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Everything you need to know about deep sleep-free rest (NSDR)

What if I told you about a secret sleep remedy that would strengthen your mind, enhance learning, and relieve stress? Before you write me down as some quack, I want to bring the curtain back on something called Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR). It’s a practice coined by Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman that is supposed to be an essential part of his daily routine.

“[NSDR] Deep rest states can be accessed in order to fall asleep more easily and reduce stress, but also to improve learning rates.”

I’m sure many of you will sacrifice some of your most beloved pleasures for a good night’s sleep. We have trouble sleeping due to stress, lack of activity and dedication to our devices. So, in as little as 10 minutes a day, you can reap the benefits of practicing NSDR.

What is an NSDR?

NSDR is the type of rest you get when your body is completely relaxed while your mind is still active. Even though you are not asleep, you are forcing the body to slow down the pace of your brain waves, similar to the effects of slow wave sleep (SWS). The main goal of the NSDR is to achieve that level of recovery from the deep rest you may have missed from the previous night’s sleep. It shouldn’t replace your sleep routine, but it can support it.

The simplicity of NSDR appeals to audiences and may be appealing to people previously inundated with wellness topics such as meditation or mindfulness. It’s easy to think of it like a focused nap.

Scientific collapse

NSDR seeks to mimic the processes of slow wave sleep (SWS), in which the body

in recovery mode. That is, during the traditional sleep cycle, the SWS are responsible for regeneration through the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone repairs muscle and begins the growth of new tissue. It will also enhance cognitive performance.

Furthermore, SWS initiates activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation can lead to lower heart and respiratory rates, which leads to improved indicators of cardiovascular health and heart rate variability. In other words, NSDR can modify your body’s response to internal and external stresses.

Some of the reported health benefits include:

  • memory retention
  • Enhanced neuroplasticity (anchoring neural networks to improve learning)
  • stress relief
  • Increase cognitive function
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Pain management
  • Increase focus and clarity

How do you enter the NSDR?

Huberman recommends two primary methods of NSDR practice: Yoga Nidra and Hypnosis.

Yoga Nidra It is a form of guided meditation that produces a state of deep relaxation. He is somewhat paralyzed, as you are between sleep and wakefulness. You can determine the intensity of the session through focused breathing.

To participate in Yoga Nidra, you must find a dark and quiet place free from ambient noise and distractions. Your bedroom or spare room in your home should suffice. Then take a lying position on your back, either on your bed or on the floor.

You will find free high quality Yoga Nidra tracks on Youtube, or try an individual app like Insight timer or calm. Although the duration of sessions varies, the primary goal is to gain full body awareness. The trainer will direct your awareness to different parts of the body until you reach that meditative state between sleep and wakefulness.

hypnosis More advanced but offers similar restorative benefits as Yoga Nidra. During hypnosis, a person engages in a deeper, separate state of consciousness. This practice is similarly directed, often by a professional. However, due to the suppression of consciousness, you may forget some, if not all, of the experience. Because of this, you can have more control over your emotions and bodily sensations.

I applaud 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 practicing NSDR. There is a low barrier to entry, making it a seamless transition into your daily routine.

Hear Andrew Huberman talk about yoga nidra in more detail here:

Yoga Nidra Guidance Text: