WHAT IS NSDR?
Do you often feel tired, stressed, or unfocused during the day? Do you struggle to fall asleep at night or wake up feeling groggy? Do you wish you could get more rest without sleeping more?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might benefit from a practice called non-sleep deep rest, or NSDR for short.
NSDR is a state of profound relaxation where the body and mind experience restorative benefits similar to deep sleep, but without actually sleeping. NSDR involves slowing down your brain wave frequency, similar to what happens during sleep, only that in this case you’re awake.
NSDR is also known as yoga nidra, which means “yogic sleep” in Sanskrit. It is a form of meditation that has been practiced for thousands of years in various traditions. NSDR can help you reduce stress, improve your mood, enhance your memory, boost your creativity, and optimize your performance.
NSDR is backed by science and has been shown to have positive effects on various aspects of physical and mental health. The benefits of NSDR are real and well documented:
- NSDR can help you relax and unwind quickly and deeply. NSDR activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “rest and digest” response. This lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, and increases your serotonin and dopamine levels. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that regulate your mood, motivation, and reward. NSDR can help you calm down, feel happier, and cope better with stress.
- NSDR can help you replace sleep that you have lost or improve the quality of your sleep. NSDR can help you feel more rested and refreshed even if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University, practicing NSDR upon waking after a bad night of sleep makes him feel fully rested and ready to take on the day4. NSDR can also help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer by reducing insomnia and anxiety5.
- NSDR can enhance your memory retention and learning ability. NSDR can help you consolidate and integrate the information that you have learned during the day. NSDR stimulates the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is involved in memory formation and recall6. NSDR can also promote neuroplasticity, which is the ability of your brain to change and grow in response to new experiences7. NSDR can help you improve your cognitive skills, such as attention, concentration, problem-solving, and creativity.
- NSDR can increase your self-awareness and emotional intelligence. NSDR can help you develop a deeper connection with yourself and others. NSDR allows you to observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses without judgment or attachment8. NSDR can help you cultivate mindfulness, compassion, empathy, and gratitude. NSDR can also help you resolve inner conflicts, heal emotional wounds, and overcome limiting beliefs.
Now that you know some of the benefits of NSDR, you might be wondering how to practice it. The good news is that NSDR is easy to learn and can be done anytime and anywhere. All you need is a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for 10 to 30 minutes.
Here are some steps to follow to practice NSDR:
- Find a comfortable position. You can lie down on a bed or couch or sit on a chair or cushion. Make sure you are warm and cozy. You can use a blanket, pillow, or eye mask if you like.
- Close your eyes and relax your body. Take a few deep breaths and scan your body from head to toe. Release any tension or tightness that you notice in your muscles or joints.
- Follow a guided audio or video instruction. You can find many free or paid resources online that will guide you through the steps of NSDR. This guided NSDR session from Madefor is a perfect place to start.
- Listen to the instructions and follow them with your attention. The instructions will usually involve focusing on your breath, body sensations, sounds, images, or emotions. The instructions will also help you shift your brain wave frequency from beta (alert and active) to alpha (relaxed and alert) to theta (deeply relaxed and dreamy) to delta (deep sleep and unconscious).
- Enjoy the experience and let go of any expectations or judgments. NSDR is not about achieving a certain state or outcome. It is about being present and aware of what is happening in the moment. NSDR is not a performance or a competition. It is a practice and a process.