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 .
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 .
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 . 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.