Missing a night of sleep can be rough on your body and brain. You might feel groggy, cranky, and unfocused the next day. In addition, a longstanding lack of enough sleep puts you at risk of both physical and mental health issues.
Luckily, there’s a way you can get the benefits of a good night’s sleep, even if you don’t manage to sleep well at night. You can do this by practicing a technique known as non-sleep deep rest (NSDR). Non-sleep deep rest is quickly gaining traction due to all the attention health and wellness experts have given to it.
This blog post will explore the basics of non-sleep deep rest and let you know how you can get started with this technique. Read on to learn everything you need to know about NSDR.
What Is Non-Sleep Deep Rest?
Non-sleep deep rest, or yoga nidra, is the kind of rest you get when your body is in a relaxed state, but your mind is still awake.
NSDR involves slowing down your brain wave frequency, similar to what happens during sleep, only that in this case you’re awake. NSDR follows two steps: a self-induced state of rest followed by a period of directed, intense focus.
This is a powerful way to relax quickly and deeply. It can be done any time, as long as you’re in a position to achieve deep relaxation. It’s important to practice NSDR in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
The term NSDR was coined by renowned Stanford neuroscientist and researcher Dr. Andrew Huberman. According to Dr. Huberman, certain experiences can put the body in a restorative state, similar to sleep.
Before we look at the health benefits of NSDR, let’s first review the science behind this practice.
What Does Science Say About NSDR?
NSDR works by slowing down the brain waves, similar to what happens during slow-wave sleep (SWS).
Slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, is one of the four stages of sleep. It’s the third phase of non-rapid eye movement sleep (non-REM sleep). Slow-wave sleep displays delta waves on an EEG (a device used to measure brain waves).
Slow-wave sleep is important because it's the stage in which your body rejuvenates and heals itself. Research shows that a greater percentage of growth hormone is released during this stage. Growth hormone promotes tissue growth and repair and also plays a role in enhancing your mental capacity.
Slow-wave sleep also activates the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the fight-or-flight sympathetic response. Parasympathetic activation decreases the respiratory and heart rate back to the baseline. This improves markers of good cardiovascular health, such as heart rate variability, which in effect strengthens your cardiovascular health.
NSDR can elicit changes similar to those of slow-wave sleep. If you measure your brain activity during NSDR, you’ll notice a shift in brain waves from the active beta frequency, to the alpha frequency, then to the deep meditative state characterized by theta frequency.
It doesn’t stop there. If NSDR is properly done, you might get to the delta frequency, which typically only occurs during slow-wave sleep. Since the effect of NSDR on the cerebral cortex mirrors that of slow-wave sleep, you can enjoy the restorative benefits of deep sleep, without falling asleep.
NSDR is especially important given that even with enough sleep, most people don’t get to experience slow-wave sleep daily. Apart from mimicking the effect of slow-wave sleep, NSDR may also improve the general quality of sleep. For this reason, we can consider NSDR part of good sleep hygiene.
Health Benefits of NSDR
Current research in the field of neuroscience is seeking to establish the role of NSDR in various physiological processes. Through his podcast, Dr. Huberman has pointed out numerous health benefits of NSDR.
NSDR’s benefits include:
- Helps with memory retention
- Enhances rates of neuroplasticity, which can promote learning
- Relieves stress
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves sleep quality
- Enhances focus and mental clarity
- Potentially helps with pain management
If you want to enjoy these benefits, NSDR is a good starting point you can try out. The practice of NSDR requires you to understand the intention and the skill involved. Let’s see how you can get started with non-sleep deep rest.
How Do You Get Non-Sleep Deep Rest?
According to Dr. Huberman, there are two ways to achieve NSDR, which he refers to as NSDR protocols. NSDR protocols are the techniques that you use to experience non-sleep deep rest.
The two NSDR protocols are yoga nidra and hypnosis.
1. Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a form of guided meditation that induces hypnagogia — the state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. Think of it as an intense state of consciously directed relaxation.
Yoga nidra meditation has a long history dating back to ancient times. Modern science is now exploring yoga nidra as a treatment option for several diseases. The practice of yoga nidra has been shown to be effective in managing sleep problems, such as chronic insomnia.
To practice yoga nidra, you’ll need to find a quiet place that is free from distractions and get comfortable. From there, you can play any of the yoga nidra tracks available on the internet to direct your awareness to different parts of your body until you get to a state where you’re half awake and half asleep.
Hypnosis refers to a trance-like state in which you experience deep relaxation, enhanced focus, and concentration. During hypnosis, a person is fully detached from their environment and, instead, focused on their inner experiences.
Both hypnosis and yoga nidra start with guided meditation. However, hypnosis differs from yoga nidra in that there is suppression of consciousness, and you might not remember what happened during the experience.
The process of hypnosis is guided by a therapist who usually uses speech or imagery to direct the desired outcome. With the correct training, you may be able to practice self-hypnosis, which doesn’t require the guidance of a therapist.
Therapeutic hypnosis is used to manage anxiety, post-traumatic stress, pain, and certain mood disorders.
Non-Sleep Deep Rest: Enjoy the Benefits of Sleep Without Sleeping
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to improve your health, athletic performance, mood, and productivity. However, in our busy world, it’s difficult to get the right quality and quantity of sleep. This denies your body the restorative benefits that deep rest offers.
Thankfully, deep rest can be achieved in other ways. Non-sleep deep rest is a technique that enables you to enjoy the benefits of deep sleep without having to fall asleep. NSDR can be practiced either through yoga nidra or hypnosis. With NSDR, you’ll no longer have to miss out on the amazing health benefits of deep rest.
It’s also important to keep track of your sleep to know how effective your sleep is. Despite getting sufficient hours of sleep, sometimes you don’t get to experience the deeper states of sleep that offer some unique benefits. Wearables can help you track your sleep performance, so you know when to intervene through healthy practices like NSDR.
If you’re looking to enhance your sleep quality and optimize your health, sign up with Vital today. Vital helps you integrate the data from all your wearables in one place, making it easier to understand your body and take action if necessary.