relationship with sleep. Either they boast about how little they need (we’re looking at you, Trump and Clinton), or, like George W. Bush, they go to bed so early that even their wife makes fun of them.

As we’ve noted previously in our post on the Lincoln bedroom, it’s ironic that President’s Day has become associated with mattress sales, because at least some presidents have had extraordinarily bad luck with mattresses, starting with George Washington, who complained as a young man about having to sleep on a bed of straw ridden with “vermin such as lice and fleas, etc.” Then there was James Garfield, whose new White House mattress may have hastened his demise when its metal coils interfered with Alexander Graham Bell’s attempts to use a metal detector to find the assassin’s bullet lodged in his abdomen.

But despite those tales of presidential mattress misfortune, there are also positive sleep lessons from the occupants of the Oval Office that anyone, regardless of party or political leanings, can learn from. Here are some of the best presidential sleep habits and the science that supports them.

The habit: Exercise. Adams, the nation’s sixth president, maintained a morning workout routine that involved getting up at 5 a.m. and taking either a six-mile walk or an hour-long swim.

The science: Even back then, Adams understood the benefits of a workout early in the day. A 2011 study found that people worked out in the morning slept longer, experienced deeper sleep cycles, and spent 75% more time in the most reparative stages of slumber (both mind and body) than those who exercised at later times in the day.

Another more recent study found that exercising in the early morning led to a greater decline in nighttime blood pressure than exercising in the afternoon or evening. The decreased blood pressure, in turn, resulted in a night of better quality sleep.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The habit: Taking a bath. Presidential nappers didn’t just stick to the prescribed 20-minute time slot usually thought of as a “power nap.” In fact, LBJ’s predecessor, John F. Kennedy, sometimes took up to two hours for his nap, always followed by his second hot bath of the day and a fresh suit of clothes to begin his afternoon of meetings in the Oval Office.

The science:Although JFK took his two daytime baths in large part to soothe his injured back, studies suggest that taking a bath at night can contribute to a better night’s sleep. Body temperature naturally dips at night, helping prepare the body for sleep. A warm bath can help hasten that temperature drop. One study, from Gunma University in Japan, measured the effects of a hot bath before bedtime and found that those of their study subjects who had a warm bath reported better, deeper sleep.

Library of Congress

The habit: Napping. Johnson was famous for his daily afternoon siestas. After waking at 6:30 or 7 a.m., LBJ read the papers, worked until 2 p.m., took a swim or brisk walk, then put on his PJs and napped for 30 minutes. Back up at 4, he resumed what he called his “two-shift day,” sometimes working until 1 or 2 a.m.

The science:Johnson didn’t need to read our Five Reasons to Take a Nap Right Now to know that a nap of just 26 minutes can boost performance by as much as 34%, according to a NASA study. Napping helps with alertness, learning new skills, and memory processing. Daytime naps can also enhance your sex life, aid in weight loss, cut down on workplace and auto accidents, and reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Even a short, 20- to 30-minute nap can help improve mood, alertness, and work performance—which is why companies like Google, Nike, and British Airways are among the businesses that encourage napping at work. Some employers have dedicated “nap rooms,” while others have “nap pods” placed throughout the office or even encourage employees to take a quick snooze at their desks.

Arnold Newman, White House Press Office/Wikimedia Commons

The habit: Prioritize sleep. Like father, like son. Both of the Bushes made getting enough sleep a stated goal of their presidencies. So much so that when George H. W. Bush jetted between time zones on Air Force One, he would pop a sleeping pill to get extra shuteye.

George W. Bush also guarded his sleep, regularly going to bed as early as 9 p.m. and sleeping upwards of nine hours per night. He also rose early and was ready for his debriefings at 6:45 a.m. After his 2000 election, the younger Bush joked, “I’m trying to set the record as the president who got to bed earliest on Inauguration Day.”

The science: There’s no shortage of scientific evidence of the tangible benefits of sleep for health and life, including:

Better memory—According to the National Institutes of Health, sleeping after learning something new can actually improve your memory. (Anything new you learn is cemented in your brain during the deeper stages of sleep.)

Better quality of life—One sleep study found that people who slept six to nine hours each night reported having a higher quality of life and ranked lower for depression. Those who slept less than six hours or more than nine hours reported having a lower quality of life and had higher scores for depression severity.

More creativity—Even when we sleep and dream, our brain is still very active, connecting ideas and thoughts throughout the night. If you’ve gone to sleep after trying to solve a problem or two all day, your brain actively keeps trying to solve them while you sleep.

Improved attention span—Without enough sleep, your body doesn’t get the right dosages of body chemicals like dopamine (“the feel-good hormone”) and adrenaline. This negatively affects your concentration level and attention span throughout the day. Just one night of bad quality sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms such as forgetfulness and difficulty maintaining concentration.

Lower stress level—When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your blood pressure and stress hormones increase. When you’re tired, you’re also more likely to become agitated and impatient, which in turn can increase stress levels. Stress can also affect your overall quality of sleep, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. More sleep and healthy sleep hygiene are key to helping lower stress.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The habit: Healthy late-night snacks. Seven lightly salted almonds helped keep Obama going during his regular late-night solitude of reading and writing in the Treaty Room.

The science: Studies show that certain foods promote sleep more than others. Foods high in melatonin, like tart cherries, can help you fall asleep, while greasy foods like pizza and hamburgers are hard to digest and can keep you up at night. Here are our lists of the best foods to eat before bed and what not to eat before you hit the sheets.

So this Presidents Day, take advantage of that extra time off to get some quality shuteye. Think of it as your civic duty.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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