What if I told you about a secret sleep remedy that will fortify your mind, enhance your learning, and relieve stress? Before you write me off as some quack, I want to peel back the curtain to something called Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR). It’s a practice coined by Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman which he posits to be an essential part of his daily routine.
“[NSDR] can access states of deep rest for the sake of falling asleep more easily and reducing stress, but also for enhancing rates of learning.”
I’m sure many of you would sacrifice some of your most beloved pleasures for a good night’s sleep. We have sleep problems due to stress, inactivity, and devotion to our devices. So, in as little as 10 minutes a day, you can reap the benefits of an NSDR practice.
What is NSDR?
NSDR is the kind of rest you get when your body is in a completely relaxed state while the mind is still active. Although you’re not asleep, you’re forcing the body to slow down the brain wave frequency, similar to the effects of slow-wave sleep (SWS). The main goal of NSDR is to achieve that recuperative level of deep rest that you may otherwise have missed from the previous night’s sleep. It shouldn’t supplant your sleep routine, but it can support it.
The simplicity of NSDR appeals to the masses and may be attractive to people previously overwhelmed by wellness topics like meditation or mindfulness. It’s easy to think about it like a focused nap.
NSDR strives to mimic the processes of slow-wave sleep (SWS), in which the body
is in recovery mode. That is, during a traditional sleep cycle SWS is responsible for rejuvenation through the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone repairs muscle and initiates new tissue growth. It will also bolster cognitive performance.
Furthermore, SWS initiates the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. That activation can drive the respiratory and heart rate down, improving markers of cardiovascular health and heart rate variability. In other words, NSDR can moderate your body’s response to internal and external stressors.
Some of the reported health benefits include:
- Memory Retention
- Enhanced Neuroplasticity (Solidify neural networks to improve learning)
- Stress Relief
- Increased Cognitive Function
- Improved Sleep Quality
- Pain Management
- Increase Focus and Clarity
How do you enter NSDR?
Huberman recommends two primary techniques for practicing NSDR: Yoga Nidra and Hypnosis.
Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that yields a state of deep relaxation. It’s somewhat paralyzing, where you’re in between sleep and wakefulness. You can dictate the intensity of a session through focused breathing.
To engage in Yoga Nidra, you should find a dark, quiet place devoid of ambient noise and distractions. Your bedroom or spare room in your house should suffice. Then you’ll assume a lying position on your back, either on your bed or on the floor.
You’ll find quality Yoga Nidra tracks for free on Youtube, or try an individual app like Insight Timer or Calm. Although sessions vary in length, the primary goal is to gain total-body consciousness. The instructor will direct your awareness to different body parts until you reach that meditative state between sleep and wakefulness.
Hypnosis is more advanced but offers comparable restorative benefits as Yoga Nidra. During Hypnosis, the person will engage in a deeper, detached state of consciousness. The practice is similarly guided, often by a professional. However, due to the suppression of consciousness, you might forget some, if not all, of the experience. Because of that, you can gain greater control over your emotions and bodily sensations.
I speak highly of this NSDR protocol strictly from my own experience. As someone with racing thoughts and an inability to sit still, I can attest to the purported benefits of an NSDR practice. There’s a low barrier to entry and thus, making it a seamless transition into your daily routine.
Listen to Andrew Huberman talk about Yoga Nidra more in-depth here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rSOn0PurVc&ab_channel=TimFerriss
Guided Yoga Nidra Script: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0u9GST_j3s&t=167s&ab_channel=YogaNidraApp