Sacred Rest

Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity


By Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

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Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested-now there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.
By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear.



Is rest elusive or obtainable? Over eight million people in the United States struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep each and every night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once a week. This epidemic has led to poor job performance, depression, and overall dissatisfaction with quality of life and productivity. Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith offers hope and answers through proven solutions found in spiritual renewal.

For some, sleep deprivation is only a brief problem. But finding genuine “rest” is more than overcoming insomnia. Sacred Rest discusses, wrestles with, and answers the “how” question and more. Rest for the body, mind, and spirit may appear to be hard to find because hurry is outside of us and inside of us. Daily we are left to wonder, Is rest possible?

Sacred Rest is born from a place of personal experience. Dr. Dalton-Smith, an internal medicine physician, practices full-time and is also a wife and mother of two elementary-age boys. The author slipping off the edge of burnout, risks sharing her own story, becoming raw and real in the process. It’s in this place of vulnerability and personal growth that she invites the reader to share her journey.

This essential book is divided into three parts: “Why Rest?” discussing the practical aspects of rest; “The Gifts of Rest,” discussing the spiritual aspects of rest; and “The Promises of Rest,” in which the author presents the reader a challenge to go deeper into rest. There are biblical solutions backed with thorough medical research and practical applications throughout.

Rest is obtainable, Dr. Dalton-Smith reminds us. “Inertia is a healing place, where stillness leads to recovery of the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Sleeping and napping are the two most common types of passive rest. Sleep is not an option. Whether or not you choose to lay your body down, eventually your body will shut down. Sleep is required for health. It is not the foundation of rest, but the by-product of rest.”

Are you weak, weary, or worn out? What are you waiting for? Sacred Rest is entirely available and obtainable. The choice is yours. Join the community and commit the next 30 days to seek and find Sacred Rest. I will see you there.

Dr. Sheryl Giesbrecht, author of Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down , speaker, radio and television personality, global influencer.

How to Use This Book

Welcome, Friend,

I want to take a few minutes before you begin to give you a quick peek at what you will find inside this book. Think of Sacred Rest as a lavish buffet, not a Happy Meal. It has been purposely written in short chapters to make it easy to fit into your busy schedule, but don’t rush through it. Rushing has overwhelmed us with the things of life, and in the process, we miss opportunities to enjoy life. My desire in writing this book is to see you cherishing each bite of the good things daily placed before you.

Think of me as your Sunday school–teaching girlfriend who just happens to be board certified in internal medicine. If we were chatting over coffee, one minute I might share with you a great article I read in a medical journal and the next I’m raving over the sticky pastry we just devoured as we open our Bibles to study Ephesians together. That’s real life. It’s messy and complicated yet filled with moments of goodness, togetherness, and truth. I’ve found rest to be the compass directing me to all three and much more.

In part I, “Why Rest?,” I discuss the practical aspects of rest. Each chapter in this section will help you understand different types of rest through the use of stories, research, reflection, and application. In part II, “The Gifts of Rest,” I discuss the spiritual aspects of rest. These chapters have biblical insight on how rest, or the lack thereof, affects every area of your life. In part III, “The Promises of Rest,” I end our time together with a challenge to go deeper into rest and witness its effect in your life.

I don’t know where you stand physically, emotionally, or spiritually today. If you are most in need of encouragement, before you dive into the practical application of rest, I welcome you to begin with part II. Yes, you heard me right. You get to choose. Sacred Rest isn’t a generic four-step system to guarantee sweet sleep and even sweeter days. The process to recover your life, renew your energy, and regain your sanity is uniquely different for every person. Enjoy the journey as you unwrap what rest means for you.

Dr. Saundra



“When I am resting because my body is weak, I need to remember that I’m not wasting the day doing nothing. I am doing exactly what I need to do. I’m recovering.”


Chapter 1

Living the Burned-Out Life

There should be a “Get Out of Your Responsibilities” card you can play on those days when life is just too difficult, days when everything within you wants a moment simply to be still. That thought flittered through my mind as I lay stretched out on the foyer floor.

The weight of an unexamined life lies heavy against the heart of the weary. Pushing and pushing until it nudges you right past sanity into the pits. Thankfully, lying supine on a hardwood floor can be therapeutic for the soul.

I never knew how hauntingly healing cold wooden planks could be for the body. I never realized the many facets of peace and rest available when you lay yourself down on purpose. Peace comes in many forms. On this day it came in a ten-minute reprieve in the middle of the chaos that had become my life. There was no time to break away and do it right. No time for any long, drawn-out me-time ritualistic activities. No mani-pedi. No hot tea and biscuits. No caramel macchiato. No Dead Sea salt–infused bath.

No, on this day, time would not allow me to bury my exhaustion in any of my normal vices. So, I did what any sane burned-out human would do after picking up the kids from day care. I set them in front of the TV with a snack, and I lay on the floor. I stretched out my back against the boards, palms down, and closed my eyes. In that moment of focused ceasing, I felt the beginning of peace stir within my body.

Peace came slowly. It was as if God himself breathed a divine exhalation, releasing new strength into me. I inhaled it. I clung to the moment, needing it to last just a little longer. I needed even more to satisfy my longing for rest. Not a desire for more sleep, but a yearning to be soul-free. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t that I needed to be filled, but rather, I needed to pour out. Regardless of which direction the energy was flowing, something powerful was happening on that floor.

The voices of my children rang out with laughter as they delighted over the antics of the cartoon they watched. Inwardly I laughed along with them. The smile creeping on my lips was only mildly disturbed by the dog licking my face and the toddler crawling over my leg. It was sloppy peace, but it was mine. It was peace in the middle of a mental storm.

I could complain, but it would be futile. If I’m completely honest, I’m to blame for this storm. I created it. I fueled it. I continually recruit and pull others into it with me. I didn’t mean to do it. It is just a reality of the life I created.

You see, I’m a doer. If I’m not doing something, I’m wasting my time. At least that is what I thought, until a few years ago when I found myself looking up from a compromising position into the face of my smug husband asking, “What in the world are you doing on the floor?”

Only one answer came to mind—burning. A single thought that, at the time, seemed so misplaced and irrelevant I almost didn’t say it out loud. At times I wish I hadn’t.

His smirk faltered when the first tear fell. I came undone. He kneeled by my side when the floodgates broke. Me. The strong one. The one with the to-do list for her to-do list. The organizer. The planner. When my husband asked what I was doing there on the floor, the image that came to mind was that of kindling being consumed by fire. I was the kindling.

I was burned out, and the life I had created was consuming all I held valuable. But on this day, I was kindling being consumed by an eternal fire. A fire with the power to destroy the heaviness of busyness and ignite a hunger to tap into the source of this strange, sloppy rest I found. Hunger to draw nearer to the sacred sanctuary of rest. I desperately needed to find that place.

Let’s be honest; we are all just too busy. I’m too busy to write this book, and you are probably too busy to read this book. Both of us are being pulled by our busy lives when all we want is to have a good life. And so we find ourselves in the inevitable predicament of much activity and little enjoyment. Our wheels spin as we shove more to do in a day with no available daylight hours left, only to find ourselves wanting in the end. Not wanting more to do. No, we have plenty to do. We find ourselves wanting more time to do the things we enjoy doing.

We want time to enjoy our kids. We want time to make love to our spouses. We want time to linger over a good meal. We want time to use the bathroom without interruptions. We want more time.

But there is no more time. Time is. It is both infinite and finite. It goes on and on. With or without us it will continue. Our number of days are known by God alone. Time chimes in loudly over the roar of our anxious minds, initiating a battle between warring fears and courageous rest.

Aborting rest empties me of everything holy. It strips me of the ability to treasure life and peels away the value of being. I feel I’m nothing if I’m doing nothing. My worth is wrapped tight around my endless activity. So I keep going round and round, each time becoming more short-tempered, more disgruntled, and more discontented.

A life without periods of rest will not endure the daily grind.

Rest is not for weaklings. Hollowing out space for rest is work. Finding time for rest is the hands and feet of the promises we long to claim. It means saying no. It means having limits with ourselves. It means having limits with others. It takes courage to rest in the midst of an outcome-driven society. It takes strength to walk away from good in the pursuit of better.

The people-pleaser in me would rather say yes and omit the rest. I’ve found through the years that I can’t please anyone including myself when I’m burned out. Funny how everyone can smell the char of your slow burn except the one standing in the fire.

Sleep Is Not Rest

Have you ever tried to fix your chronically tired self by purposely sleeping a few extra hours on the weekend, only to wake up feeling like you’ve never rested at all? You had great intentions, but missed one vital piece of the puzzle: Sleep is not rest. As different parts of an intricate system, sleep and rest are designed to work together to ensure every part of you has a way to regenerate and be restored.

If I were sitting across from you right now, our conversation might go something like the one I had with a friend many years ago. It was early one morning, and we were preparing to start a long shift as interns at the hospital: “I’m so tired,” lamented my red-eyed friend. Her hair was in a messy ponytail, and her scrubs were wrinkled in all the wrong places. It looked like she had rolled out of bed and stumbled into work on accident.

“What time did you turn in last night?” I asked.

“That’s the thing!” she exclaimed. “It’s pointless! It doesn’t matter if I sleep five hours or ten. I always wake up exhausted. I need a double espresso latte. You want anything?”

Twenty minutes later she returned with two steaming cups of java goodness. I’m convinced heaven must smell like hazelnut coffee. We sipped and reenergized as we discussed each patient’s case. I don’t know what she had the barista put in those cups, but it was more like liquid octane than percolated ground beans. My heart skipped a beat trying to catch the rhythm of this potent brew. We tackled our hospital rounds that day as if our life soundtrack were shouting, “This girl is on fire!”

A few hours later, we crashed hard, and I do mean hard. I’m pretty sure I was drooling on the student-lounge couch when I awoke. I slept but woke even more drained.

“We need more coffee,” my friend declared.

I wasn’t sure I could handle another round of her coffee, so I opted to chat.

“Why do you think sleep isn’t helping our fatigue? I’m more tired now than I was before we fell asleep.”

“I wish I knew. When I was in college, I could sleep like a baby. The second my head hit the pillow I’d be out. In medical school, I started having trouble falling asleep. At first, it took five to ten minutes before I could go to sleep. Now it can take up to an hour when I lie down at night.”

“Wow, an hour. As tired as you are at the end of a shift, I would have thought you’d fall asleep quickly,” I mused.

“I know, right? But that’s the thing; good sleep is gentle. It comes in quietly, descends upon you, and replenishes you. Bad sleep comes in like a flood, overtakes you, and leaves you feeling spent. It’s the good I’m missing.”

Sleep is a biological necessity. Trying to omit it will slow your productivity and eventually kill you. In an attempt to check this life function off our to-do list every night, many of us have settled for sleep at any cost and of any quality. Our problem isn’t simply a need for more sleep. Our problem is that we are missing the good.

Sleep is different from rest, but good-quality sleep trickles down from a life well rested. We may sleep in response to rest, but resting doesn’t require us to be in a state of sleep. Sometimes as my friend confessed, sleep is not restful at all. Then there are also those times when even with a lack of sleep, we surprisingly feel rested and ready to tackle the day. The deciding factor is the difference between good sleep and bad sleep.

Nightly we attempt to enter into the five stages of sleep, non-REM stages one to four and stage-five REM. High-quality sleep begins in stage three of non-REM sleep when your brain ceases active processing. You lose your conscious awareness about your surroundings. Your brain and body both enter a quiet state. Bad sleep is fitful and devoid of calm. The mind may wander sporadically over the events of the day, and you may find your legs restlessly moving in response to the pent-up tension in your muscles.

There has to be a bridge between good and bad sleep, and that bridge is rest. Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual. Rest speaks peace into the daily storms your mind, body, and spirit encounter. Rest is what makes sleep sweet.

You may pride yourself on your ability to accomplish much each day, but when your natural strengths are taken to the extreme, they can become a liability. Sadly, many of us spend too much of our days doing and not enough of our days being. We have decided rest is not necessary and replaced it with even more activity. I don’t have a problem with productive people. I have a problem with worn-out productive people. These are the majority of the faces that grace my medical office, including homeschooling moms, business executives, shift workers, and young professionals. They present me with a list of symptoms, demanding answers and wanting quick fixes to problems that require slowing down.

It may sound like I’m judging, but be assured I am not. I’m part of the same tribe. I’ve burned the candle at both ends enough for us both and have seen its destructive effects in my life as well as that of thousands of others.

Can you be 100 percent honest with me? With yourself? How is your maxed-out, stressed-out, multitasking life working for you? Is all your activity getting the results you desire?

Since you picked up this book, I would guess your answer to my last question is a resounding no. Let me share a little medical secret with you. The most underused chemical-free, safe, effective, alternative medicine is spelled R-E-S-T: Recognize your risk, Evaluate your current position, Science and research, Today’s application. I’ll explain the R-E-S-T method further in chapter 3.

Chapter 2

The Secret Life of the Well Rested

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and make sure your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”1


Karen was a new patient who came to my office with a list of complaints so long I thought she was a hypochondriac. No human could have a list of ails that complex. However, she most certainly did, and she was convinced there was a medical reason for her problems. I think she would have been thankful if I had diagnosed her with something horrible. Nothing is scarier than the unknown. At least with a definitive diagnosis, she would know what she was up against. She was a woman desperate for answers. The lack of understanding had become debilitating. She needed to know why her body ached and why she struggled to concentrate. She needed to know it wasn’t all in her head. She was a simmering pot of anxiety with a dash of insomnia stirred by relentless daily stress. Her discontentment was consuming her, and it seeped into her relationship with her husband and her children. Her life failed to live up to the claims of what marriage, family, and career are supposed to offer. All she had strived to achieve, all that she had fought to have, was betraying her, or so it seemed.

Karen’s list of complaints included the following:

feeling tired and exhausted all the time

feeling like nothing she did at home or work made a difference or was appreciated

catching colds and getting sick more than others

feeling detached from her family and friends

having a negative outlook on life

experiencing frequent headaches, neck pain, and muscle soreness

moving easily to anger and irritation with those she interacted

growing dependent on food, pills, and wine to help her feel better

feeling depressed and stressed out

I listened as she rattled off her list, and I gave her the benefit of the doubt. There are many chronic diseases and chronic medical disorders capable of making you tired all the time. Unfortunately, there are just as many people with a chronic rest deficit, and the symptoms can look the same. But unlike many chronic illnesses, a chronic rest deficit can be cured.

The question is, what kind of tired are you?

Fatigue can result from our overindulgent schedules, lack of quality sleep, an unhealthy diet, thyroid and hormone imbalances, adrenal failure, medication side effects, anxiety or depression, or feeling a lack of purpose and lack of motivation. The list of fatigue boosters is endless. Determining the cause is the challenging part of health care.

Nevertheless, I examined Karen and ordered tests to check for the most common causes of fatigue. Every test came back within the proper range and declared all was well medically.

“You are perfectly healthy,” I announced.

Karen was furious. Her face flushed hot, and her breathing came in short, frantic bursts. Her eyes pierced through me. My happy declaration of health had wounded her. Her behavior reminded me of a show I’d seen called When Animals Attack! I debated yelling for my nurse to bring in a sedative shot. Before I could make up my mind to yell or to run, her rant began.

“Why can’t you doctors figure out what’s wrong with me?”

She said more than that, much of which I refuse to repeat in a book my kids or parents may choose to read. Sometimes people want to hear the truth, and sometimes they just want to hear what they want to hear. In medicine, it’s helpful to determine when someone’s ready to confront their inner issues. I’m often contemplating when is the right time to bring up smoking cessation with my chain-smokers or weight loss with my Krispy Kreme lovers. It is even more difficult to confront someone dealing with a lack of rest. No cigarette or donut can satisfy a body hungry for rest. Add a whopping dose of rage to the tiredness, and you’ve got a person who is in no mood to listen to anything you have to say. The only way to break through is to let the weary diagnose themselves. I needed Karen to start looking at her list in a new way.

“Karen, I think your problem is not solely a medical one. I think you are suffering from a chronic rest deficit. In your list, you named multiple areas of your life under attack by chronic fatigue, chronic hopelessness, and a chronic lack of joy. This is not just a medical issue; it’s a mind-body-spirit issue. Your healing has to come from the inside out. Once you restore the needed rest in your life, you will see the changes you desire.”

“It can’t be a lack of rest!” she protested. “I’ve tried massages. I’ve taken vacations. I have even been working with a spiritual counselor. I should be the most restful woman in town.”

Karen was aware of how rest affected every area of her life. She had made attempts to improve but to no avail. It was during this same time I too was going through my own personal revelation about how different types of rest affected me. Like Karen, I had attempted all the common recommendations of the self-help gurus. Either we were both too broken for repair or their theory of rest was missing something. The optimist in me refused to accept brokenness as a resting place.

I needed to open Karen’s mind to the likelihood of rest, or more accurately her lack of rest, as the underlying cause of her life crisis. Her answers to the following questions helped illuminate the possibility of a rest imbalance. Take a minute to answer these questions for yourself.

Do you often feel tired when you wake up in the morning?

Do you find yourself having difficulty concentrating?

Are your emotions easily affected by the actions of others?

Do you suffer from headaches, muscle aches, or generalized fatigue with no known medical diagnosis?

Are your relationships with others strained because of your inability to stay connected?

Do you find yourself spending more time doing things you have to do rather than things you want to do?

Has your view of life lost its expectation of excitement and adventure?

Do you struggle to stay awake and focused when reading or watching TV?

Do you depend on quick energy fixes like caffeine or sugar to help you get through the day?

Do you find yourself craving comfort items at night like ice cream or wine to help you wind down?

Are you prone to abrupt moments of anger or unexplainable fits of crying?

Do you often feel like your life is out of control?

Karen’s answers pointed toward a life in danger of drowning in responsibilities with no lifesaver in sight. She had tried many things to correct and improve her situation, all to no avail. She was aware of her impending burnout but had dismissed her restlessness as a possible cause for her symptoms. Karen had given up on rest and placed it in the same pile as the unread books sitting on the nightstand. Rest was waiting around for her to get to it, and she never did.

My research and observations on rest revealed a gaping hole in our definition of rest. Rest had become synonymous with sleep or a cessation of all activity. But what if rest is in itself a vital activity required to tend to the garden of our lives? What if rest is the water that replenishes the dryness? What if rest is fertilizer awakening us to growth and greatness? What if rest is the hands of the gardener pulling up the weeds threatening to edge out beauty?

All rest is not created equal. Much of what we consider rest fails to work because it is not restful. Shifting our activities or changing the location of where we are active is no more restful than doing those same activities at home. The most effective rest occurs when we are purposefully reviving the parts of our life we regularly deplete. Any so-called rest that does not meet this goal isn’t rest; it’s just more work adding to the busyness.

Rest Solutions That Don’t Work


  • "Once you get a taste of a well-rested life, nothing else will satisfy." That quote is a nibble of the masterpiece you will feast on in Saundra-Dalton Smith's book SACRED REST. Through a well-balanced weaving of her life's stories, substantiated research, and inspired selection of Scriptures, Saundra has created a perfect mix for challenging each reader to find their place of rest. I highly recommend this book as it's chock full of practical tips and you'll want to buy ten more for your family and friends, or use it for a book club or Bible Study."—Heidi McLaughlin, international speaker and author of Restless for More, Sand to Pearls, and Beauty Unleashed

  • "Dr. Dalton-Smith has redefined the word REST! In a world with constant "Cerebral Background Noise" you need this book to learn how to set up rest boundaries for you and your family. I love her assessments for the reader to see where there might be a need for more rest, not just in sleep, but in the area of mental, spiritual and CREATIVE rest! I learned so much in this book, I look forward to sharing it with ALL my patients." —Dr. Angie Welikala, CEO, Founder of Healing Agents International.

On Sale
Dec 19, 2017
Page Count
240 pages

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

About the Author

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an author, speaker, and board-certified physician. She has an active medical practice in Alabama (near the Birmingham area). She received her B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Georgia, and graduated with honors from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Baker College and Davenport University in Michigan teaching courses on health, nutrition, and disease progression.

Dr. Dalton-Smith is a national and international media resource on the mind, body, spirit connection and has been featured in Women’s Day, Redbook, and First For Women magazine. She is the author of Set Free to Live and Come Empty (winner 2016 Golden Scroll Nonfiction Book of the Year and 2016 Illumination Award Gold medalist). She is a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and a repeat keynote speaker at their annual gathering. She has shared her tips on merging faith and medicine with over 16,000 health care professionals to encourage the current and next generation of doctors to treat the whole person.

Learn more about this author