What are the benefits of a daily active or non-sleep deep rest practice? Part 2

What are the benefits of a daily active or non-sleep deep rest practice? Part 2

Modern science has taken interest in the ancient but powerful practice of yoga-nidrā to better understand the physiological impacts it has on our sleep and recovery [1].

Yoga-nidrā falls under the umbrella of Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR), a practice of disengaging and maximizing the restfulness of your breaks. You can learn more about NSDR through Professor Andrew Huberman’s excellent series of resources here.

Even short (11 minute) periods of deep meditation (yoga-nidrā/ NSDR) can lower stress, increase well-being and improve sleep quality. Moreover, these benefits are long lasting, remaining stable even after 6 weeks [2].

NSDR works by slowing down brain wave activity, similar to what happens in slow-wave sleep (SWS) also known as deep sleep. It combines sensory awareness techniques like body scan with breath awareness that results in a state of deep relaxation and recovery. 

Breath awareness cues promote slow, paced breathing to encourage relaxation [3-5] and sleep [6]. Doing this increases the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps with "rest and digest" functions [3-5].

We can roughly measure parasympathetic nervous system activation by looking at heart rate variability (HRV). Increasing your HRV (e.g., by deep breathing) better equips you to respond to stress. This is one of the key ways deep breathing can help you de-stress [3-5].

Resonance frequency breathing, which we discussed in Part 1 of this blog, can also improve mood, lower blood pressure, and even lower anxiety [4,7].

Regularly taking wellness breaks like these is paramount. Daily practice for two months can significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. These meditative breaks can also improve sleep quality (PSQI), HRV, and mindfulness. Daily breaks to disconnect could therefore be an effective way to treat hypertension and insomnia [8,9].

Take regular wellness breaks, on top of emphasizing your morning and evening routines, to improve your sleep, rest, recovery, and overall wellbeing.

  1. Parker S. Training attention for conscious non-REM sleep: The yogic practice of yoga-nidrā and its implications for neuroscience research. Prog Brain Res. 2019;244:255-272. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.10.016.
  2. Moszeik, E.N., von Oertzen, T. & Renner, KH. Effectiveness of a short Yoga Nidra meditation on stress, sleep, and well-being in a large and diverse sample. Curr Psychol 41, 5272–5286 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-01042-2
  3. Lehrer P, Kaur K, Sharma A, Shah K, Huseby R, Bhavsar J, et al. Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Improves Emotional and Physical Health and Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 2020;45(3):109-29.
  4. Steffen PR, Austin T, DeBarros A, Brown T. The Impact of Resonance Frequency Breathing on Measures of Heart Rate Variability, Blood Pressure, and Mood. Front Public Health 2017;5:222.
  5. Lehrer PM, Gevirtz R. Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work? Front Psychol 2014;5:756
  6. Laborde S, Hosang T, Mosley E, Dosseville F. Influence of a 30-Day Slow-Paced Breathing Intervention Compared to Social Media Use on Subjective Sleep Quality and Cardiac Vagal Activity. J Clin Med. 2019;8(2):193. Published 2019 Feb 6. doi:10.3390/jcm8020193
  7. Magnon V, Dutheil F, Vallet GT. Benefits from one session of deep and slow breathing on vagal tone and anxiety in young and older adults. Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 29;11(1):19267. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-98736-9.
  8. Rajagopalan A, Krishna A, Mukkadan JK. Effect of Om chanting and Yoga Nidra on depression anxiety stress, sleep quality and autonomic functions of hypertensive subjects - a randomized controlled trial. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2022 Jun 13. doi: 10.1515/jbcpp-2022-0122.
  9. Datta K, Tripathi M, Verma M, Masiwal D, Mallick HN. Yoga nidra practice shows improvement in sleep in patients with chronic insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Natl Med J India. 2021 May-Jun;34(3):143-150. doi: 10.25259/NMJI_63_19.