Your Ultimate Relaxation Guide: How to Rest Without Sleeping

your ultimate relaxation guide how to rest without sleeping

When talking about taking good care of our health and well-being, sleep is always part of the conversation — and with good reason. Getting the right amount of shut-eye is essential for a countless number of vital bodily functions, from energy conservation to mood regulation and brain waste removal. But sleep isn’t the only form of rest we need to thrive in today’s busy world. In fact, there are seven types of rest, and some experts believe that getting the right amount of rest in each category is key to becoming the happiest, healthiest and most productive version of ourselves.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the different types of rest and the importance of taking frequent breaks to boost your mental and physical health. We’ll also provide helpful tips on how to rest without sleeping, so you can get the most out of each and every day.

Rest vs. Sleep – What’s the Difference?

Although the terms sleep and rest are often used interchangeably, they're not the same thing. Sleep is a complex biological process characterized by numerous physiological changes. When you sleep, your brain stores new information and eliminates toxic waste. Your body is also hard at work, repairing damaged cells, replenishing its energy stores and flooding your body with hormones. During the dream-filled stage of sleep, your muscles become temporarily paralyzed, so you don't physically act out your dreams.

Rest refers to a period of relaxation in which you cease to engage in activities that you perceive as being strenuous or difficult. Therefore, sleep is often considered a form of rest. When you rest, your body experiences similar physiological changes to sleep, such as low heart rate and breathing rate.

you need rest and sleep

Rest is not a suitable replacement for sleep, nor is sleep a suitable replacement for rest. You need both to feel truly refreshed and rejuvenated.

The Importance of Building Rest into Your Day

In our fast-living modern society, many of us are guilty of overloading our schedules, eating lunch at our desks and even working on the weekends — all in the name of trying to be more productive. Pushing ourselves to get more done on occasion isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in the long-term, this “go, go, go” attitude can take its toll on our mental and physical health.

Our brains aren’t designed to support our non-stop, overstimulating lifestyles. In fact, multitasking — a skill commonly glorified in the working world — has been found to spike the production of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving us feeling mentally exhausted.

In contrast, taking short rest breaks has been shown to be remarkably beneficial for our productivity and overall health. Indeed, numerous studies suggest that taking short breaks can help our brains learn new skills, increase our energy levels and improve our focus. 

The 7 different types of sleep

The 7 Different Types of Rest

The concept of seven types of rest was first popularized by physician and author Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, who shared her idea in a TEDx talk in 2019. According to Dalton-Smith, many of us are feeling exhausted and burned out because we don’t understand the true power of rest and what it can do for our mind and body. Here is a quick overview of Dalton-Smith’s different types of rest that she asserts are vital for human functioning.

Physical rest. This is the type of rest you’re probably already familiar with. Physical rest refers to any activity that helps you physically recover from a long day or even a tough workout. Sleeping, napping and taking a break from your daily workout routine are all examples of physical rest.

Mental rest. Even if we don’t notice them right away, the thoughts in our heads can be a complete mess. That’s where mental rest comes into play. Mental rest involves any activity that declutters your mind and frees your brain from cognitive demands (think practicing gratitude or focusing your mind on the present moment). 

Emotional rest. Have you ever lashed out at someone or made an impulsive decision due to pent-up emotions? One way you can avoid these kinds of situations is by regularly engaging in emotional rest. Setting boundaries for yourself, learning how to say “no” and finding healthy ways to release your emotions are all forms of emotional rest.

Social rest. It’s common knowledge that spending time with friends and family can benefit our health and well-being. But let’s be real — everybody needs some “me time.” Social rest is all about taking a break from social obligations and being alone with yourself.  

Sensory rest. Do you feel like you’re being overstimulated lately? Chances are, you could use some sensory rest. While digital devices are a common trigger for sensory overload, ambient noise, bright lights and certain textures can also make you lose focus and feel irritable. 

Creative rest. Even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly creative individual, getting plenty of creative rest is essential. This type of rest includes any activity that nurtures your creative side and reawakens your sense of imagination. According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, something as simple as taking a walk in nature can ignite our passion and help us achieve creative rest. 

Spiritual rest. Feel lost and unsure of your purpose in life? It sounds like you could benefit from more spiritual rest. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual rest doesn’t need to involve a higher power. It refers to anything that gives you a deeper sense of belonging and connection to the world. 

9 ways to rest without sleeping

9 Ways to Rest Without Sleeping

Just as you can suffer from a sleep deficit, you can also suffer from a rest deficit. Rest deficits can arise when we stretch ourselves too thin and stop making time for ourselves. But here’s the good news: you can prevent yourself from feeling utterly exhausted each day by incorporating rest into your day. Read on for a few ways you can achieve high-quality rest without sleeping.

1. Take a Break from Screens

Staring at a digital screen — whether it’s a smartphone, computer or TV screen — isn’t as relaxing as you might think. When you plop yourself down in front of the TV or scroll through social media on your lunch break, your brain is still getting bombarded by information left and right. Plus, digital screens blast your face with bright light, triggering your brain to stay awake rather than chill out. The next time you take a break, put your digital devices away and engage in screen-free activities that encourage sensory rest, like reading a physical book or doing a jigsaw puzzle.  

2. Unwind with a Weighted Blanket

Snuggling up to a weighted throw blanket may be one of the simplest ways to recharge your batteries and can effectively calm your mind and body. Known for their powerful, stress-busting effects, weighted blankets use a mechanism called deep touch pressure stimulation to ground the body downwards and trigger the body’s relaxation response. For a rejuvenating mid-day break, relax on a recliner or a sofa with the blanket draped across your body. 

On the hunt for a top-quality weighted blanket? Check out our best-selling Gravity weighted blanket, which features a premium micro-plush duvet cover and comes in a range of sizes to fit your bed. It’s the perfect way to relax!

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3. Play or Listen to Music 

There’s no doubt that music can have a powerful effect on the mind and body. According to experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, listening to music comes with a wealth of benefits, including lower blood pressure, anxiety and pain, as well as improved sleep quality, mood and memory. Music allows us to achieve several types of rest, serving as an outlet for our emotions (emotional rest), encouraging restful sleep (physical rest) and igniting our creativity (creative rest).

4. Breathe It Out

Breathing techniques are a great way to rest your mind and body, in part because you can do them anywhere, anytime. Got a few minutes to spare before your next meeting? Sneak in some diaphragmatic breathing (aka, belly breathing) to improve your focus. Waiting to pick your kids up from school? Try the 4-7-8 breathing method to quell errant stress and put yourself into a relaxed state of mind.

5. Engage in Meditation

Meditation can’t replace a good night’s sleep, but its restorative benefits are undeniable. Indeed, several studies have linked mindfulness meditation with improved sleep, reduced stress, better cognitive function and even fewer mistakes on the job. Best of all, you don’t need to spend a significant amount of time meditating to feel restored — just 10 minutes of daily meditation is enough to reap the benefits, according to researchers from the University of Waterloo.

a woman sleeping with a gravity sleep mask

6. Rest Your Eyes

Your eyes are meant to move around all the time, even during sleep. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the occasional rest. Closing your eyes for a few minutes throughout the day can go a long way in keeping your eyeballs moisturized and reducing your risk of digital eye strain, a group of vision-related disorders caused by gazing too long at computers, tablets and phones. 

Shutting your eyes and emptying your mind of thoughts is also a great way to relax your body and mind. If you’re having a difficult time relaxing with your eyes closed, try wearing a weighted eye mask. On top of blocking out bright light, these soothing masks provide gentle pressure that puts you in a calmer state of mind.

7. Immerse Yourself in Nature

Spending just a few minutes in nature has been shown to boost mood, lower blood pressure and ease anxiety. And you don’t have to go for a strenuous hike to reap the benefits — even sitting in a park or relaxing on your front porch may help you relax. Can’t get outside? Some research suggests that listening to nature sounds can also have a calming effect on our mind and bodily systems.

8. Move Around 

Moving around may seem like the last thing you’re supposed to do when you’re trying to rest. But in fact, getting up and stretching your legs for a bit can do your brain (and your body) a world of good. Movement has been linked to a wide range of psychological benefits, including improved mood and self-esteem, reduced stress and increased life satisfaction. To incorporate movement into your day, try a five-minute stretching routine in between meetings and go for a walk on your lunch break.

9. Relax with a Warm Bath

It doesn’t matter if you’re sick, stressed, sad or frustrated — chances are, taking a warm bath will make you feel at least slightly better. Experts say that the warm water helps to calm our nervous system and trigger the release of “happy hormones,” such as dopamine and serotonin. A nice soak in the tub can also reduce pain and encourage a restful night’s sleep.

Baths are inherently relaxing, but if you want to kick things up a notch, step into a weighted robe afterward. The robe’s soothing pressure coupled with premium-quality fabrics will make you feel like you’re stepping out of the shower and into a warm hug!

a weighted robe

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Rest Your Way to Better Health

The activities that make one person feel well-rested and restored can be a source of stress for another, so experiment with the ideas above and find what works best for you. Ultimately, if you still feel like you’re running on fumes, it might be a good idea to see your primary care physician. They can rule out underlying causes that may be contributing to your fatigue.


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