By Georgina El Morshdy
Insufficient sleep can bring down the best of us! The feeling of lethargy and irritability can cause havoc in your waking hours -- especially when you have things to do and commitments to keep. It’s frustrating to feel your cognitive capacity and sharpness decline when you need to be on top of your game. You don’t like how you’re short with your partner and your kids when you usually have a ton of patience.
But here’s the good news!
Did you know there’s a technique that can give you all the benefits of a full night’s sleep without all the zzzzzs?
The technique is called Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) and it’s a tried-and-tested protocol that can top up your energy and help restore mental clarity.
Let me explain…
What is Non-Sleep Deep Rest?
Coined by Dr. Andrew Huberman (a Stanford neuroscientist and researcher), non-sleep deep rest describes a technique for intentionally accessing the states of rest and repair that are available to us in sleep.
Huberman discovered that you can guide your body into a sleep-like restorative state without actually going to sleep.
This powerful relaxation technique can be explored at any time.
You can do this during your lunch break or when you get home from work as a way to boost your energy and elevate your focus. You can even use the technique to help you fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. You can do it while you’re lying down or while you’re sitting down - the choice is yours.
For best results, choose somewhere quiet, where you’re unlikely to get disturbed. You can experiment with your environment too. What ambiance helps you let go the most? For example, you could try a weighted blanket, incense, or dimmed lights to create a mood that promotes relaxation.
How NSDR works
Sleep is essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. It’s during sleep that our bodies can rejuvenate and restore. The majority of this healing function happens during slow-wave sleep (SWS) when growth hormone is released (essential for tissue regeneration and repair).
Slow-wave sleep also reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight function) and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest & repair function). In parasympathetic mode, the respiratory and heart functions can recalibrate and return to their baseline.
As you can see, slow-wave sleep is an important state for the body to experience. Non-Sleep Deep Rest creates a state that resembles this essential sleep stage.
Scientists know this from observing changes in brain activity.
During an NSDR practice, brain waves shift from beta, to alpha, into the deeply meditative state of theta frequency. Some people achieve delta waves which are usually only seen during slow-wave sleep.
Benefits of NSDR
A session of NSDR can leave you feeling refreshed and recharged. You may feel as if you’ve slept for hours! Other benefits being researched include:
• Promotes rest and relaxation helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
• Feel calmer.
• Better memory retention.
• Enhances neuroplasticity, which is great for learning and personal growth.
• Improves sleep quality
• Enhances focus, mental clarity, and sharpens your ability to think.
NSDR isn’t for the sleep-deprived alone. Most people don’t experience slow-wave sleep each day. Topping up with an NSDR practice could improve general health by ensuring the body has sufficient rest for its needs.
How to practice Non-Sleep Deep Rest
There are two main ways to experience NSDR.
1. Yoga Nidra
You can self-induce a state of NSDR through the practice of Yoga Nidra (or yogic sleep).
With the help of guided meditation, yogic sleep can activate a state of calm and induce hypnagogia, which is the state of consciousness that bridges sleep and wakefulness.
You can find Yoga Nidra meditations online and practice in the comfort of your home.
Hypnosis can also activate NSDR.
Similar to Yoga Nidra, hypnosis can guide you into a state of simultaneous deep relaxation and enhanced focus. The main difference is that hypnosis suppresses consciousness.
Hypnotherapists can guide you to this trance-like state, or you can try self-hypnosis.
Catch up on sleep, elevate your focus, and support your brain’s ability to learn
Sometimes life can get super busy and stress can disrupt our sleep. It’s never a good feeling to be always playing catch-up. What’s more, you likely don’t have time to wait until the weekend to catch up on the sleep you missed.
Adding a non-sleep deep rest practice to your daily routine is a proven way to experience the restorative effects of deep sleep without actually taking a nap! What’s more, if done regularly, you may even see a shift in your mental clarity and concentration too.
A lot of people swear by this practice. Chances are it will work for you too.