Exhausted? These are the Seven Types of Rest You Need

Written by Doulas of Shanghai

Are you getting any?

Rest… I was talking about rest. What were you thinking?

Cause I’m here, awake in the middle of the night. And I’m guessing some of you are too.

A million things are swirling through my head. The fact that I should be deep into my third REM cycle (at least), and thinking about all I will have to endure tomorrow when I go about my day half-asleep.

We’ve all been there. And for the parents in the room, you’ve probably been there frequently.

It could be that pregnancy insomnia. Leg cramps, heartburn, anxiety, joint pain in new places, the incessant need to pee… Yeah, no wonder it can be difficult to get that sleep before baby comes.

(Don’t worry, a bout of insomnia won’t harm your baby’s development. Take that off the list of things to worry about).*

Or maybe baby is already here! In which case… You deserve a break. Caring for your baby around the clock is exhausting. I won’t go through a list of reasons why you might be tired as a new parent.

Let’s just silently nod to each other and move on.

And while some babies are more demanding than others, every parent out there could use a little more “me” time to recharge and rejuvenate.

When time is short and blocks of silence and solitude are few and far between, we can try to grab our rest in different ways.

That’s right. Conking out is not the only kind of rest that we can get to help us feel rejuvenated. Sleep and rest are not the same thing. And while sleep can be great rest, it is only one of several types of rest.

Everything that we do throughout our day requires energy. And not always physical energy. Working on a deadline can be mentally exhausting. Holding a crying baby all night can be emotionally exhausting. Spending the day out in the city around hordes of people, sounds, and lights can exhaust our senses.

So it makes sense that there would be different types of rest to address and refill these areas where we are feeling drained.

The seven types of rest were made famous by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, and have revolutionized the way that we think of rest and recovery. Her message is that we need to practice getting different types of rest to properly battle fatigue. Click here to listen to her TED Talk about the seven types of rest.


Active physical rest could mean sneaking in some stretching or yoga whenever you can.

Physical Rest

Physical rest is attending to our body and mind and helping them to restore themselves, and can be either passive or active.

 Passive physical rest is sleeping at night or a quick nap during the day. This is what we typically think of when trying to get rest. But, it is only one of the strategies we can use.

Active physical rest is when we refresh our body through exercise, stretching, a massage, or a ten-minute walk during your lunch break. Taking your baby out for a brisk walk with a stroller totally counts as active physical rest and exercise.

Mental Rest

Mental fatigue can sneak up on you. If you’re not scheduling small breaks for yourself throughout the day, there’s a fair chance your wandering into the territory of mental exhaustion. Scheduling 5-10 minute breaks every couple hours can really help to avoid mental exhaustion and give your brain a chance to relax.

Maybe before your ten-minute walk you decide to leave your phone on the counter, and just have a few minutes without feeling tied to it. Stepping away from your computer for a few minutes to make yourself a cup of tea. To be honest, sometimes walking slowly down the hallway to the bathroom and taking some deep, calming, quiet breaths is all I have time for. But I’ll take it!

Sensory Rest

Our senses are constantly taking in information. Here in Shanghai, there are a lot of lights and noises. The sound of the garbage truck banging outside, or your toddler’s toy box tipping over… again. The lights from the TV, phone, or just room lights can slowly become tiring. Being touched, waaaay too much throughout the day, whether it’s by your toddler tapping you for attention or your baby who just needs your breast can be a lot.

Remember that long walk to the bathroom to take deep breaths? Sometimes I take those deep breaths in the dark. Or if I can, in a dark shower.

Anything you can do to limit noise and sensory input for a few minutes will be restful.

If you have a partner, friend, or postpartum doula who can watch the kids while you step out to go to the park for an hour, you stand a fair chance of sensory rejuvenation.

Creative Rest

Creative rest is important for those who are frequently solving problems or brainstorming new ideas for work. To get creative rest, do something or find something that inspires awe in you, that awakes a sense of wonder.

Creative rest also involves in appreciating nature and arts. You may find creative rest if your space is decorated with inspiring artwork or pieces. It can be creatively draining and uninspiring if you’re staring at blank walls all day, which is why creative-types often have colorful and well-decorated spaces.

Emotional Rest

Almost every parent I’ve ever met could use more emotional rest.

As parents, we have very few boundaries around our children. We are constantly giving of ourselves to make sure their every need is met. In the meantime, this can leave us feeling drained.

In order to keep giving and being the kind of parent that we want to be, it’s important that we are getting our emotional rest.

The next time a friend asks you how you’re doing, instead of answering, “I’m great! Everything is fine,” you may find it restful to give them an honest answer.

“Today has been really hard, my baby keeps crying and I don’t know what to do.”

This opens up the opportunity for you to talk through your feelings, and feel supported by another to know that what you’re feeling is normal, and you are definitely not alone in this.

Talk therapy can also be an amazing emotional rest session. You can schedule a time with a qualified therapist, or call the Lifeline hotline to talk to their certified listeners for free.

Spending times with good friends counts as both emotional and social rest.

Social Rest

Have you ever attended a dinner party with people you don’t really like, or who drain you with their negativity? Yeah, me too.

Social rest involves spending time with positive, supportive people that lift you up. These people are your “village,” helping you through the tough times and celebrating the good times.

Even if you aren’t meeting often with these people in person, engaging with them virtually can be socially restful.

Tip: You may find a ten-minute video call with someone you trust and care about to be much more restful than a twenty-minute text exchange.

Spiritual Rest

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith defines this as, “…the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance, and purpose.”

For some people, spiritual rest looks like adding prayer to their daily ritual. For some, it could be meditation, breathwork, or community involvement such as volunteering or helping others.

As you start feeling drained, try to identify why you’re feeling tired, so that you can counter this exhaustion with the right type of rest, leaving you feeling more vital, happy, and excited for life. If you can’t figure out why you’re so tired, it may help to try a few different strategies, rather than just sleeping longer.


Doulas of Shanghai has the best trained and certified postpartum doulas to help you get the rest you need to be the parent you want to be. Read more about Eight Ways Your Postpartum Doula Supports You.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you combat fatigue and enjoy the moment with your baby.  

Wechat: DoulasofShanghai

Phone: 135-2491-8954


* If the restlessness you’re experiencing is more than a bout of insomnia but rather a chronic issue, contact your healthcare provider to help you find sleep therapy options that work for you.

Published by Doulas of Shanghai

Doulas of Shanghai is providing the leading care for families throughout pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.

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