Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) – Andrew Huberman

A 10-Minute NSDR Protocol

Huberman, shared a powerful 10-minute protocol for achieving a state of deep relaxation through nonsleep deep rest.

This technique harnesses the power of controlled breathing and sensory perception to help individuals shift their brain state from stress and overthinking to a state of pure sensation and tranquility.

Huberman explains that specific forms of breathing have the ability to slow down our heart rate, leading to a profound state of relaxation. By focusing on our sensations and controlling our perception, we can effectively disengage from thoughts, stress, and anticipation, allowing our minds to enter a state of deep rest.

To begin the protocol, Huberman instructs listeners to find a comfortable seated or lying position and close their eyes. He emphasizes the importance of breathing normally throughout the exercise, unless instructed otherwise.

One specific breathing pattern involves inhaling deeply through the nose or mouth, followed by a complete exhalation through thinly pursed lips, as if exhaling through a small straw. This technique of long, extended exhales is known to slow down the heart rate and promote a sense of relaxation in the nervous system.

Huberman guides listeners through this breathing pattern, asking them to repeat it several times before returning to normal breathing.

He stresses the significance of this technique in inducing a state of deep rest and relaxation, which can have numerous benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

Huberman guides listeners through a step-by-step process that begins with visualizing a spotlight illuminating various parts of the body, starting from the feet and gradually moving upwards.

As the spotlight expands to encompass the lower body, Huberman encourages deep breaths through the nose or mouth, followed by complete exhalations through pursed lips. With each exhalation, the listener is prompted to imagine their body sinking into the surface it is in contact with, promoting a sense of deep relaxation.

The spotlight continues to move upwards, focusing on the abdomen, chest, neck, and arms, with the listener being asked to concentrate on the sensations experienced by each body part. Huberman emphasizes the importance of focusing on the contact points between the body and the surface it rests upon, further enhancing the relaxation process.

As the spotlight reaches the face and head, the listener is encouraged to relax the facial muscles and extend the duration of their exhalations.

The spotlight then dims, and the listener is asked to imagine their entire body sinking into the surface beneath them, fostering a state of complete relaxation.

Huberman then guides the listener to perform small movements, such as moving the toes, ankles, knees, upper body, and head, demonstrating the control one has over their nervous system and the ability to direct perceptions and actions. As the listener opens their eyes, Huberman explains that the brain can control actions and perceptions, bringing them into heightened states of alertness or deep relaxation, as demonstrated through the non-sleep deep rest protocol.

Meditation’s Role in Mental Health & Sleep

Andrew Huberman delves into the complex relationship between meditation, mental health, and sleep. He introduces a model of interoception and dissociation, where the ideal mental health state is a balance between feeling one’s emotions and engaging with the external world.

Huberman explains that this balance can be visualized as a continuum, with pure interoception on one end and complete dissociation on the other.

A healthy state is represented by a “U” shape, where an individual can shift between interoception and dissociation without reaching extremes.

However, when the continuum becomes convex, like a mountain peak, it indicates a pathological state where one is either completely absorbed in their feelings or entirely disengaged from their surroundings.

Meditation can be a powerful tool to navigate this continuum deliberately. However, the type of meditation practiced should be tailored to an individual’s tendencies.

Those who are more interoceptively biased may benefit from exteroceptive practices that focus on external objects, while those who tend to dissociate may find interoceptive practices, such as focusing on the breath or a “third eye” center, more helpful.

Huberman also addresses the claim that meditation can reduce the need for sleep. While some studies suggest that regular meditation can lead to stress reduction and improved cognitive function on less sleep, this assertion remains controversial.

Instead, he recommends practices like yoga nidra and non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) for replenishing neuromodulators, reducing cortisol levels, and potentially reducing the total amount of sleep needed.

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