By Rachel Welch
There’s a funny video circulating on TikTok that shows its creator popping up to share that he got only four hours of sleep last night, and guess what? He’s fatigued.
Another frame shows someone who got a full 13 hours of sleep last night, and guess what? He’s also exhausted.
Finally, the third frame shows a person who got the recommended 8 hours of sleep last night, and you know what? He’s still tired.
While this video is humorous, it is, sadly, also incredibly relatable to many of us.
If you can sleep for 13 hours or more and still wake up weary and exhausted, and you can’t figure out what’s happening, then this article is for you.
We live in a society where the idea of hard work reigns supreme. People brag about working overtime, missing out on sleep, and going the extra mile, and seem to forget that rest is a fundamental human need. Let’s take a brief journey back to Psychology 101, where we have Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that categorizes human needs into five distinct levels. These needs are often depicted as a pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom and the highest needs at the top. The levels of needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs provides a framework for understanding human motivation and behavior. It suggests that people must fulfill their basic needs before pursuing higher-level needs. This theory works with the seven types of rest but may not always mesh well with our society’s expectations.
In America and many cultures worldwide, ideologies like hustle culture do not promote guilt-free rest.
There is almost an intrinsic fear of ceasing productivity because if we do, we’re failing or under-contributing.
Even when resting at home, you may feel compelled to put away laundry, tackle the dishes, or finish that painting project you put off because sitting and doing nothing when there is so much to do, feels out of the question.
It may seem dramatic, but resting guilt is a common conundrum. A study published in the Journal of Leisure Research found that guilt was a common emotion experienced by participants when engaging in leisure activities.
The study surveyed 400 adults and found that guilt was the second most frequently reported emotion experienced during leisure activities, after happiness.
The researchers suggest that guilt may arise because people feel they should be doing something more productive or that leisure activities are selfish.
Another study looked at 85 individuals and assessed overall well-being levels related to the employee’s amount of workaholism. They found that employees who worked overtime into the evening (after the typical workday) had lower levels of well-being.
They found that low workaholism resulted in higher employee well-being and overall happiness.
Overall, it is clear that some people may experience guilt when engaging in rest or leisure activities, but it is wise to recognize that rest and leisure activities are essential for physical and mental health and well-being.
So, say you’ve achieved guilt-free rest and reached a harmonious balance. Why, then, can you often get the proper amount of sleep, eat well, hydrate adequately, and remain exhausted?
According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, you need to reframe how you look at and practice rest.
Rest = Restoration
Dr. Dalton-Smith is a board-certified internal medicine physician and author of the book "Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity," which outlines the seven types of rest that she believes are crucial for overall well-being.
Her curiosity about rest began when she experienced relentless fatigue, despite “doing all of the right things.”
She realized that something needed to change.
This led to a discovery she outlines in her book.
The difference is that rest is often thought of as the cessation of activity and the abrupt halt of effort. For instance, if we come home after a long day at work, we might flop onto the couch and rest to recharge.
As our society has determined that rest is often practiced passively, with the only intent being to do nothing, in many cases.
However, being still, doing nothing, and sleeping enough, often leaves us still wanting energy and motivation. This is where Dr. Dalton-Smith suggests a potential game-changer when she suggests that rest should instead mean active restoration.
Rest as restoration involves actively pursuing activities that will renew, refuel, and rejuvenate you and your energy supply.
This brings us to one of the key takeaways: our bodies and minds require different types of rest to function optimally.
Dr. Dalton-Smith explains that physical rest, for example, isn't just about sleep and involves activities such as stretching and massage.
Mental rest is about giving our minds a break from constant stimulation, while emotional rest involves acknowledging and processing our feelings, like through journaling or meditation.
Social rest is about having meaningful connections with others, and sensory rest is about reducing the amount of external stimulation we are exposed to.
Finally, creative rest is about engaging in activities that bring us joy, and spiritual rest is about finding purpose and meaning in our lives.
The 7 Types of Rest
To embrace Dr. Dalton-Smith’s idea, rest is not just about getting enough sleep. Rest also includes activities and practices that are essential for overall well-being.
For instance, this type of rest would be helpful after a physically demanding or stressful day. Examples of physical rest include taking a nap, going for a leisurely walk, or taking a hot bath.
This type of rest focuses on giving your mind a break from constant stimulation and overthinking. Mental rest can involve turning off your phone or computer, spending time in nature, or engaging in mindfulness practices.
Examples of mental rest include reading a book, taking a break from social media, or practicing deep breathing exercises.
Examples of sensory rest include taking a break from electronic devices, spending time in a quiet room, or wearing earplugs or an eye mask.
This form of rest is vital if you consider the large quantity of sensory input we are exposed to daily due to technology. Phones, televisions, computers, and even work colleagues or your family can all contribute to sensory fatigue.
Examples of creative rest include drawing, writing, or listening to music. Think the consumption or practice of art but with relaxed and easy breezy thoughts.
Examples of emotional rest include journaling, taking a warm bath, or spending time in nature.
Examples of social rest include reading a book, taking a solo hike, or having a quiet dinner with loved ones. Introverts, this one is crucial for you!
Examples of spiritual rest include attending a religious service, volunteering, or spending time in nature.
To embrace the culmination of both Maslow’s and Dr. Dalton-Smith’s work, we can conclude that the human body has basic needs, and that the priority of those needs is relevant. Without addressing your physical needs, emotional and social will be out of reach.
Once your physical needs have been cared for, it is essential to acknowledge that – regardless of what society may demand – you are entitled to rest of all kinds.
Physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual rest all have their place in your life and may be best accomplished by actively pursuing relevant activities.
Remember that rest does not always mean stop. Sometimes it means providing a particular fuel, fun, or function. This all adds to the fact that sleep, nutrition, and exercise are indeed crucial for optimal health.
Overall, it is important to recognize that rest is about getting enough sleep and engaging in activities that allow the mind and body to relax and recharge.
By incorporating each type of rest into our lives, we can create a more balanced and fulfilling life.