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What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

By Remy Meraz June 5, 2024

What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

Introduction: Understanding NSDR and Its Importance

What is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)?

Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is an increasingly recognized practice akin to deep meditation, such as yoga nidra, but with a focus on maximizing rest and recovery without falling asleep. NSDR is designed to leverage the brain's neuroplasticity—its ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections—to enhance mental health and cognitive abilities. By lying still and allowing the mind to settle into a state of calm and minimal engagement, NSDR promotes deep rest, which can be as restorative as deep sleep for the brain.

The rising interest in neuroplasticity protocols

In our fast-paced world, where mental health issues and chronic stress have become prevalent, the need for effective rest and recovery techniques has never been more critical. Neuroplasticity protocols, especially NSDR, are gaining traction not only in wellness circles but also among professionals seeking to improve learning, performance, and well-being. Through practices like NSDR, individuals can reset their mental state, enhancing focus, and reducing stress—benefits that are supported by emerging scientific research and discussed in numerous well-regarded podcasts and publications.

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The Science Behind Non-Sleep Deep Rest

How NSDR works

Non-Sleep Deep Rest, or NSDR, taps into the brain's natural processes to achieve a state of profound relaxation without entering deep sleep. This method leverages techniques similar to meditation and yoga nidra, guiding the body into a relaxed state while maintaining a level of awareness. During NSDR, the brain shifts from its usual active state to a more restful state, reducing activity in areas associated with stress and anxiety. This shift not only allows for physical rest but also enables the mind to detach from the constant stream of thoughts, promoting mental clarity and calm.

Benefits of deep rest for the brain

The benefits of NSDR for the brain and overall well-being are significant. Research has shown that engaging in deep rest can enhance mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving emotional regulation, and boosting cognitive function. Furthermore, NSDR supports the brain's neuroplasticity, helping to strengthen and form new neural connections, essential for learning and memory. By providing the brain with the opportunity to rest deeply, NSDR can improve focus, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, offering a powerful tool for enhancing personal and professional life.

What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

NSDR Huberman's Contributions

Exploring Dr. Andrew Huberman's research

Dr. Andrew Huberman, a renowned neuroscientist at Stanford University, has significantly advanced our understanding of Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) through his pioneering research. His studies delve into how NSDR protocols can effectively recalibrate the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety while enhancing overall well-being. Huberman’s work, often shared through his popular science podcasts, highlights the underlying neurological mechanisms that make NSDR beneficial. He emphasizes the role of specific brain waves and neural pathways that are activated during NSDR, leading to improved mental health and neuroplasticity.

How NSDR can be a game-changer in learning

Dr. Huberman’s research also explores the profound impact of NSDR on learning and cognitive function. By incorporating NSDR protocols into regular learning practices, individuals can enhance their brain's ability to absorb and retain new information. This is particularly effective following intensive learning sessions, as NSDR helps consolidate new neural connections essential for memory formation. The protocol not only boosts cognitive capacity but also reduces cognitive fatigue, making learning more efficient and sustainable. As such, NSDR represents a transformative tool in educational and professional fields, promising to significantly improve how we learn and apply new knowledge.

What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

Implementing NSDR Protocols

The basic components of an effective NSDR session

An effective NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest) session is structured to maximize relaxation while maintaining a level of consciousness that differs from sleep. The protocol involves several key components: a quiet environment, a comfortable position (typically lying down with support for the back and head), and a focus on slow, deep breathing to stabilize the heart rate and promote calmness. Guided imagery or gentle, soothing music can also enhance the experience by helping to reduce mental chatter and facilitate deeper rest. The goal is to reach a state where the body is at rest but the mind remains slightly alert, achieving a profound relaxation that rejuvenates both the mind and body.


Following an intense learning session, implementing an NSDR protocol can significantly enhance cognitive recovery and memory consolidation. Just as athletes need to rest after physical exertion, learners should pause to allow their brains to assimilate and store new information effectively. A short period of NSDR helps to reset the neural state, reducing mental fatigue and preparing the brain for further information intake. This practice not only improves learning efficiency but also prevents burnout and mental overload, making it an essential tool for students, educators, and professionals alike. Integrating NSDR into learning routines can transform educational practices by allowing for more sustainable and impactful learning experiences.

Maximizing Learning and Rest


Optimal cognitive performance and retention are achieved by limiting learning sessions to 90 minutes. This timeframe aligns with the brain's natural attention span and its cycles of alertness and fatigue. Beyond this period, the ability to focus sharply decreases, and the efficacy of learning diminishes. Implementing a structured break following these sessions not only prevents cognitive overload but also enhances information retention and mental health.

The role of NSDR following intense learning periods

Integrating Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) protocols after intense learning periods serves as a crucial strategy for maximizing educational outcomes. NSDR provides a vital pause, allowing the brain to consolidate new knowledge and recover from mental exertion. This practice not only rejuvenates the mind but also prepares it for subsequent learning tasks. By applying NSDR strategies, learners can maintain a higher level of mental health and well-being, ensuring both short-term performance and long-term cognitive benefits.

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Practical Guide to NSDR

Step-by-step NSDR protocol for everyday use

To effectively incorporate Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) into your daily life, follow this simple step-by-step protocol:

  1. Prepare Your Environment: Choose a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be disturbed. Use dim lighting and minimal external stimuli.
  2. Position Yourself: Lie down flat with a pillow under your head and a blanket over your body for comfort. Ensure your body is symmetrically aligned and relaxed.
  3. Begin Breathing Exercises: Close your eyes and focus on deep, slow breathing. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold for seven, and exhale through your mouth for eight. This breathing pattern helps induce a state of calm.
  4. Guided Relaxation: Engage in a guided meditation or listen to soothing music designed for deep rest. The goal is to progressively relax each part of your body and clear your mind of intrusive thoughts.
  5. Maintain Awareness: While relaxing, maintain a level of awareness by focusing on your breath or a single calming thought. Avoid falling asleep by occasionally shifting your focus or changing the imagery.
  6. Conclude Gently: After 20-30 minutes, slowly bring your awareness back to the room. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes, and when ready, open your eyes and sit up slowly.

Integrating NSDR into your daily routine

Incorporating NSDR into your daily routine can significantly enhance your well-being and mental health. Try to practice NSDR after intense work sessions or learning activities to reset your cognitive state and reduce stress. Over time, regular NSDR practice can improve your focus, productivity, and overall health. Make it a part of your nightly routine to promote better sleep, or use it as a midday break to rejuvenate your mind and body. The key is consistency; the more regularly you practice NSDR, the more pronounced its benefits will become.

What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

Resources To Help You Rest

Top tools and apps for NSDR

To enhance your NSDR practice, several tools and apps can provide structured guidance and ambient sounds that promote deep rest. Key apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations and breathing exercises tailored for NSDR. These platforms feature sessions specifically designed to induce Non-Sleep Deep Rest, helping users achieve a state of profound mental and physical relaxation without falling asleep. Additionally, using simple noise machines or apps that play continuous, soothing sounds can also facilitate this restorative state.

Books and lectures for deeper understanding

For those looking to deepen their understanding of NSDR and its benefits, several resources are invaluable. The Restful Mind by Dr. Matthew Walker provides a scientific and practical approach to leveraging rest for mental health. Dr. Andrew Huberman’s lectures and podcast episodes are also excellent resources, discussing the neuroscientific underpinnings of NSDR and its practical applications. These publications and talks not only explain the importance of deep rest but also provide actionable advice on integrating these practices into daily life to enhance overall well-being.

What Is NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest)? Teach & Learn Better With A "Neuroplasticity Super Protocol"

Conclusion: Bringing NSDR Into Your Life

How to start with NSDR

Beginning your journey with Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is straightforward. Start by setting aside 20-30 minutes each day in a quiet environment where you can relax without interruptions. Use this time to lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus on deep, rhythmic breathing. Employing guided audio sessions from apps like Calm or Headspace can also help facilitate the process, providing structured guidance that eases you into deep rest.

Encouraging a culture of restful learning

Adopting NSDR in educational and professional settings can revolutionize how we learn and work. By fostering a culture that values deep rest as much as active learning, institutions can enhance cognitive function, mental health, and overall well-being. Sharing success stories and resources can inspire others to integrate these practices, making restful learning a norm rather than an exception. Encourage discussions around NSDR to spread awareness and support its adoption across communities.

Read more about: Well-being, Professional Development

About Remy Meraz

Remy Meraz, co-founder, and CEO of Zella Life, is a visionary leader who leveraged corporate glass ceiling challenges as a woman of color to drive systemic change.

While leading and cultivating high-performance teams from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500, she consistently faced obstacles such as inadequate mentorship, lack of psychological safety, and non-personalized training. Taking matters into her own hands, she turned to executive coaching and NLP training. This life-changing growth experience led to breaking leadership barriers and a passion for cognitive psychology.

Motivated by her experiences, she co-founded Zella Life, an innovative AI-driven coaching platform bridging the talent development gap by enhancing soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace.

Her vision with Zella Life is to transform professional development into an inclusive and impactful journey, focused on the distinct needs of both individuals and organizations. She aims to promote advancement and culture change by ensuring every professional's growth is acknowledged and supported.

Today, Remy is recognized as an influential innovator, trainer, mentor, and business leader. Under her leadership, Zella Life has delivered significant measurable outcomes for numerous well-known brands. This track record of positive outcomes garnered attention and funding from Google for Startups and Pledge LA, establishing Zella Life as a pivotal force in the learning and development arena tackling and resolving fundamental talent development issues for organizations of all sizes.