The [Complete] Guide to Non-Sleep Deep Rest: How to Get the Most Deep Restorative Sleep

nsdr sleep woman lying on white bed

Guide to Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR)

I’m a sleep enthusiast. I used to suffer from chronic insomnia. It was so bad that some nights I would only get 2-3 hours of sleep. And when I did finally fall asleep, I would often wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed!

I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, and I’ve finally found something that works really well for me. In this blog post, I’m going to share my experience with non-sleep deep rest and how it’s helped me get the most out of my sleep.

Let’s dive deep!

What is Non-sleep Deep Rest?

Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is a method of achieving a state of calm and focus without actually inducing sleep. It is a form of deep relaxation that helps the brain rest intensely in a sleep-like state for a short period of time. NSDR can be achieved through practices such as guided meditation, mindful breathing, and body scanning. This technique not only helps to reduce stress and increase energy levels, but it can also improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to learn and retain information.

Interestingly, practicing NSDR during the day can even help improve sleep quality at night. Therefore, incorporating NSDR into your daily routine can be an effective way to achieve deep restorative sleep, improve cognitive function, and enhance overall well-being.

What type of activity is NSDR?

Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is a form of rest that involves achieving a state of deep relaxation while the mind remains active. It is not sleep, but rather a focused state of rest that aims to support and supplement one’s sleep routine. NSDR involves specific breathing techniques that slow the heart rate and calm the mind, helping to shift focus from planning and anticipation to sensation and presence.

An example of an activity that falls under NSDR is stress relaxation training, which has been found to be effective in improving relaxation states both psychologically and physiologically.

NSDR stimulates the vagus nerve

There is evidence to suggest that NSDR may stimulate the vagus nerve for better sleep, which in turn can promote relaxation and improve overall health and well-being.

One of the ways in which NSDR may target the vagus nerve is through its emphasis on deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This type of breathing has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve, which can help to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and other key functions. There are some sleep positions which stimulate the vagus nerve as well.

vagus nerve sleep

In addition, NSDR incorporates gentle movements and touch, which can also activate the body’s sensory receptors and stimulate the vagus nerve.

Overall, the connection between the vagus nerve and NSDR lies in the fact that NSDR is a therapeutic approach that aims to promote relaxation and reduce stress in the body, and the vagus nerve plays a key role in regulating the body’s stress response and promoting relaxation.

NSDR sleep protocol

NSDR, or non-sleep deep rest, is a centuries-old practice known as yoga nidra, which involves lying down and following an instructor through a series of breathing exercises using long exhalations, body scans, and progressive muscle relaxation. The goal is to enter a state of conscious awareness where the body and mind are completely at rest, without falling asleep. During NSDR, you may feel like you’re surfing at the edge of wakefulness, encouraging a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Long-exhale breathing is particularly effective in relaxing the nervous system.

The NSDR protocol is easy to incorporate into your day and can be practiced right before bed to ease the transition to sleep. NSDR shouldn’t replace your regular sleep routine but can support it. The benefits of NSDR are immediate and can improve learning, reduce anxiety, help with insomnia, and even chronic pain. Consistency in following the protocol is key to achieve optimal results.

What are the benefits of non-sleep deep rest?

1. Increased Energy and Productivity

Non-sleep deep rest is a state of relaxation that is achieved through activities like meditation, yoga nidra, or deep breathing exercises. When we engage in these activities, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to reduce stress and anxiety. This state of relaxation allows our body to conserve energy and focus on repairing and rejuvenating itself. As a result, we feel more energized, alert, and productive.

Remember, non-sleep deep rest is not a substitute for a good night’s sleep. However, incorporating these activities into your daily routine can help you to feel more energized and productive throughout the day.

2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is a powerful tool that can help reduce stress and anxiety. When you quiet your mind and focus on the present moment, it can positively impact your life. According to a review of studies, work-related stress leads to heart disease, and stress and anxiety cause work fatigue, making employees less productive and more prone to absenteeism.

NSDR fosters a deep sense of tranquility and respite, allowing the brain to cool down and reduce stress. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body after stress by improving digestion and body functioning.

3. Improved Emotional Health and Well-Being

Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is a powerful tool that can help improve emotional health and overall well-being. NSDR can also improve focus and concentration, which can lead to increased productivity and improved performance at work or school.

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By practicing relaxation techniques, you can improve the quality of your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Overall, NSDR can supplement your wellness and uplift your emotional health and well-being.

4. Better Sleep Quality

Non-sleep deep rest practices such as yoga nidra can improve the quality of your sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, which are major factors in preventing a good night’s sleep. When we sleep, our body goes through different stages of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. According to sleep architecture each stage plays a critical role in the restorative functions of the body, that is why yoga nidra is not a sleep replacement. For example, during deep sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.

Non-sleep deep rest can enhance the restorative functions of each stage by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. According to a study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, practicing yoga nidra before bedtime can improve the quality of sleep by increasing the duration of deep sleep and reducing the time spent in light sleep.

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5. Increased Spiritual Growth

Non-sleep deep rest, also known as NSDR, is a powerful tool for spiritual growth that can help individuals connect to a deeper sense of purpose and meaning. NSDR has been shown to have a positive impact on mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness, helping individuals align with their spiritual values and beliefs. By practicing NSDR, individuals can cultivate a greater sense of inner peace and connectedness, which can lead to greater spiritual growth and understanding.

For example, imagine a busy executive who is constantly on the go and struggles to find time for spiritual practices. By incorporating NSDR into their daily routine, the executive can take a few moments to center themselves and connect with their inner self. This can help them feel more grounded and present, which can lead to greater clarity and focus in their work and personal life. Additionally, NSDR can help individuals release stress and negative emotions, allowing them to cultivate a more positive and compassionate outlook on life.

6. Meditation and Self-Awareness Improvement

Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is a technique that involves guided meditation to achieve a self-directed state of calmness. According to research, practicing NSDR through self-hypnosis or Yoga Nidra can lead to numerous benefits, including better sleep, reduced stress, improved learning, and relaxation. Practicing NSDR also helps you to become more aware of your body and reduces distraction by anxious or intruding thoughts.

So, whether you choose to use a research-tested self-hypnosis app like Reveri or free Yoga Nidra meditations on YouTube, incorporating NSDR into your daily routine can help you to feel recharged and ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

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How to get the most out of non-sleep deep rest?

Step 1: Figure out your goals

It is crucial to determine your goals before attempting to achieve non-sleep deep rest because it helps you focus on what needs to be done. Without a clear understanding of your goals, it becomes difficult to prioritize tasks and make progress towards achieving them. It’s like driving without a destination in mind – you may end up going in circles and wasting time and energy.

Therefore, taking the time to identify your goals and breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps can help you stay on track and make the most out of your non-sleep deep rest practice.

Keeping your goals simple and clear is important in achieving non-sleep deep rest because it allows you to focus on the task at hand without getting overwhelmed or distracted.

Step 2: Pinpoint the right time for you to practice non-sleep deep rest

Determining the best time to practice non-sleep deep rest can greatly enhance its benefits. It’s important to identify your personal energy levels throughout the day and schedule NSDR during times of low energy. This may be in the afternoon after lunch or in the evening after work.

To track your energy levels, you can use a journal or an app like “MyFitnessPal” to record how you feel at different times of the day. Experiment with different times of day to find what works best for you. Remember that consistency is key, so try to make non-sleep deep rest a daily habit.

Step 3: Find the right environment for you

To achieve non-sleep deep rest, it’s crucial to create a calming and relaxing environment that promotes tranquility. This means

  • finding a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed by noise, light
  • put your phone or computer on “Do not disturb” mode to avoid distraction.
  • using comfortable bedding, adjusting room temperature, and incorporating soothing scents.
  • Adding plants, playing calming music, white noise or using aromatherapy can help create a serene atmosphere.

Step 4: Enjoy the benefits

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We’re constantly on the go, juggling multiple tasks, and trying to keep up with the demands of work and home life. But what if there was a way to hit the reset button and recharge your batteries without having to take a nap or go to bed early? That’s where non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) comes in.

Benefits of NSDR:

  1. Increased creativity: NSDR has been shown to boost creativity and problem-solving skills.
  2. Reduced stress: NSDR is a great way to take a break from the chaos of the day and reset your mental state.
  3. Improved mental clarity: NSDR can improve mental clarity and focus, making it easier to concentrate on tasks and stay productive throughout the day.

Step 5: Re-energizes sleep quality

Getting the most out of non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) requires a focus on improving sleep quality. Poor sleep quality can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, leading to fatigue, poor concentration, and weakened immunity.

Chronic sleep disorders can even result in obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. To improve sleep quality, regular practice of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and body scans before bed can help reduce stress and anxiety, major factors that prevent a good night’s sleep.

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Step 6: Enriches resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and cope with challenges effectively. Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is a powerful tool to enhance resilience and promote overall well-being. Incorporating NSDR into your daily routine can help you build resilience and cope with challenges effectively.

By setting aside time for NSDR, practicing deep breathing, visualization, body scanning, and expressing gratitude, you can enhance your overall well-being and promote a sense of peace and connectedness in any situation.

NSDR hypnosis

NSDR hypnosis is a technique that allows people to achieve a state of deep relaxation and connect with their inner state. This trance-like state is achieved by focusing internally and letting go of the thoughts of an anxious mind.

To engage in NSDR hypnosis, self-hypnosis can be learned over time, allowing for sessions to take place without the presence of a therapist.

During the session, the person will engage in a deeper, detached state of consciousness, guided by the therapist or a pre-recorded audio track. By merging focus and deep relaxation, NSDR hypnosis can accelerate neuroplasticity and help people recharge their brains.


How is NSDR different from meditation, hypnosis, and yoga nidra?

Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is a relaxation technique that differs from other practices such as meditation, hypnosis, and yoga nidra in several ways.

  • Meditation is not meant to replace sleep but to still the mind, NSDR protocols are also intended to keep you awake and alert.
  • Hypnosis involves a deeper state of consciousness, which can result in forgetting some or all of the experience.
  • Yoga nidra is a form of guided meditation that yields a state of deep relaxation and is somewhat paralyzing, where you are in between sleep and wakefulness. While NSDR is intentionally generic, yoga nidra often includes mantras and intentions during meditation.

Main benefits of NSDR, meditation, hypnosis, and yoga nidra

PracticeMain Benefits
Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR)Improved body awareness and movement efficiency, increased range of motion, reduced pain and tension, enhanced performance, improved posture and alignment, reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep quality, enhanced immune function
MeditationReduced stress and anxiety, improved emotional regulation, increased self-awareness and introspection, improved focus and concentration, enhanced sense of well-being and resilience, improved immune function
HypnosisReduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep quality, increased self-esteem and confidence, improved habits and behaviors, reduced pain and discomfort, improved immune function
Yoga NidraReduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep quality, increased self-awareness and introspection, improved emotional regulation, enhanced sense of well-being and relaxation, improved immune function

What types of protocols are used for NSDR?

Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) protocols or scripts are techniques used to experience deep rest without falling asleep. The two original NSDR protocols suggested by Hubermann are Yoga Nidra and hypnosis.

There are different protocols that can be used for NSDR, depending on the needs and goals of the individual. Here are some examples:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing: This protocol focuses on breathing exercises that emphasize deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This can help to stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn can promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety.
  2. Mindful movement: This protocol involves gentle, mindful movements that are designed to promote body awareness, reduce tension, and increase relaxation. These movements may be done while standing, sitting, or lying down, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences.
  3. Guided relaxation: This protocol involves guided imagery and visualization techniques that can help to promote deep relaxation and reduce stress and tension in the body. The individual is guided through a series of calming and soothing images, which can help to promote a sense of relaxation and well-being.
  4. Touch therapy: This protocol involves gentle touch and manipulation of the muscles and soft tissues of the body. The therapist may use techniques such as rocking, stretching, and mobilization to promote relaxation and reduce tension in the body.
  5. Movement re-education: This protocol involves gentle movements that are designed to improve overall body alignment and movement efficiency. This can help to reduce stress and tension in the body, and improve overall physical performance.

Overall, the protocols used for NSDR are designed to promote deep relaxation and reduce stress and tension in the body.

What is the science behind NSDR?

The science behind NSDR involves the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating rest and relaxation. When you practice NSDR, your body enters a state of relaxation, which triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that promote feelings of happiness and well-being. NSDR also enhances neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and learn new things. This makes it easier to retain information and learn new skills.

The Huberman Lab has conducted research on the physiological effects of NSDR, including changes in heart rate variability, breathing patterns, and other measures of autonomic nervous system activity (like the Polyvagal Ladder for example). One area of particular interest for the Huberman Lab is the connection between NSDR and the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a key component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.

What are the different relaxation techniques used in NSDR?

NSDR, or Non-Sleep Deep Rest, is a practice of intentionally controlling which sensations we focus on to direct our minds into a state of calm and focus. There are two main techniques for practicing NSDR: Yoga Nidra and Hypnosis.

  1. Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that yields a state of deep relaxation through focused breathing.
  2. Hypnosis involves a deeper, detached state of consciousness and is guided by a professional.

Both techniques offer restorative benefits and can be used to manage anxiety or pain while gaining greater focus.

What are some of the risks associated with NSDR?

Research does not suggest any significant risks associated with Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) when practiced in a controlled and safe manner. However, it is essential to note that NSDR should not be practiced as a substitute for medical treatment or therapy for any underlying mental or physical health conditions. It is also essential to practice NSDR under the guidance of a trained professional to avoid any potential risks which may include:

  • the possibility of experiencing negative emotions or memories while in a relaxed state. This could occur if an individual has unresolved emotional trauma or experiences that have not been addressed.
  • the possibility of falling asleep during the practice. While falling asleep fast is not necessarily harmful, it may prevent an individual from experiencing the full benefits of NSDR.
  • NSDR should not be practiced right before or while driving or operating heavy machinery, as it may impair an individual’s ability to focus and react appropriately.

Overall, while NSDR is generally considered safe, it is essential to practice it under the guidance of a trained professional and avoid any potential risks.

Can NSDR replace sleep?

While Non-Sleep Deep Rest can provide a range of benefits, it is not a replacement for regular sleep. Just like meditation is not a replacement of sleep either or yoga nidra is not equal to sleep. Regular sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and should not be replaced by NSDR.

NSDR is a form of deep rest that can help you recover from a bad night’s sleep or supplement your regular sleep routine. It can also be used to recharge part-way through the day, increase focus, and reduce stress. NSDR is a tool that can be used in addition to regular sleep to enhance its quality and provide additional benefits.

Is NSDR as good as sleep?

While Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is not a replacement for sleep, it can be a great way to recharge and supplement a bad night’s sleep. NSDR is a state of deep relaxation where the mind is still active while the body is in a completely relaxed state. It can provide stress relief, mental clarity, improved focus, and enhance memory retention. On the other hand, sleep is essential for restoring the body and mind, promoting neuroplasticity and enhancing learning, and improving cognitive function. Both NSDR and sleep have their unique benefits and play crucial roles in maintaining overall wellness.

Are yoga nidra and NSDR the same?

Yoga Nidra and Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) are both practices that involve self-directed relaxation and are used to achieve a deeply restorative state.

  • Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that leads to a state of deep relaxation, where you are in between sleep and wakefulness. It is typically guided by an instructor who reads a specific script that guides you through a body scan, directing your focus sequentially onto different parts of your body.
  • NSDR is intentionally generic and involves stripped-out intentions or any kind of verbiage related to the yoga community. It is designed to keep you alert and awake, unlike sleep meditations that are designed to put you to sleep.

Both practices are often practiced lying down and are entirely guided, but the main difference between the two is that Yoga Nidra involves specific intentions and mantras, while NSDR protocols do not. Ultimately, both practices can help you achieve deep restorative sleep, but Yoga Nidra may be a better choice for beginners who prefer a more structured approach.

What is deep napping?

Deep napping, also known as power napping or strategic napping, refers to a short period of sleep taken during the day to help boost energy, alertness, and overall cognitive function. It involves intentionally entering a state of deep sleep for a brief duration, typically ranging from 10 to 30 minutes.

The goal of deep napping is to obtain the benefits of sleep, particularly the restorative effects on the brain and body, without experiencing the sleep inertia or that grogginess that can occur after sleep. By strategically timing the nap and keeping it relatively short, individuals can avoid entering into deep stages of sleep, such as slow-wave sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can lead to sleep inertia upon awakening.