7 strategies for truly restorative rest

Allowing yourself to appreciate beauty, such as going for a hike in an inspiring landscape, is a form of creative rest, according to physician Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith. Shown here are the Italian Alps.

(CNN)Many people suffer from a chronic sleep deficit, and that was the case even before the pandemic hit -- bringing with it stress, fear and anxiety.

A third of us get fewer than seven hours of shut-eye a night, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and that's before you factor in the 50 million to 70 million Americans suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea.
Poor sleep has been blamed for increased stress, weight gain, a decrease in our ability to be creative and a reduced ability to solve problems. For those people who get the recommended amount of sleep yet still feel tired, however, it's possible that we're not resting our bodies and minds in the ways needed to restore them.
    Board-certified internal medicine physician Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of "Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity," thinks so.
      "I consider rest the bridge that takes us from our busy, chronically stressed schedules into those deeper levels of sleep we desire," said Dalton-Smith, who is based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her book details the seven types of rest she recommends to increase productivity, get happier and live "your best life." Among those types of rest: sensory rest, creative rest, social rest and passive physical rest (sleep).
        These types of rest don't come from crashing on the sofa over the weekend with a string of Netflix shows in the queue. "Rest is not simply the cessation of activity, the core of rest has to be restorative," she said.
        We talked to Dalton-Smith — who designed a free online quiz to better understand where your own rest deficit might lie — about how to prioritize the seven types of rest she deems important to everyone.
          CNN: Let's start with the old adage that eight hours a night does a body good. Is this the right amount of sleep?
          Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Physical rest is the first kind of rest we need; it can be passive or active. We all have our baseline amount of sleep that makes us feel refreshed — that's passive physical rest. Statistically, somewhere between six and eight hours is recommended. How much you need really depends on what's going on in your life. If you're training for a marathon, you might need more. A lot of people are under excessive stress now grieving family members, dealing with job losses. That can lead to needing more passive physical rest.
          Once you determine the optimal hours of sleep for you, play around with it. When you cut back by two hours because you stayed up watching a movie, see how it makes you feel. These kinds of internal assessments can help you figure out where your optimal level of sleep is.
          Active physical rest is different. It's the restorative activities you do to improve your muscle flexibility and increase your circulation and your body's lymphatic processes — yoga, stretching, leisurely walks and massage therapy are all things that can help with active physical rest.
          CNN: What about mental rest? How do we get that in this always-on world?
          Dalton-Smith: Our culture trains us to multitask. For many of us, our work makes us think, process and calculate new ways of doing things. It uses a lot of mental energy, making it hard to find that quiet space.
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