A Guide to Long Rests in 5e, Viking warrior crouching down to rest

Your Easy, Beginner’s Guide to D&D 5e’s Long Rest Rules

Long Rests in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition are an integral part for keeping your player character alive. It provides healing, restores hit dice and spell slots, and refreshes a number of class features.
 
But, how do Long Rests work in 5e? How long do they take? And, do player characters need to take them?
 
This guide gives you everything you need to know about the rules of Long Rests in 5e.

Let’s start by looking at the actual mechanics for Long Rests from the Players Handbook and Basic Rules.

What is a Long Rest in 5e?

Long Rest 5e, Knight kneeling to rest

A Long Rest in 5e is a period of time a creature spends to recuperate from a day of work. Player characters rely on Long Rests to restore lost health, regain spent spell slots, and refresh class feature uses.

At it’s simplest, a Long Rest in 5e is a time a creature takes to recover after a day of activity. It confers a number of benefits for a creature from healing to restoring traits and features.

The full rules for Long Rests in 5e found in the Player’s Handbook reads as follows:

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours and performs no more than 2 hours of light activity, such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch. If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity – at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity – the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.
 
At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character’s total number of them (minimum of one die). For example, if a character has eight Hit Dice, he or she can regain four spent Hit Dice upon finishing a long rest.
 
A character can’t benefit from more than one long rest in a 24-hour period, and a character must have at least 1 hit point at the start of the rest to gain its benefits.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 8: Adventuring

Now, this guide breaks down each part of these rules so you have a clearer understanding of how Long Rests work in 5e.

What Interrupts a Long Rest in 5e?

Group of medieval warriors around a table interrupted during a rest

A Long Rest in 5e is interrupted by "at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity" according to the Player’s Handbook. This means a creature may perform any of these activities so long as they do not last 1 hour. Once a creature does any of these things for an hour, their Long Rest is interrupted and they need to start the time over again to gain the benefits.

This is a bit pedantic, as many things in 5e are.

Specifically and as per the rules as written, a creature can do any of the listed activities as long as they don’t do them for an hour. So, you can still do them for a short amount of time during your Long Rest.

Basically, you can cast spells, engage in combat, or walk around for 59 minutes and 59 seconds and still gain the benefits of a Long Rest.

Does a Long Rest Heal You?

Wounded knight resting

Yes, finishing a Long Rest in 5e heals a creature to their maximum Hit Points. The important thing to remember is you must complete the long rest or you don’t regain any lost hit points even if you reach the same length of time.

The rules for Long Rests in 5e explicitly state; "At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points."

Pretty simple. All a creature needs to do is finish a Long Rest and they’ll regain hit points up to their maximum.

But, you need to remember; a creature needs at least 1 hit point to benefit from a Long Rest. This includes restoring hit points. So, if you have a player character or other creature at 0 hit points and it unable to gain at least 1 for whatever reason, finishing a Long Rest won’t restore their health.

Of course, this would mean some external force prevents a creature from regaining any hit points. Even after stabilizing, a creature regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours as per the rules in Chapter 9 of the Player’s Handbook.

A stable creature that isn’t healed regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

For example, if a stabilized but unconscious creature doesn’t have their health restored through any means, they stay at 0 hits points and won’t regain any for 1d4 hours. This means if they take a Long Rest immediately following their stabilization, they won’t benefit from that Long Rest due to having 0 hit points at the start of the rest.

Remember; the rules for rests stipulates that a creature needs to have at least 1 hit point at the start of the rest. So, even if they regain hit points during a Long Rest, they won’t gain the benefits of that rest.

All this to say; yes, a Long Rest heals your character (or creatures for GMs who don’t immediately declare a non-player character dead). But, you still need to be aware of the rules for finishing one.

Hit Dice Regained on a Long Rest in 5e

A creature only regains up to half of the total number of hit dice upon finishing a Long Rest. If you are missing less than half your total Hit Dice, then you regain up to your maximum amount.

Related to restoring hit points, a creature which finishes a Long Rest in 5e regains up to half their total hit dice up to their maximum. Remember; a player character’s maximum number of hit dice equals the combined levels of their classes and use the designated die type used by those classes. For example, a 4th-level Barbarian has 4 12-sided hit dice and a 3rd-level Fighter / 5th-level Bard has 3 10-sided and 5 8-sided hit dice for each respective class.

Again, remember all the rules for completing a rest as they apply here too.

For example, a 4th-level Barbarian restores up to 2 hit dice when the finish a Long Rest and an 8th-level Wizard regains up to 4. That said, you regain up to half your total. So, if an 8th-level character is only missing 3 hit dice, they’ll only gain 3 as they’d reach their maximum amount of 8.

Of course, the hit dice you restore depends on your class. So, make sure you know which kind of hit dice your character uses.

Regardless, a character regains up to half their hit dice up to their maximum after finishing a Long Rest in 5e.

How Long is a Long Rest?

Knight sitting on steps to rest

The length of a Long Rest in 5e varies depending on the rules set your Game Master uses. Generally speaking, a Long Rest lasts 8 hours.

Now, the standard length of a Long Rest is 8 hours. Most games use this version so it’s what you should usually expect when you play.

That said, the Dungeon Master’s Guide lists 2 variants for rests; Epic Heroism and Gritty Realism.

In Epic Heroism, a Long Rest only takes 1 hour to finish. This allows player characters to use their spells and class features much more frequently and with less resource management. On the other hand, it lets Game Masters throw more difficult combat encounters at their players to compensate for the increase in capabilities.

Contrasting Epic Heroism, Gritty Realism increases the length needed to finish a Long Rest to 7 days. This means player characters need to exercise much more caution while adventuring as they need several days to recover spent hit dice, spell slots, and class features. GMs may use this to enforce how dangerous fighting can be, giving their world a darker tone, or for encouraging their players for spending time away from "adventuring" and more towards intrigue and social encounters.

This all said and as mentioned earlier, a good majority of 5e games have a Long Rest last 8 hours.

Other Benefits of Long Rests in D&D 5e

Knight resting their head on the hilt of their sword

Long Rests not only heal lost hit points and hit dice, but also restore spent spell slots and remove a single level of Exhaustion. A creature needs to finish a Long Rest to enjoy these benefits as well.

Of course, one of the most important benefits of taking a Long Rest in 5e is restoring hit points. But, completing one confers several other benefits.

Finishing a Long Rest also helps creatures:

  • Regain spell slots
  • Remove levels of Exhaustion
  • Refresh class features

Like the rules for restoring hit points, both players and Game Masters need to remember that a creature only gains the benefits of a Long Rest if they have at least 1 hit point. If a creature starts a Long Rest at 0 hit points, they don’t get anything for finishing a Long Rest.

So, let’s look over each of these other benefits Long Rests offer.

Refreshing Class Features

Many class features require a player character to finish a Long Rest between uses. Some may be used again after finishing either a Short or Long Rest, so players need to read their features thoroughly to know when they may get refreshed.

There’s no central rule stating a Long Rest explicitly refreshes all class features. But, many features specifically state you may only use them a certain number of times and them must finish a Long Rest to gain the ability to use them again.

For example, the Fighter’s Indomitable feature states; "Beginning at 9th level, you can reroll a saving throw that you fail. If you do so, you must use the new roll, and you can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest." (Source: DnD Beyond) Bolded for emphasis.

Many other class features, far too many to list, also include this stipulation. But, many others also refresh on either a Short or Long Rest. So, make sure to thoroughly read your class features to know if you can use them after a Long Rest or otherwise.

Regaining Spent Spell Slots

Finishing a Long Rest in 5e restores all spent spell slots regardless of their level.

You’ll find how Long Rests restore spell slots in the spellcasting rules section of the Player’s Handbook. It includes a sentence which flat out says; "Finishing a long rest restores any expended spell slots." (Source: DnD Beyond)

It’s honestly as simple as that.

Of course, you need to abide by the same rules to regain spell slots; you need to start the rest with at least 1 hit point and you can’t interrupt it according to the usual restrictions.

This allows players to kind of extend the benefits of a previous day’s spell slots into the next day. By casting a spell in the last hour leading up to the end of a Long Rest and if that spell has a long duration, the caster regains the expended spell slot and the benefits of the spell’s effects.

For example, casting mage armor right before finishing a Long Rest, you gain the bonus to Armor Class for the full 8 hour duration and the spell slot spent refreshes immediately as you finish the rest.

It’s a little cheesy and exploitative. But, it’s allowed per the rules.

Removing Levels of Exhaustion

Completing a Long Rest removes 1 level of Exhaustion. So, if you have multiple levels, you need to finish multiple Long Rests.

Again, it’s pretty much as easy as that but there is an additional caveat beyond the usual rules for Long Rests.

The rules for Exhaustion explicitly state; "Finishing a long rest reduces a creature’s exhaustion level by 1, provided that the creature has also ingested some food and drink." (Source: DnD Beyond)

So, yes; finishing a Long Rest removes 1 level of Exhaustion but a creature also needs an adequate amount of food and water on-hand. Not as simple as restoring hit points or regaining spell slots, but still pretty easy.

Of course, a creature may accumulate up to 5 levels of Exhaustion before dying. Since a Long Rest only removes 1 level, a creature with multiple levels needs to finish multiple rests. The downside here is a creature is limited on the number of rests they may take to 1 per day.

How Often Can You Long Rest?

Ranger leaning against a ruined stone wall

A creature may only benefit from 1 Long Rest per every 24 hour period. Nothing says a creature can’t spend 8 hours doing nothing, but they only gain the mechanical benefits of a Long Rest once.

Of course, this assumes you play with the standard Long Rest length.

Essentially, this means a creature must wait 16 hours in a day and spend 8 hours for their Long Rest to gain the benefit. If they finish a Long Rest and then attempt to take another before at least 16 hours pass, they won’t gain the benefit of the latter rest.

I’ve seen some Game Masters express concerns about their players taking Long Rest after Long Rest. But, 5e explicitly limits Long Rests through this mechanic.

So, if your players want to wait 16 hours in-game in a dangerous area to start a second Long Rest, I’m sure you can think of something to challenge them.

Do You Need to Take a Long Rest in 5e?

Knights carrying the body of a fallen knight on a palanquin

A creature eventually needs to take a Long Rest as not taking one may impose a level of Exhaustion. Eventually, a creature dies due to accumulating 6 levels of Exhaustion. Additionally, not taking a Long Rest means a creature won’t restore hit points, hit dice, or spell slots without the aid of magic.

There’s nothing in the rules saying a creature needs to take a Long Rest. However, not doing so means a creature doesn’t recover anything which requires finishing a Long Rest to restore. So, no hit points get healed, no spell slots restores, no hit dice regained, and no levels of Exhaustion removed.

Additionally, not taking Long Rests will eventually lead to a creature’s death.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced rules for not taking Long Rests. Basically, when a creature doesn’t take a Long Rest after 24 hours, they must make a Constitution saving throw. If they fail this roll, they gain 1 level of Exhaustion. If they succeed, they don’t gain the Exhaustion for that day, but the Difficulty Class (DC) gets much harder after each subsequent 24 hours a creature doesn’t rest.

Eventually, the DC for this Constitution save becomes impossible meaning a creature will inevitably start gaining levels of Exhaustion. As per the rules for Exhaustion, once they reach 6 levels, that creature dies.

So, a creature doesn’t need to take a Long Rest in the strictest sense. But, they will eventually die due to accumulating levels of Exhaustion.

Short Rest vs Long Rest

Medieval warrior taking a break in a forest

The key differences between a Short and Long Rest are; the time each takes and what they restore. Short Rests in 5e allow you to spend hit dice to regain hit points, but do not grant any healing otherwise unlike Long Rests. Additionally, most spellcasters do not regain spell slots from finishing a Short Rest but some do.

In 5e, the default length of time for a Short Rest is 1 hour as opposed to the 8 hours for a Long Rest. But, the time it takes to finish a rest isn’t the only difference.

Long Rests automatically restore a creature’s hit points to their maximum assuming that creature meets the other requirements for finishing a rest. However, Short Rests don’t automatically restore hits points. Instead, a creature must expend a number of hit dice to heal during a Short Rest. So, the amount healed varies depending on the type of hit dice a creature uses, how many they choose to expend, what they roll on them, and how high their Constitution modifier is.

Related, Short Rests don’t restore any hit dice unlike Long Rests. This only makes sense as a player character needs to expend hit dice during a Short Rest to heal back hit points. It wouldn’t make sense if you needed to spend hit dice to then only regain them during the same rest.

Next, most spellcasters don’t regain all spell slots after finishing a Short Rest. The only exception are Warlocks which do get all their spell slots back after completing a Short Rest thanks to their Pact Magic feature. That said, Wizards have Arcane Recovery feature and Circle of the Land Druids have Natural Recovery, both of which don’t restore all spent spell slots on a Short Rest but do let a character regain some of them.

Finally, finishing a Short Rest doesn’t remove levels of Exhaustion unlike a Long Rest.

Overall, Short Rests are good for getting a bit of easy healing in a shorter amount of time, but it doesn’t offer near the benefits Long Rests do.

Long Rest 5e FAQ

Viking warrior leaning on the mast of a ship

Do Elves Need 8 Hours for a Long Rest?

Yes, Elves still need to take 8 hours for a Long Rest if you’re playing by the standard length. Their Trance trait simply means they only need to take 4 hours to sleep instead of 6.

Elves in 5e have the Trance racial trait which essentially means these characters only need 4 hours of sleep. However, this doesn’t reduce the amount of time they need to finish a Long Rest.

A Long Rest in 5e still lasts 8 hours for elves and not finishing one means elves won’t gain the benefits. All the Trance trait does it give elf characters the ability to spend 4 hours performing light activity or keeping watch.

Can You Cast Spells During a Long Rest

Yes, you can still cast spells during a Long Rest so long as the casting time doesn’t last 1 hour or longer.

The rules for Long Rests outline how "the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity – at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity". Now, the wording here is up for interpretation to a certain degree. But, the generally accepted ruling is player characters may participate in any of the listed activities, including casting spells, during a Long Rest as long as they don’t do them for an hour.

How Long Does a Creature Need to Sleep?

Generally, a creature needs to spend at least 6 hours sleeping over the course of an 8 hour Long Rest to enjoy the benefits of their rest.

Yes, a Long Rest lasts for 8 hours, but a creature doesn’t need to sleep for the entire time. The rules for Long Rests explicitly state they last for 8 hours &quot:during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours".

Can You Sleep in Heavy Armor?

You can sleep in heavy armor in 5e but the benefits of a Long Rest get reduced as a result. When you finish a Long Rest while wearing heavy armor, you only recover one-quarter of your total hit dice instead of half and do not remove a level of Exhaustion if you have it.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced rules to sleeping in armor. Light armor has no effect, but Medium and Heavy armor comes with drawbacks when sleeping in them.

If you sleep in Medium or Heavy armor in 5e, you regain one-quarter your total hit dice instead of half and you don’t remove a level of Exhaustion if you have one.

 

Summary of D&D 5e’s Long Rest Rules

That about covers everything you need to know about Long Rests in 5e.

A Long Rest is a period of time when a creature sleeps and relaxes to recuperate from a day’s activities. The default length of time for a Long Rest is 8 hours, 6 of which must be spent sleeping for most creatures. These rests heal a creature to their hit point maximum, restore up to half of their expended hit dice, restore spent spell slots, refresh class features, and remove 1 level of Exhaustion. That said, a creature needs at least 1 hit point at the start of the Long Rest and can’t spend up to an hour of strenuous acitivity to gain these benefits.

Have you ever thrown a combat encounter at your players during a Long Rest? Have you used the alternate Long Rest lengths in your game? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences!

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