Sleep and Rest

sleep and rest, occupational therapy

Why is Sleep so Important?

When the body falls to sleep, it begins to restore itself improving overall health of the body.  Sleep also helps the body to recover from everyday wear and tear of daily life, improves memory and learning and overall health by boosting the immune system in the body. Therefore, adequate sleep is necessary.  It is the foundation for having  optimal performance when completing tasks, activities, and engaging and participation in life (University of Minnesota, 2016, Worley, 2018). 

Most experts agree that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.  Sleep deficiency happens when a person is unable to get restful sleep that restores the body.  Furthermore, long term sleep deficiency is linked to chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, depression, decreased concentration and productivity, car accidents, an increase in health care and an overall reduction in quality of life. (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2014; Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2015) Studies show that a good night sleep is important to overall health and improves daily occupational performance.  Therefore, pulling an all-nighter due to work or school demands is not the most efficient way to work.  Sleep deprivation causes irritability, concentration problems and drowsiness throughout the day; and can increase stress levels and even depression (University of Minnesota, 2016, Worley, 2018).

What Affects Sleep

  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Chronic stress
  • Certain foods that are eaten such as caffeine or alcohol
  • Environment
  • Relationship issues 

Do Sleep Aids Help?

Many find taking a sleep aid to be helpful for insomnia.  Your doctor may recommend a sleep aid to help you fall asleep, sleep longer during the night, wake up less frequently and or improve overall sleep quality (National Sleep Foundation, 2019). 

However, prescription and over-the-counter medication (and other sleep aids such as alcohol) are not necessarily intended for long term use.  Long term use of sleep aids is habit forming because the body eventually builds up a tolerance and an increase in dosage is required.  This ultimately increases the chances for dependency and addiction and can decrease brain function during the day reducing alertness.  Sleep aids cannot replace healthy sleep habits and routines which are the foundation for proper treatment for insomnia (National Sleep Foundation, 2019).


Rest is the activity of engaging in easy and quiet activities that interrupt social, mental and physical activities resulting in a calmer and relaxed state of mind but still engaging in activities that restore energy, renew interests in engaging in life’s roles, routines and activities (AOTA, 2014). 

Benefits of rest include reducing stress, headaches, reducing blood pressure, mental and physical rejuvenation, and increases the immune system, concentration, problem-solving abilities, mood and energy. 

Restful Activities include:
  • Listening to calming music
  • Leisurely walk
  • Spending fun time with friends
  • Stretching
  • Meditation
  • Calming aromatherapy
  • Lying down doing nothing
  • Arts and crafts
  • Deep breathing exercises
Role of Occupational Therapy to improving sleep and rest

There are various non-medicine approaches for increasing restfulness, sleep quality and reducing insomnia.  Occupational therapy uses evidence-based knowledge of sleep physiology, sleep disorders and practices that improve sleep by evaluating and addressing areas causing insufficient sleep and the areas of an individual’s life being impacted by insomnia or poor-quality sleep (AOTA, 2017). 

Areas for occupational therapy evaluation that contribute to reduced rest and sleep dysfunction include (AOTA, 2017):

  • Sleep preparation
  • Sleep participation
  • Sleep latency (how long it takes someone to fall asleep)
  • Sleep duration (varies with age)
  • Sleep maintenance (the ability to stay asleep)
  • Sleepiness during daytime hours
  • The impact sleep has on daily activities such as caregiving, work, school and social participation.
  • How pain impacts rest and sleep
  • Environment (lights, noise, sleep surfaces, sleep settings such as hospitals, nursing homes)
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental/emotional status including:
    • Stress
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
  • Substance Use:
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Nicotine
    • Medications

Please contact Life Wellness Occupational Therapy if additional information is needed on rest and sleep


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, S1–S48.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2017). Occupational therapy’s role in sleep. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Retrieved from

National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Insomnia. Retrieved from

Worley, S. (2018). The extraordinary importance of sleep the detrimental effects of inadequate sleep on health and public safety drive an explosion of sleep research. P&T, 43(2). Retrieved from