Pathways Wellness

What Is the Difference Between Sleep and Rest?

What Is the Difference Between Sleep and Rest?
Raul Haro
May 30, 2023
It's quite common for the terms “sleep” and “rest” to be used interchangeably. Both are needed to maintain our well-being. When we don't get enough of either, our health begins to suffer, which can lead to serious consequences. However, sleep and rest are quite different – not only in how they work but how they […]
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What Is the Difference Between Sleep and Rest?

It's quite common for the terms “sleep” and “rest” to be used interchangeably. Both are needed to maintain our well-being. When we don't get enough of either, our health begins to suffer, which can lead to serious consequences. However, sleep and rest are quite different – not only in how they work but how they help us. Not many people know this, which can cause harm to themselves without realizing it. 

For example, it's common for people to not rest because they believe that sleeping is the same thing. This can cause serious burnout, as the individual never gets enough proper rest. On the other hand, there are also people that will rest for a while and believe they don't need a regular amount of sleep because of it. Both of these mindsets can cause problems in our physical and mental health. It's important to understand the basic differences between sleep and rest.

When you are asleep, you are unconscious and cannot interact with the world around you. You cannot perceive reality when you are asleep. Adults need between six to eight hours of daily sleep to function properly. Growing children need more sleep to help them grow and develop. Sleep is used by the body for physical healing and relaxation. When you sleep, you do so in stages. It can take time for someone to fall asleep, and they need a relaxing and quiet environment to do so.

When you rest, you are conscious and able to perceive reality around you. Resting is used to rejuvenate yourself mentally and provide comfort to your mind and body. You may often hear it referred to as a “mental' break” or a “sit down.” Rest can be done multiple times over the day and tend to last less than 15 minutes. It is also an immediate action and begins to help right away. Because someone can rest at any time or anywhere, there are no stages involved. 

However, further differences between sleep and rest are better broken down by looking at how they help us and why they are needed so much to stay healthy. 

Healing With Sleep and Rest

Sleep is the main way our bodies heal. Not only does this include healing from injury or illnesses, but it also involves basic maintenance done throughout the body. It's especially important for young children and teenagers, as major growth hormones are released when sleeping. If you don't sleep, you become more susceptible to illnesses and injury. When you are sick and injured, you are often instructed to sleep a lot, so your body can perform these healing functions.

People who can't get quality sleep for a long period are at risk of the following:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risks of heart disease or cancer
  • Becoming more prone to accidents
  • Slowing of physical healing (such as closing wounds or rejuvenating skin)

Rest, on the other hand, is important to prevent injury in the first place. As an example, imagine that you are in the gym working out. Any physical trainer will suggest that people rest for a minute or so after each section of their workout. If you continue to work out without rest, you risk getting a serious injury. Your muscles may be too tired without proper rest, and you end up dropping a weight on your foot. Or a muscle could tear. By resting, you give your body and mind the break it needs to rejuvenate before resuming a physical task. 

Mindfulness With Sleep and Rest

When we sleep, our conscious minds shut off for a while. This allows us to relax deeply and give our minds a break from reality. However, some mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can cause someone to have nightmares. Nightmares can interfere with the quality of someone's sleep and must be treated. Psychotherapy can be used to help someone address the root of their nightmares. This type of therapy is offered by Pathways Wellness Center to help those get the sleep they need to heal. 

When we don't get sleep, we suffer from several mental side effects, such as:

  • Difficulties concentrating or making decisions 
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness and "brain fog"
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Psychosis (in severe cases)

Resting allows our minds to take a break and reset themselves to aid in concentration and focus. You may have done a task before that you can describe as "mind-numbing." Usually, this involves working a mentally demanding job or studying. By taking a five to ten-minute break every hour, you can improve your focus by letting your brain take a moment to relax. 

There are many ways that a person can choose to rest. A couple of examples are:

  • Chatting with friends 
  • Having a cup of coffee or other favored comfort drink
  • Meditation or yoga
  • Playing an instrument or listening to music
  • Reading a book or watching a show
  • Enjoying nature outside
  • Playing a game

Learning How to Do Both With a Mental Health Disorder

We rely on both sleep and rest to stay healthy. It's especially important for those who are struggling with a mental health disorder or illness, including addiction. Sleep and rest are needed to give them the healing and energy they need to achieve recovery. If you are struggling with your mental health and cannot sleep or rest,  reach out to your local mental health care facility. 

There is a difference between sleep and rest, but both are needed to have a healthy mind and body. Sometimes it can be difficult to have either, especially when dealing with a substance use disorder (SUD) or any other co-occurring mental health disorder. However, it is possible to learn how to achieve regular sleep and rest when treating these disorders. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Azusa and Glendora, California, we employ caring and knowledgeable staff that can teach you the skills you need to live a healthy life. Anyone can achieve recovery, including yourself and the ones you love. If you or a loved one is struggling, don't delay; call (888) 771-0966 today.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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