Daniel Penn (Author) and Sonya A. Ashikyan (Mentor)
NSDR VS Yoga Nidra
Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) and Yoga Nidra are two trendy practices that are typically grouped together because they are both utilized to reduce stress, achieve deep relaxation, and induce sleep. While both practices are highly interconnected, the subtle differences are substantial enough to differentiate the two. NSDR is the catch-all term, coined by Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscience associate professor at Stanford, in an attempt to make the intervention more palatable to people who are not comfortable with meditation or yoga. NSDR encompasses practices including Yoga Nidra, hypnosis, and even the simple act of taking a nap to achieve an overall deeper state of rest.
While Yoga Nidra is encompassed within NSDR, it is actually an ancient practice dating as far back as 700 BC and is much more akin to mediation than other NSDR interventions. Practitioners require no previous experience or training to use this technique making it a highly accessible technique practicable by anyone and everyone. Yoga Nidra is practiced while lying flat on one’s back and being guided by an instructor, usually via video, through first setting an intention and establishing a sense of safety and well-being. Practitioners are then guided only through the early stages of sleep to ensure they are fully awake and aware while remaining exceptionally close to the border between sleep and awakeness. As the practice progresses, the instructor assists the practitioner in maintaining the boundary-of-sleep state, enabling them to compassionately confront uncomfortable and unconscious parts of themselves. The entire practice typically lasts 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the practitioner’s limitations and needs. In this blog post, I will outline the empirically demonstrated benefits and future potentials of Yoga Nidra.
The Benefits, and Minor Caveats, of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra has many cognitive and physiological benefits, and while the empirical research is still developing, Yoga Nidra has been shown to support healthier sleep, increase creativity, alleviate stress, and has been implicated by Dr. Huberman in enhancing one’s ability to learn and retain information. Yoga Nidra has been demonstrated to represent an effective tool in reducing both cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety (Ferreira-Vorkapic et al., 2018) Patients with mild to moderate anxiety and depressive symptoms derived from menstrual disorders were shown to drastically improve when paired with Yoga Nidra, however, patients with severe anxiety demonstrated no significant change (Rani et al., 2012). A study investigating the potential of Yoga Nidra to transform trauma in patients suffering from combat-related PTSD found that Yoga Nidra significantly reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity, and increased feelings of relaxation, peace, self-awareness, and self-efficacy, despite challenges with mental focus, intrusive memories, and other concerns faced by the veterans (Stankovic 2011). These results provide empirical evidence of Yoga Nidra’s potential for significantly enhancing the current paradigm for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate psychiatric symptoms, and serve to demonstrate the need for further research involving patients experiencing more severe symptoms of each relevant psychiatric disorder.
Yoga Nidra is an accessible, highly effective, affordable, and empirically demonstrated method of intervention that significantly enhances the effectiveness in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate-severe symptoms for various debilitating psychiatric disorders including PTSD, Depression, and anxiety. If integrated as a practice into one’s daily routine, is a vital tool for cultivating a clear mind, ensuring a good night’s rest, boosting creativity, dealing with stress, and substantially enhancing one’s motivation and inspiration; Yoga Nidra is quintessential in establishing a routine that enables the individual to cultivate a healthy, stable, and flourishing cognition.
Ferreira-Vorkapic, C., Borba-Pinheiro, C. J., Marchioro, M., & Santana, D. (2018). The impact of yoga nidra and seated meditation on the mental health of college professors. International Journal of Yoga, 11(3), 215. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_57_17
Huberman, A. (2022, July 3). Master your sleep & be more alert when awake. Huberman Lab. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://hubermanlab.com/master-your-sleep…
Rani, K., Srivastava, N., Singh, U., Tiwari, S. C., & Singh, I. (2012). Yoga Nidra as a complementary treatment of anxiety and depressive symptoms in patients with menstrual disorder. International Journal of Yoga, 5(1), 52. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.91715
Stankovic, L. (2011). Transforming trauma: A qualitative feasibility study of Integrative Restoration (irest) yoga nidra on combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 21(1), 23–37. https://doi.org/10.17761/ijyt.21.1.v8