Sven Aarrestad was born at Varhaug in Rogaland county, Norway. He was the eldest of six siblings born to his parents, farmer Eivind Torkelsen Aarrestad (1820–1902) and Inger Svensdatter Skretting (1829–1922). When he was four years old, his family moved to Årrestad in the community of Time, where he attended private school. From 1868–1869, he attended the teachers' college in Egersund. He was a teacher from 1869–73 in Høyland. From 1873–75, he went to the seminary in Stord. From 1875–76, he was a teacher in Brevik, from 1876–78 in Tønsberg, and from 1878–91, managed a high school at Sande in Vestfold. He was a farmer in Sande from 1891–1906 and the mayor of Sande from 1899 to 1906.
The work of Asbjørn Kloster had aroused Aarrestad's interest in the temperance movement. In 1877 he published his first book on this topic Kom og hjælp os!. From 1883–1905 and 1922–1927, he was editor of Menneskevennen, which was published by the Norwegian temperance movement (Det norske Totalafholdsselskab). He was chairman of the Norwegian temperance movement from 1887–1927. He published more than 100 books and pamphlets, most regarding the use of alcohol. From 1892–94, he represented Jarlsberg and Larvik in the Norwegian Parliament. From 1900–1909, he was a member of the executive committee of the Norwegian Liberal Party. From 1906 to 1908, he was agriculture minister in Michelsen's Cabinet and Jørgen Løvland administration. In 1908, he was appointed Governor of Nedenes.