Unwind Your Mind: 4 Powerful NSDR Protocols and Their Benefits

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The term Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) was initially coined by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford School of Medicine and the host of the Huberman Lab podcast.

Originally used as a term to describe Yoga Nidra to people who feel uncomfortable with meditation and yoga, the phrase has since expanded to encompass a variety of relaxation techniques that help the mind and body reach a state of deep relaxation that can have similar benefits as sleep.

Huberman states that NSDR protocols can;

  • Improve memory retention
  • Increase neuroplasticity and aid in cognitive learning
  • Relax and relieve stress
  • Enhance sleep quality
  • Boost cognitive function

NSDR Protocols

All these NSDR protocols can be used to help you relax, rejuvenate and achieve a deeper and more restful sleep.

NSDR has also been shown to be a powerful tool in triggering neural plasticity, making it hugely beneficial to the learning process and cognitive performance.

It’s recommended to practice NSDR at some point on the same day you’ve learned a new skill, engaged in an activity with intense focus, or taken on new information to accelerate neural plasticity and increase your ability to absorb and retain new information.

NSDR neuroplasticity

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation practiced by laying on your back in a yoga pose called savasana while an instructor uses a Yoga Nidra Script to guide you through the practice. 

The aim of Yoga Nidra is to be guided into a state called Hypnogia, where brain wave frequency will be similar to what it is in a deep sleep. 

When we are in this state of mind, our relaxed brain is more receptive to new information and experiences, which makes it easier to create new neural pathways.

This makes Yoga Nidra one of the most powerful and highly rated forms of NSDR.

The practice of Yoga Nidra, also referred to as yogic sleep, has also been shown to have many other benefits for the body and the mind. 

Yoga Nidra can improve sleep quality, reduce tension and stress and lower blood pressure.

Mentally, the benefits of yoga nidra can help to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, improve mental focus and concentration, and increase feelings of well-being.

Unlock the Power of Deep Relaxation with Yoga Nidra

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment and can be practiced through a variety of techniques such as breathing exercises, guided meditations, and body scans.

One of the key benefits of mindfulness meditation is that it allows the individual to develop a sense of awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. 

By becoming more aware of these internal processes, individuals can learn to observe them without getting caught up in them, which can lead to a reduction in stress, tension, and anxiety.

Research suggests that the mental training involved in mindfulness meditation has the same impact as other forms of skill acquisition in inducing brain plasticity. 

By regularly practicing mindfulness meditation and focusing their attention, individuals may be strengthening the neural circuits that play a role in controlling concentration voluntarily.

Mindful NSDR

Short Nap

A short nap is probably the simplest and most convenient way to rest and rejuvenate during the day.

A nap can fit into any short daytime break so long as you have a quiet space and a comfortable place to sit or lay. 

Napping has been shown to aid the brain in removing waste products that could hinder its activity and replenish its energy levels.

By taking a short nap, individuals can improve their attention by giving particularly tired areas of the brain a chance to recover, which can prevent disruptions in the brain’s network.

However, not all naps are created equal, and you should be aware of how your nap length may affect you. 

For example, a 20-minute nap can be a great way to refresh yourself quickly before a lecture or class. 

A 90-minute nap will take you through a whole sleep cycle, where you will enter the dreaming stage of sleep called REM sleep.  

This will be beneficial if you’re trying to come up with new and novel ideas.

However, you run the risk of waking up groggy and disoriented.

Man Practices NSDR


Like Yoga Nidra, hypnosis is often a guided practice, but it is distinct in that consciousness is suppressed, and memories of the experience may be limited. 

A therapist usually leads the process, utilizing speech and imagery to achieve the desired outcome. However, it is possible to perform a self-induced state of hypnosis without the guidance of a therapist using prerecorded sessions on a self-hypnosis app.

One of the key benefits of hypnosis is that it allows the individual to access the subconscious mind, which is responsible for regulating our emotions, habits, and behaviors.

By working with the subconscious mind, hypnosis can help to change negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors.

Research has shown that hypnosis can effectively reduce stress, tension, and anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. 

It is often used to help with weight loss, quitting smoking, and reducing chronic pain.

Hypnosis Non Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR)

Benefit of NSDR

Increased Rates of Brain Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the process of rewiring neurons and forming new synapses, which leads to skills and cognitive abilities becoming reflexive.

This means that individuals can learn faster and retain information for longer periods of time. 

For example, non-sleep deep rest, such as yoga nidra, hypnosis, or a shallow nap of about 20-30 minutes, can all help to speed up this process.

The benefits of this type of accelerated learning are clear; it allows individuals to acquire knowledge more quickly and remember it for longer periods of time.

Brain Rewires due to NSDR

Improved Sleep

NSDR techniques can aid in calming the body and mind, lowering stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can negatively impact sleep.

By practicing active relaxation, to are training your brain to be more receptive to this type of relaxation in the future.

This reduced state of arousal allows the body to enter a calmer, more restful state, leading to better sleep.

Stress Relief

NSDR techniques can directly calm the body’s sympathetic nervous system, suppressing its ‘fight or flight’ response.

This leads to a relaxation response in the physical body, characterized by a decrease in heart rate, breathing rate, and muscle tension.

This physical relaxation has a positive impact on the body, lowering heart pressure and reducing muscle tension while also releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and mitigating symptoms of anxiety.

Griff Williams

MindEasy founder & meditation teacher

Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.