Non sleep deep rest might be your next tool for achieving less stress, higher productivity, a stronger immune system, and overall better health.
A growing number of Americans practice meditation on a regular basis in an attempt to ground their body and mind and tackle day-to-day stress.
Research shows that meditation can undoubtedly benefit both our physical body and our nervous system.
However, some people struggle to successfully meditate even with the help of apps and wellness coaches.
Non Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is Another Option, Another Tool
So, what options do you have if meditation is not right for you for whatever reason? Does this mean you have no choice but to live a stressed-out life with raggedy, chewed nails and ulcers, and other health problems?
The good news is that the answer to this question is a resounding NO! However, there are many other mindfulness practice options to provide your body and mind with the break that it desperately craves.
One of these options that are increasingly popular is non-sleep deep rest, or NSDR as it is more popularly known.
Even high-profile business executives, like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who in a recent interview told the Wall Street Journal he’s jumped on the NSDR bandwagon.
What Is Non Sleep Deep Rest?
As the name suggests, NSDR is a specific technique for getting your body the amount of rest that it needs to operate at its very best.
NSDR recognizes that most of us are dramatically sleep-deprived, which can lead to problems such as a weakened immune system that leaves us susceptible to a host of viruses and infections or increased rates of anxiety and depression.
But, NSDR also understands that there is a difference between sleep and rest.
Ultimately, Non-Sleep Deep Rest or the term NSDR is a method through which we can direct ourselves to calm down, address sources of anxiety, and rest, all in a few easy steps.
We have grown up thinking that sleep is a black or white condition: You are either asleep or awake. There is no in-between.
However, the yogic practice of yoga-Nidra says that this traditional view of sleep is wrong. Instead, there is an in-between or Nidra state where you are neither fully awake nor fully asleep. This Nidra state is sometimes referred to as a hypnagogic state or hypnagogia.
Who Is Dr. Andrew Huberman?
Dr. Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist and associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His study in Neurobiology led him to create a popular and informative podcast called Huberman Lab.
The podcast includes interviews with other scientists in various health and wellness fields, but one of Huberman’s topics consists of the study of non sleep deep rest.
He’s described some NSDR practices as looking through a telephoto lens, where the surrounding environment is eliminated.
High Focus, Extremely Relaxed
It’s a state of high focus, but, just like hypnosis, it’s a unique state where your focus is high, but you’re extremely relaxed.
This in-between state is where you will find yourself in NSDR. As Dr. Huberman explained on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast, it takes effort to be able to enter this state.
Thoughts Drifting Away
Instead of holding onto thoughts, including anxiety, Dr. Huberman states that you need to allow your thoughts to fragment and then slowly drift away.
Below, we describe Dr. Huberman’s protocols for NSDR in greater detail. However, before we delve into this protocol, let’s briefly talk about the three different types of NSDR.
What Are the Three Types of NSDR
Even though we tend to think of NSDR as a broad umbrella term, it is essential to remember that there are three specific types of non-sleep deep rest protocols:
#1 Short Naps
Short naps are one of the easiest ways to catch up on your NSDR. However, your short nap must be brief.
Ideally, the map should be no more than 20 minutes, and some people seem to do even better with naps that are 10 to 15 minutes. Try listening to a podcast by Rory Cordial, whose voice alone is said to promote relaxation.
And, don’t forget that the time of day for your nap is also important. Naps pack an extra punch if you take them after learning new information. This seems to lock the information into your neural circuits.
#2 Yogic Practice of Yoga Nidra
Unlike much active yoga and moving and aligning your body, yoga Nidra is much more passive. In Yoga Nidra, you lie flat on your back and practice deep or diaphragmatic breathing.
Once your breathing has settled into a steady state, you will focus on different parts of the body, paying particular attention to any area of the body where you are tense and holding anxiety.
Again, the amount of time you spend on yoga Nidra is important.
Twenty-minute sessions are a great starting point. Also, as you get used to yoga Nidra, you will learn the skills to do this body scan on your own, but at least in the beginning having a teacher to guide you through your practice can be highly beneficial.
NSDR self-hypnosis protocol is probably the most misunderstood of the NSDR options. Many of us have a misconception that hypnosis involves a dodgy person swinging something in front of our eyes until we become glazed over.
Then we end up under their power and control, willing to do outlandish things on command. The reality is far different, and the real benefits of hypnosis are far more significant.
It requires the person to have a high degree of mental focus. In other words, you need to be in a state of heightened focus.
Usually, this amount of mental focus would require huge effort or large amounts of stress, and you would likely end up totally exhausted. But, hypnosis allows you to combine focus with rest at the same time.
Some people prefer to go to a professional to achieve this, but it is something that you can do on your own through self-hypnosis that helps you move through self-directed states.
Highlights of NSDR Protocols
There are numerous steps that should be a part of any non-sleep deep rest protocol. Below, we highlight some of the most important steps:
- Carefully select which one of the powerful tools of NSDR you want to use. Depending on your unique needs and other factors, like personal preferences, one of the three types of NSDR may work better (or worse) for you. Do your research so that you can make an informed choice.
- Determine how much time you need each day to do your NSDR. Most of these approaches can be made relatively quickly. Even if you only have 15-20 minutes of spare time during your day, you can begin to make strides.
- Once you know how long you need, make a conscious effort to carve out time in your schedule. Make an appointment with yourself for your NSDR time, even if that entire time is only devoted to a short nap.
- Go straight to the source. There are experts with vast amounts of experience in teaching hypnosis, as well as yoga Nidra. They can instruct you on everything from a technique with your eyes that will help you master hypnosis to how to breathe more effectively through your chakras. But, don’t worry if you live in an area where there is no easy access to a professional. Increasingly, apps can help people in other areas of the county fill these needs.
- Do not hesitate to make a change. Remember that you are not locked into whatever NSDR approach you initially chose. You always have the power to make a change, remembering that you likely know your mind and body better than anyone else.
What Is the Goal of NSDR?
Even after carefully reading through the available information about NSDR, you may find yourself wondering if all the effort is worth it. The answer for most people is a resounding YES.
NSDR relaxes the mind and body and allows you to get the rest that your body so desperately craves. It will enable you to find peace and balance without requiring a huge level of commitment on your part.
But, it is not just about a squishy concept like peace. It also has countless benefits to physical health.
Non Sleep Deep Rest for Reduced Stress and Anxiety
NSRD can reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety. It may also reduce sleep disturbances, and with fewer disturbances, you are likely to get more invaluable REM sleep.
This extra sleep may also boost your immune system and help you maintain good health. At the same time, it can help you lower your heart rate and maintain a consistent rate.
In addition, by spending more time in this deep, restful sleep, you maximize the number of delta waves you experience while minimizing alpha waves that have been linked to insomnia.
And finally, research suggests that it is easier to learn and retain new information if you regularly practice NSRD.
Key Takeaways on Non Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR)
As more people look for ways to address chronic exhaustion and mitigate stress, NSDR is gaining popularity.
Even though we often use NSDR as a catch-all term, there are three specific types of NSDR, and each has benefits and drawbacks. To capitalize on these benefits, you must follow a recommended protocol with a skilled practitioner.
READ more about breathing health and techniques –
Transcendental Meditation: Being Rather than Doing
In a world focused on doing, transcendental meditation offers the experience of being. The practice was developed by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India during the 1950s, culminating in ancient meditative traditions.
By the early 1970s, TM methods were spreading across the world.
TM is a practice that transcends thought and sensation to achieve higher states of consciousness, self-actualization, and deep states of rest. Over 20-minute sessions, the nervous system, and physical body can rest.
The mind and body slow down, giving way to ‘being’ rather than doing.
Effortless State of Being
The TM technique is effortless. To reach the transcendental state of being, the practice involves silently repeating a mantra given to the practitioner by their instructor. Through this mantra repetition, many practitioners experience deep, restorative states of being and rest.
During TM, increased physical well-being, mental clarity, cognitive function, self-awareness, inner peace, and self-actualization is experienced. It’s a practice with the possibility of reaching one’s true potential.
Certain mindfulness meditation techniques involve focusing on and observing your mind of thoughts, sensations, and emotions. The meditation practice of TM extends the practitioner beyond states of thinking and observation to pure existence, consciousness, presence, and being.
Transcendental meditation has wide-ranging benefits. Almost too many to count. But some of the primary benefits are improved overall health, well-being, and immunity reduced stress and anxiety and increased cognition, sense of self, happiness, and authenticity.
If you’re looking for more specifics, there are dozens of studies on TM accepted in the science and medical community. The American Heart Association has confirmed recent studies showing transcendental meditation reduces stress, lower blood pressure, and has positive cardiovascular effects.
Research Studies and scientific evidence
Numerous scientific research studies have confirmed TM practitioners’ health and wellness benefits. Below are a few links to published results.
Transcendental meditation for lowering blood pressure: An overview of systematic review and meta-analysis
Review of Controlled Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program and Cardiovascular Disease
How to Practice Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is not connected to a religion or religious group. It’s a form of meditation designed for everyone to learn and use. To practice and learn TM, you must study with a certified TM teacher.
TM practice itself involves using mantras chosen for you by your certified transcendental meditation teacher.
According to the founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “By using this mantra, the practitioner experiences the thought of that sound and starts minimizing that thought to experience the finer states of that thought – until the source of thought is fathomed, and the conscious mind reaches the transcendental area of being.”
After training with your TM instructor, a meditation session is recommended for 20 minutes, twice a day.
Transcend to a State of Pure Being
“(Transcendental Meditation) takes you to an ocean of pure consciousness, pure knowingness. But it’s familiar; it’s you. – David Lynch
When the mind and body slow down, when the nervous system rests, the individual is able to experience their own nature. As the name describes, it transcends thought and sensation.
Through this ‘transcendence,’ the practitioner can experience deep states of being, facilitating a deeper connection to their sense of self, and true ‘essence.’
Ken Chawkin is a media relations director for MUM, Maharishi University of Management. He is also a TM practitioner, writer, and TM enthusiast. According to Ken, transcendental meditation:
“settles the mind to lesser and lesser states of mental activity, to the least excited state of awareness, when the thought drops off, leaving the mind without an object of attention, yet deeply restful and alert, fully awake inside. This inner unbounded wakefulness is the basis for all clarity, energy, and creativity after meditation.”
States of Deep Rest and Restoration
All systems need to rest, and TM is a practice that allows the nervous system and physical body to rest.
Through transcendental meditation, practitioners experience ‘restful alertness’ or ‘restful awareness.’
That is, higher activity in parts of the brain is associated with alertness, and decreased activity in the part of the brain is associated with arousal and hyperactivity.
Quantum Physicist Dr. John Hagelin explains the meditative state achieved in TM as “a fourth state of human consciousness. It is not waking, dreaming or sleeping, it’s a state of deep rest, deeper than sleep! Deep rest is the most powerful antidote to stress and anxiety. The deeper rest of Transcendental Meditation is much more effective at dissolving stress and anxiety than conventional relaxation, other forms of meditation, or sleep.”
What is a Mantra?
The transcendental meditation technique involves silently repeating a mantra with “gentle effortlessness.” Rather than meditating on the meaning of your mantra, the simple sound and vibration of the mantra are used as a tool to transcend the thinking mind.
How is Transcendental Meditation Different from Other Types of Meditation?
While other meditation styles involve focus and observation, TM is described as ‘effortless.’ There is no trying to control the mind.
There’s no attempt to empty the mind or even observe the thoughts and physical sensations of the mind. No effort to connect to the awareness behind their thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It’s purely effortless meditation.
Why Practice Transcendental Meditation?
- Live Authentically and Experience Your True Self
Practitioners of transcendental meditation express experiencing their ‘true self’ and essence.
- Restore and Rest the Nervous System
Practitioners describe experiencing deep states of relaxation, calmness, and the down-regulation of the nervous system through practice.
- Coherence and Cognition
They experience better decision-making and an increased ability to learn.
- Reach Your Full Potential
Through the clarity and creativity experienced in TM, practitioners experienced increased self-actualization or achieving and realizing their full personal potential and goals.
TM allows practitioners to deeply know themselves, understanding their needs, preferences, dreams, and desires.
This awareness is the foundation for living a life according to one’s standards. When one is clear on their needs, goals, and desires, they can live a life that brings them the most joy, purpose, fulfillment, and wellbeing.
The Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation has been proven with scientific studies and independent university studies to positively effect treatment for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and insomnia.
Control group studies have shown TM to decrease stress levels. Many other benefits include increased immunity, cardiovascular health, and brain function.
Independent research has also proven regular practice of transcendental meditation can increase energy, creativity, clarity, and overall happiness.
Begins to Work Immediately and Grows
According to TM.org, benefits of transcendental meditation begin as soon as you begin practicing, and continue to grow in the future.
Researchers claim the deep states of restorative rest experienced in transcendental meditation could be more restful than sleep. This restoration allows the body to regenerate, heal chronic pain, relieve inflammation, and build immunity.
Finding a Certified Transcendental Meditation Teacher
Transcendental meditation differs from other forms of meditation in that it requires you study with a certified TM teacher. A certified teacher assigns your mantra and covers the basics on how TM works.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the U.S. by Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally recognized nonprofit organization.
The foundation’s revenues directly support the organization’s educational and charitable programs in the United States and worldwide.
Even if you cannot afford the initial TM course fees, TM.org offers individual financial assistance on a case-by-case basis.
They also provide scholarships to those with financial needs. You can visit TM.org to find a certified instructor to study with, along with free resources to support you on your journey.
Certified teachers teach the Transcendental Meditation technique over four consecutive sessions. The first session is generally conducted in person. The following sessions can be conducted in person or at home through virtual content and live video meetings with your TM instructor.
“Happiness Emerges” – David Lynch
You might recognize David Lynch from the television show Twin Peaks or movies such as The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive. He’s a filmmaker, painter, photographer, musician, and founder and chairman of the David Lynch Foundation.
His foundation focuses on consciousness-based education and world peace. He has been practicing transcendental meditation since the 70s.
Lynch found his first session in 1973 to be both familiar and new and often speaks to the happiness he feels is a direct result of the practice.
“It takes you to an ocean of pure consciousness, pure knowingness. But it’s familiar; it’s you. And, right away, a sense of happiness emerges—not a goofball happiness, but a thick beauty.”
“I have never missed a meditation in 36 years. I meditate once in the morning and again in the afternoon, for about 20 minutes each time. Then I go about the business of my day. And I find that the joy of doing increases. Intuition increases. The pleasure of life grows. And negativity recedes. You can meditate anywhere. You can meditate in an airport, at work, anywhere you happen to be.”
Meditation Increases Compassion and Capacity to Give
With every TM practice to care for ourselves and our wellbeing, we increase our capacity to support those around us. We have all heard that we need to fill up our own cup before giving to others. But how many of us internalize this practice? How often is it upheld within organizations and communities?
It is common to feel shame and guilt for prioritizing our own health and wellbeing practices. But prioritizing ourselves, and our wellbeing is the foundation for supporting others. Every person is worthy of living a beautiful life and worthy of putting themselves first, so their in a stronger position to help others.
David Lynch also shares this point, “I want to emphasize that meditation is not a selfish thing. Even though you’re diving in and experiencing the Self, you’re not closing yourself off from the world. You’re strengthening yourself so you can be more effective when you go back out into the world. So compassion, appreciation for others, and the capacity to help others are enhanced when you meditate. You start diving down and experiencing this ocean of pure love, pure peace—you could say pure compassion. You experience that and know it by being it. Then you go out into the world, and you can really do something for people.“
Happiness is Your Birthright
“The ability to transcend—to dive within and experience an ocean of energy, intelligence and happiness—is the birthright of every human being.” – David Lynch
The information and research showing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of transcendental meditation may be overwhelming.
Perhaps what is most important about the practice is that it restores the happiness, knowingness, and consciousness that are our birthrights.
That means transcendental meditation does not need to be another item we add to our list to better ourselves; we are already enough.
A Practice for Compassionate Care
It is a practice we can use to compassionately care for ourselves and experience the joy, authenticity, and self-awareness that is our birthright.
Part of the joy of being human is to realize and relish in the consciousness that we are. To experience joy and heightened emotions.
To feel the beauty of being alive. The presence in breathing each breath and waking up to a new day. Transcendental Meditation is one way to experience that happiness. The conscious awareness that presence and self-actualization that is our birthright.
The Transcendental Meditation movement over the years has included many well-known personalities and celebrities.
A few of the biggest proponents of TM include Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and hedge fund titan Ray Dalio.
Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, interviews Jerry Seinfeld on “Success without Stress.” This is an excellent interview on the basics of TM and how stress reduction can help anyone.
Whether it’s famous movie stars or college students, high levels of stress affect us all. Mindfulness techniques such as TM help many people manage chronic stress and the stresses of daily life.
If you’re considering giving Transcendental Meditation a try, I would highly encourage you move forward. It’s a practice with amazing benefits, as I can personally attest to.
Someday, I might even write my own book about the profound effects it’s had on my life in the very short time I’ve been practicing it.