The brainchild of Dr. Andrew Huberman (a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University), non-sleep deep rest—commonly known as NSDR—has also been coined “Silicon Valley’s answer to the siesta.”
Its restorative abilities help you make up for a bad night of sleep, a hectic meeting, or a lack of sleep over an extended period of time. It gives your body and your brain not only a break, but also a chance to recover and heal.
NSDR is similar to both a form of meditative yoga known as yoga nidra and hypnosis. But it varies from meditation performed before bedtime as you do not fall asleep. NSDR’s superpower is that it lets you be more awake, focused, and rested after a short daytime break.
What is NSDR?
NSDR is an acronym for non-sleep deep rest. During NSDR you rest your body, but do not shut down your mind. NSDR videos guide you to release tension and stress, focus on breathing and relaxation, and redirecting your brain to focus on the intent of NSDR, to rest deeply, but mindfully.
While it sounds complicated and hard to accomplish, if you have as little as 5 minutes you can give it a try. It is not something to overthink or add stress to your day or to be another item on your never-ending to-do list. It is a chance to stop. To breathe. To reset your mind so you can feel the satisfaction of clearing off your list without feeling overwhelmed, tired, and distracted.
The keys to NSDR are:
- Taking 5-25 minutes for yourself and wellbeing
- Slowing your brain wave frequency to allow for improved physical and mental health
- Focusing on breathing and releasing stress
- Having a quiet spot, free from distraction
More Powerful Than a Power Nap
The Huberman Lab (named for and run by Dr. Huberman) is continually researching NSDR best practices and benefits as well as a number of other neuroscience projects. Their research has been published in Nature and Science. It has also been featured in Time magazine and by the BBC.
Research from the Huberman Lab has found NSDR benefits include:
- Improved memory
- Better learning
- Reduced stress levels
- Healthier sleep
- Greater focus
Insights into NSDR
In a 2022 interview Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, noted that his go-to options for focusing and recharging are walking and NSDR. He finds NSDR easier than meditation and says he likes the convenience of searching YouTube for a NSDR video when he needs to focus or recharge.
How to Practice NSDR
The 2 main ways to gain the benefits of NSDR are through yoga nidra and hypnosis.
Yoga nidra can be as simple as finding a quiet space and playing a YouTube video. A YouTube search will result in videos with different time lengths and yogis (guides). Try several until you find a yogi and video length that suits your needs.
Hypnosis is traditionally conducted with a therapist and involves scheduling and more time away from work. But it can also be used as a tool to manage anxiety or pain along with gaining greater focus. Over time you can be trained in self-hypnosis, which does not require a therapist to be present.
While there are many benefits to NSDR, it is not a replacement for quality sleep. Your body needs sleep to heal from stress, injury, illness, and daily life. However, it is a wonderful option when a good night’s sleep is missed, or you are facing a stressful day.