Rest: Benefits, concepts, methods and research

Many of us are caught grinding work, family responsibilities and ongoing stress every day.

Most of the time, you may only allow yourself to get enough rest on holidays or vacations. However, it is scientifically recommended to prioritize rest and have adequate quality sleep, as these are crucial to your overall health.

Both rest and sleep are two different aspects that are equally important in maintaining your mental, emotional and physical health. Rest and sleep are relative to one another, as prioritizing rest may improve your quality of sleep as a result.

Rest and sleep

Generally, defining the term rest is difficult because it is considered subjective for many individuals. However, in medicine, rest refers to any behavior that aims to increase the physical or mental well-being of a person. The behavior while at rest can be active, including going for a walk outside, or passive, like taking ten minutes to sit down and breathe deeply. 

Regardless of how you define rest for your body, your day-to-day behaviors can surely help you recover and recharge from physical and mental effort. Hence, resting is associated with better overall physical and mental health. 

On the other hand, sleeping is one kind of rest that is equally essential to any type of resting. It is when the body-mind state of a person experiences sensory detachment from their surroundings. Having enough sleep is important in ensuring the function of the body. It also affects every system in the body, from cognitive functions to immune health. 

With quality sleep, you allow yourself to reset, recover and recharge on things that make you tired. Sleeping is absolutely vital to brain function, concentration, immune health, memory and metabolism [1]. 

Getting enough rest and sleep

Having the correct amount of time period for quality rest and sleep is important to one’s ability to learn and process memories. Also, an adequate resting and sleeping period aids in restoring the body’s energy, repairing muscle tissues and triggering the release of hormones that affect a person’s growth and appetite.

Similar to exercise, the amount of rest and sleep you need is based on your age. For sleeping time, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests having at least 11 to 12 hours for preschool-aged children, 10 hours for school-aged children, 9 to 10 hours for teens and 7 to 8 hours for adults.

You should also consider the quality of rest and sleep you are taking. The quality of sleep can be elaborated to the amount of time you spend in rapid eye movement or commonly known as REM sleep. 

REM is considered the most restorative of the five cycles of sleep and must be accounted for one-fourth of the time a person spends sleeping. For instance, an adult who sleeps eight hours every night must spend a total of two hours in REM sleep.

When you don’t get proper sleep or good quality sleep every now and then, you may observe waking up feeling groggy, having a not-well-rested body and experiencing difficulty focusing on simple tasks. 

Meanwhile, when you consistently do not have enough quality sleep, you are at much risk for fatal health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, frequent headaches and depression.

Benefits of resting

Heals the body 

In order for the human body to thrive in a series of short sprints, you need to rest. Taking a break, even just for several minutes, can help you refresh and recharge as you persevere throughout the day. 

A break refers to short cessations to work, physical exertion or emotional stress. It generally promotes mental health, boosts creativity, increases productivity, promotes overall wellness, lowers stress levels, improves mood and strengthens relationships [2]. 

The time period of your rest should depend on your personal needs. For example, if you did not sleep well the night before and feel angry or overwhelmed, you may require more frequent breaks in a day. 

Having adequate rest provides your body the opportunity to activate its inner healing cascade and come back to a state of homeostasis, which is a process when your body repairs and recovers. 

Reduces stress levels

Stress is a common and intrinsic aspect of everyone’s life. For some individuals, stress may act as a stimulant. However, stress feels more like a burden for other people. 

Most definitions in the medical field refer to stress as a mental state where it invokes an internal or external challenge, disturbance or stimulus. Stress is the perception of a challenge or physiologic response. Moreover, chronic stress can suppress one’s immune system and increase the risk of certain diseases [3]. 

When you experience stress, your body goes through a fight or flight mode, which is physiological arousal. Stress heightens your senses because of a possible perceived danger. During stress occurrence, you may experience an increased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed digestive functioning, high hormone levels, including cortisol and other responses [4]. 

The flight-or-flight mode is the body’s initial way of survival during ancient history. The response allowed people from ancient times to protect themselves from unthinkable situations immediately. However, the response can be experienced many times and in various situations in today’s fast-paced world [5]. 

Also, resting can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system associated with the flight-or-fight response. 

The parasympathetic nervous system handles the body’s quiet “rest and digest” conditions. The main responsibility of the parasympathetic nervous system is to conserve energy for the body to have something to use later. It also regulates bodily functions, such as digestion and urination.

Improves productivity 

Just like other muscles, your brain is less functional when you are tired. Your brain can recharge with proper rest, and as a result, you will be productive. 

Hence, Mondays are often jampacked with high-importance tasks or meetings because you get to rest your brain during weekends, as explained scientifically.

Furthermore, taking time off may allow you to be more efficient at work whenever you get back to it. Consequently, it is essential to set aside one day every week to unplug, so you can improve your work productivity and feel a greater sense of achievement. 

Enhances decision making 

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “sleep on it”? There is a scientific explanation for that saying. When your brain takes a rest by sleeping, your decision-making skills may improve and become more logical and accurate. In short, resting may improve one’s ability to make wiser decisions. 

Working for long hours without rest can reduce your concentration and may depreciate your emotional capacity. As a result, you may find it hard to decide right away. 

Setting a regular schedule for breaks, whether daily or weekly, allows you to refresh your outlook and, in turn, make better decisions. Resting is only significant when you purposefully incorporate it into your everyday routine. 

Boosts creativity

As much as you want to provide interesting ideas, your creativity declines when you don’t rest. Therefore, taking time to rest and relax can naturally make you more creative. 

Having time off can help you refill your reserves, and quiet moments spark time to reflect, allowing you to break creative barriers. 

One research focused on the functional connectivity of brain data and found that it measures synchronized patterns of spontaneous brain activation while at rest. Therefore, you experience increased solutions to open-ended problems, like inventing new uses for objects [6]. 

Concepts of resting

The concept of resting comprises the essences of both rest and “non-rest.” Also, there is a current movement between the two conditions (rest and non-rest) in people’s lives. The essence of resting is harmonious with certain variables, such as motivation, feeling and action, while non-rest is disharmonious with them.

There are seven types of rest that you may want to try for yourself. The types are based on certain areas you feel fatigued about.

1. Creative rest

This type of rest correlates to circumstances in that you feel like you are out of good ideas, and all your creative juices are drained. Many people are aware of the situation as being uninspired or having a creative block.

If you have experienced creative block, you may be aware that pushing yourself more does not work or may even worsen the uncomfortable feeling. 

Individuals are especially prone to the phenomenon when their careers overlap in doing their passion. Also, when the side-hustle economy has grown into the only solution for economic instability.

Simple ways to have creative rest: 

  • Walk with nature – take a long walk at the nearest park to your location. You may also want to consider brisk walking or jogging to also improve your cardio.
  • Do fun activities – this one is pretty much subjective. You should do something you enjoy and have fun with. You must think of something you like that does not involve you selling products or services.
  • Connect with creative people – sometimes inspiration comes from people who have creative minds. You may want to immerse yourself in a community full of creative people. Or you can simply go to art exhibits or museums to get inspired. 

2. Mental rest

If you often feel distracted, overwhelmed or unable to fully concentrate, your better have some mental rest. An individual who is mentally drained may experience a similar brain fog condition or feel like every task needs twice as much effort to complete.

Taking mental rest lets you disconnect from the cognitive requirements of your work and allows your brain to slip into that default mode network.

For individuals in communications and information, who are driven to work or spend numerous hours on the computer, mental rest can be particularly helpful.

Simple ways to have mental rest: 

  • Short breaks – by taking short breaks throughout the day, your brain can relax and rest. You may want to set a timer to remind yourself to step away and have a few deep breaths.
  • Journaling – creating some space in your brain can be completed by writing down your thoughts or reminders on a notepad or in a journal.
  • Disconnect – you don’t need to be always in and updated. Learn to give yourself extra time to disconnect away from technologies. Put your devices away, especially work gadgets, an hour before bed and allot an extra day or two at the start or end of a vacation to decompress.

3. Physical rest

This type of rest is probably the easiest one to identify. If you need physical rest, your body may let you know by inducing pain in certain muscles, or you may lack the energy to do physical activities.

Physical rest can be categorized into passive or active. Passive physical rest is associated with the time spent asleep, like napping. Meanwhile, active physical rest refers to any activity that can improve your physical well-being, such as massage, exercise, stretching or yoga. 

Performing both kinds of rest can make the biggest difference in your physical energy levels. Simple ways to have physical rest: 

  • Have some sleep – you can use a phone app or fitness tracker to receive reports about your sleeping schedule and its quality.
  • Mild exercise – depending on the type of physical rest you need, you may try to incorporate mild exercise into your lifestyle at least three times a week.
  • Professional self-care treatments – set a time for you to have some professional self-care treatments, including massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care. 

4. Social rest

“Me time” or “self-love” are some of the phrases you often hear in pop culture, and these concepts are not far away from science. Social rest is needed to elevate the balance between the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of a person. 

Every individual has different relationships around their environment, including family members, coworkers, friends and acquaintances. As a person maintains relationships with a number of people, they may be putting more compromises than choosing themselves first. 

As a result, they may become overwhelmed and drained. In order to nourish one’s relationship with others, one should have a healthy relationship with themselves. 

Simple ways to have social rest: 

  • Don’t be afraid to say no – boundaries and limitations are necessary to build healthy, well-balanced relationships with anyone. Especially if you are feeling depleted, you can always turn down an invitation or two and recharge at home.
  • Explore more hangout places – if you usually go out to grab dinner and drinks, you can try meeting up for a workout class or paint-and-sip.
  • Don’t multitask – too much stimulation can apparently lead to an overwhelming feeling. Hence, when you are spending time with friends, you should try to leave your gadget in your bag or limit the size of the group you are hanging out with.

5. Sensory rest

Have you experienced mild anxiety when you get a notification on your device? Chances are, you may have a kind of sensory input round-the-clock. 

The digital devices’ ambient noises, bright lights, traffic and even other people talking may contribute to the sensory overload.

Simple ways to have sensory rest: 

  • Turn off the notifications – not allowing any notifications on your phone or having a digital detox may help to perform sensory rest. With only five minutes, you can help yourself feel more refreshed.
  • Meditation and relaxation –  these two can help you in performing sensory resting. You will not be swept away by any external stimuli or internal chatter.

6. Spiritual rest

When you feel disconnected from the rest of the world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can give the feeling of being unmoored. Spiritual rest may help in providing you with a sense of purpose and belonging.

Simple ways to have spiritual rest: 

  • Join a group – you can simply attend events offered by a spiritual community, faith-based organization or other groups that align with your personal interests.
  • Volunteer – donating your time and efforts to a good cause can be a meaningful rest. It may inspire and motivate you spiritually and morally.
  • Recruit a life coach – some people can’t get control of their life by themselves, and so they need a mentor or life coach to guide them in achieving their short- or long-term goals. 

7. Emotional rest

In times of extreme stress, it is common to feel irritated and overwhelmed. When you get emotionally taxed, the effects tend to immediately spill over into other areas of your life. 

Given this, you may find it hard to stay focused and productive when you are not at your emotional best. By having emotional rest, you can come down to set effective boundaries. 

Simple ways to have emotional rest: 

  • Take a “yes” break – yes is not always the answer to every question or favor. You must allow yourself some space to consider what you can handle or not. You may want to think about it before agreeing with them.
  • Safe space – sharing your feelings in a safe space can help you release any negative emotions. You can simply vent to a friend or write out your feelings in a journal.

Methods of rest 

One indication that you are not resting properly is stress. If left untreated, chronic stress may cause anxiety, chest pain, changes in sexual desire, depression, digestive issues, headaches and inability to focus. 

Skipping relaxation or rest may not be a big deal for a day; however, in the long run, fatigue can lead to serious medical conditions. 

Some benefits of resting are:

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved immune health
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Stronger cardiovascular system

When you have a busy and fast-paced lifestyle, the following are some methods of resting you can try. 

Practicing gratitude

Being grateful for opportunities, whether small or big things, is a mindset you may want to adopt. The majority of people focus on the big things whenever they are grateful. Instead, you can refocus your gratitude on the little things. 

In fact, research suggests that positive thoughts and a grateful mindset are more likely to make a happy disposition and promote overall satisfaction [7].

Taking deep breaths 

Stress about something? Can’t wait for things to come? Tired of working? Taking deep breaths may help you get relaxation and rest. 

You can simply set a goal to take five deep breaths all throughout your day. Have yourself at different intervals that can be in an ordinary routine. For instance, in the morning, while you are brewing your coffee or tea or while you wait for your computer to turn on before work. 

Practicing good sleep hygiene 

Having an adequate sleep is vital for physical and mental health. Most of the time, good sleep begins with good habits. 

You may want to practice healthy sleep hygiene by optimizing your sleep schedule, pre-bed routine and daily routines. As a result, you can make quality sleep automatic for your body. 

Setting a sleeping schedule with fixed wake-up times can make gradual adjustments to shift sleep times as per your routines or body clock. 

Make your nightly routine fixed and consistent. You can also consider making a ritual, including spiritual nourishment, such as meditation before bed. 

Cultivate and follow healthy habits

Numerous studies have shown that exercising can reduce the adverse effects of stress, enhance mood and regulate neurotransmitters and other hormones. Hence, for optimal zen, you can try restful movements, such as yoga or body stretching. 

As you mindfully practice relaxation, you can see that resting is an important practice of life and should carry a similar weight to career objectives and other work to-dos.

When you turn off your body periodically, you can greatly improve your physical, emotional and mental health.   

Research about resting

All of us are aware of the importance of rest, considering that this claim is backed up by many health studies. Among them is a research study that further confirms resting as a vital aspect of humans’ mental and physical health [8]. 

The importance of resting involves its great health benefits to the following: 

  • The immune system
  • Stress management
  • Mood improvement 
  • Better decision-making skills
  • Creativity
  • Work productivity

On the other hand, many people still do not know how to rest well. Resting can be performed naturally, such as sleeping or running. 

However, as much as you want to just sleep or run, it is much recommended to learn the right techniques to maximize the power of rest and fully restore yourself. You can also attain this by learning particular tips on the mechanisms for resting well.

In scheduling resting and making downtime

Resting is much easier said than done–it is a lifestyle habit that requires to be introduced and reinforced over a sustained time period. 

One of the stigmas surrounding resting is the assumption that taking a break or resting slows one down and decreases productivity. Moreover, making downtime in your lifestyle routines can help you recharge your batteries and improve your focus and concentration. 

Health experts suggest that routinizing and rewarding activity is the easiest method to develop a lifestyle habit that involves resting. Research further shows that when routinized, any activity, like resting, it can maximize its positive effect on the body, mind and emotions [9]. 

Therefore, if you are not good at resting, you better start having schedules daily by using an alarm, calendar or a time management app. By doing this, you make sure to reward yourself when you manage to secure downtime as planned.

Rest and concept in caring science

Resting is considered a health-related phenomenon. Many researchers have explored the phenomenon of rest, but further concept development is still recommended. 

In a study aiming to develop and describe a concept of rest, the researcher conducted interviews with a total of 63 participants about their lived experiences of rest. 

The health scholar performed the developing process divided into two stages: (1) with descriptive phenomenology and (2) with a hermeneutic approach. At the end of the study, it closes with a conclusion that the concept of resting includes the essences of both rest and non-rest. Also, there is a current movement between rest and non-rest in people’s lives. 


Resting refers to any behavior that aims to increase the physical or mental wellness of a person. Among these behaviors are sleeping, relaxation and meditation. 

There are also seven types of resting you can try to perform depending on your needs, such as creative rest, mental rest, physical rest, social rest, spiritual rest, emotional rest and sensory rest. 

As you aim to incorporate rest into your lifestyle, you can greatly benefit from it, which includes healing your body, reducing stress levels, improving productivity, boosting creativity and improving decision-making skills. 

To start your resting activity, you can try different methods, such as being grateful for small or big things, taking deep breaths regularly, building good sleep hygiene and cultivating healthy habits. 

Plus, taking frequent rests can help you live longer as you allow your body to sleep, which is associated with increased life expectancy when getting enough quality sleep. 

The health benefits of resting are widely studied in the medical field, and understanding its concept is quite basic to help your body refresh, recover and recharge. 


Photograph: Zinkevych_D/Envato
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