How ‘Non-Sleep Deep Rest’ (NSDR) and Modern Yoga Nidra Support Us at Work

How ‘Non-Sleep Deep Rest’ (NSDR) and Modern Yoga Nidra Support Us at Work

When the CEO of Google, and its holding company, Alphabet, shares the neuroscience-backed practice he relies on to unwind and rest, people take notice.

Sundar Pichai is a very busy person who’s taken responsibility for “ensuring the benefits of technology can be shared as widely and equitably as possible”, and as the CEO of both Google and its holding company, Alphabet, Pichai leads a team of over 100,000 employees in meeting this world-transforming goal. It makes sense that he does more than sleep to restore his mind and body.

Pichai recently shared about his morning routine and daily practices¹, explaining: “I found these podcasts which are non-sleep deep rest, or NSDR. So while I find it difficult to meditate, I can go to YouTube to find an NSDR video. They're available in 10, 20, or 30 minutes, so I do that occasionally."

How are Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) and iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation Similar and Different?

NSDR is fundamentally a present day description and application of the ancient, traditional practice of Yoga Nidra.

In an interview² with Tim Ferris, Professor and neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman³ explains: “Admittedly, I coined the term ‘NSDR’ because scientists like acronyms.” He shared that he wanted to avoid robbing Yoga Nidra of its traditions and was also aware that some people wouldn’t resonate with the phrase ‘Yoga Nidra’, yet may find ‘non-sleep deep rest’ more accessible.

In short, NSDR is a form of Yoga Nidra, sometimes including self-hypnosis, used primarily to facilitate lost-sleep recovery, focus, and neuroplasticity (according to Huberman⁴). NSDR and Yoga Nidra are short, powerful practices of conscious sleep for relaxing quickly and deeply. Thirty minutes of Yoga Nidra can be as restful as two to four hours of sleep⁵ because of the ability to reduce sleep debt, which researchers believe is related to the brainwave changes that occur during the practice.

While one can’t separate the two practices entirely, a worthwhile distinction between NSDR and iRest’s Yoga Nidra protocol are the myriad proven benefits beyond rest and relaxation. What differentiates iRest from other approaches to Yoga Nidra and adaptations like NSDR, is its application for helping people stop being over-identified with, and consumed by, their emotions, thoughts, beliefs, memories, and perceptions of life. It’s this transformational process that fosters the proven and sustained benefits of reduced stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and physical pain, and an increase in overall wellbeing, resilience, creativity, and peacefulness.

iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation (iRest) also includes and nurtures the understanding and ability to accept that we do not control and oftentimes cannot change the circumstances and people in our life. However, we can learn to welcome life as it is, and respond accordingly, in the manner most appropriate and uplifting for all involved.

A workplace example of this looks like your employer arriving in a bad mood and being short with you in a meeting. Rather than take this on, get upset, and ruin your own day, you’re able to remain undefensive and open, observe their behavior as unrelated to you, and calmly ask if they’d like some time alone before you continue.

Why NSDR And Yoga Nidra Seem Easier Than Meditation

Many forms of traditional meditation ask you to maintain a straight-back sitting position, offer a technique like focusing on your breath, and then with closed eyes you’re off navigating your inner world on your own.

iRest and NSDR are more accessible because you practice in any position that’s comfortable for your body, with practitioners often choosing to lie down. The guided practice can be easily learned and experienced in increments of 1, 3, 5, 8, 12, and 20 minutes, or longer. It’s user-friendly, simple, and free of dogma, insisting on first-hand experience instead.

iRest is ultimately integrated into a practitioner's life as a self-directed exercise that can be practiced lying down, sitting, standing, or even during daily activities.

Interestingly, while both meditation and iRest are effective in reducing anxiety and stress, Yoga Nidra is more effective in reducing the cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety. iRest can also reduce your experience of pain, enhance learning and memory retention, and improve cognitive capacity and emotional self-regulation.

iRest for Reducing Work Stress and Setting You Up For Success

Whether you’re doing NSDR or iRest, the proven, practical benefits make these techniques an obvious choice for managing and reducing the workplace stressors that Pichai, and the rest of us, experience regularly. 

Each time you practice iRest you are:

  • Activating your vagus nerve and increasing vagal tone, which signals to your body and mind that you are safe and can relax. This also leads to an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in depression.

    This same function of our parasympathetic nervous system is what makes us able to be, and want to be, social and interact with others in authentic and constructive ways—a critical skill for workplace success.
  • Regulating brain activity. Stress, difficult decisions, and interpersonal conflict can activate our reptilian brain (flight or fight mode). It’s nearly impossible for us to focus, make rational decisions, or interact with others without being defensive or shutting down completely when this brain state is active.

    As you do your iRest practice, your nervous system begins to downregulate and your reptilian brain calms down. Your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for reasoning, problem-solving, creativity, and perseverance, all vital work skills, will not only come back online but function optimally.
  • Increase resilience and a sense of groundedness. A vital part of being happy at work is maintaining healthy boundaries and having a practical skill set for navigating times of chaos, change, and the growing pains of an expanding business.

    Resilience and a solid sense of your innate worthiness are cultivated with regular practice. This is due to recurring first-hand experiences of an unshakeable sense of inner wholeness, peace, and connectedness, no matter the external events unfolding at work.

    It’s from this solid inner ground that it becomes natural for you to say no when needed, yes when appropriate for you, and often see through any unnecessary work chaos and fake emergencies, while maintaining your equanimity.

The research: This study tracked the effects of the 10-Step iRest Protocol on 60 workers for four weeks. Participants reported a significant decrease in overall stress levels.

iRest’s Role In Workplace Conflict Resolution

Psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg, says “every criticism, judgment, and voicing of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” Your iRest practice enables you to better navigate inner turmoil and outer conflict because it teaches you to observe your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs as important messengers. When you learn to hear their message, they tend to dissolve, leaving you wiser, calmer, and knowing what healthy action is necessary for you to take.

If you’re practicing iRest regularly you may find that one day, while your difficult work situation hasn’t changed, something in you has shifted. You’re seeing things differently, have greater empathy toward the people involved, or feel peaceful despite the difficulty. This is not to say you don’t engage or take needed action. Rather, it means you’re able to act without a personal agenda, from a place of inner alignment, in support of the best possible outcome for all. You may experience:

  • A decrease in reactivity and an increased ability to respond mindfully because you’re engaging from a place of being deeply resourced, and having explored, observed, and come to know and befriend yourself through self-inquiry.
  • A greater capacity to contain, modulate, and process big emotions and accompanying intense physical sensations. This is because during iRest you practice welcoming, observing, engaging with, and making room for all emotions.
  • A shift in perspective from thinking in absolutes (I’m right, they’re wrong) to seeing multiple perspectives and possibilities (I can see how we both have valid points and feel unheard by each other, and that we desire the same outcome for this project). As your practice evolves you may become less identified with fixed, personal ideas as the only reality and begin to experience a deeper truth of interconnectedness.

If everyone at work is practicing iRest then expect a constructive transformation in the office culture, more meaningful and fruitful interactions with colleagues, and an uptick in positive sentiment and creative problem solving. All thanks to calmer nervous systems, increased flexible thinking, and enhanced empathy for yourself and others. Also, a collective and growing understanding of our interconnectedness, and everyone’s innate worthiness, based on individual, lived experience. You may see:

  • An increase in team cohesion if you practice iRest together. Humans are social creatures and neuroscience has proven that our nervous systems interact with each other and co-regulate. When we practice Yoga Nidra together, the benefits are amplified.
  • Overall lower stress levels. You and your team will feel well-rested and deeply resourced, social and amenable, and more self-assured. When difficulties arise, everyone has healthy, well-practiced tools for navigating personal and collective trials.
  • An increase in systems thinking and a holistic, relational approach to problem-solving.iRest increases our capacity for contemplating two opposing ideas or experiences at the same time. When it comes to conflict resolution in the workplace, we’re more easily able to be vulnerable in order to express our primary needs, respectfully listen to and consider the needs of others, and find the best way forward for everyone involved.

How To Incorporate iRest Into Your Work Day

Time is a finite resource. It’s easy to feel time-poor when your to-do list has been longer than your “completed” list ever since you can remember.

There’s a meditation adage that’s something like “If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for 40 minutes.” Meaning, if you’re so busy doing stuff that you can’t take 20 minutes for yourself, you need to reassess your priorities. And perhaps more profoundly, and not yet widely understood: meditation gives you time back.

Experiment for yourself and see what you find that to mean. In our experience, on the days we meditate, life flows a little easier, and we flow easier with it. We act deliberately when set-backs arise. There’s less overthinking and self-obsessing and more inspiration and collaboration.

If you’re finding time to scroll through emails and social media everyday, or fixate on everything that’s going wrong at work, then the good news is that you have the time needed to do a short iRest practice.

Free Practices

Start small by setting an intention to listen to the productivity-focused 10-minute guided meditation below each weekday morning.

Or the short morning practice below for nourishing joy, gratitude and wellbeing.

Can you arrive 10-minutes earlier to your desk or just hold off from opening your email for all of 600 seconds? If you struggle with discipline, a website and app blocker can help you delineate protected meditation time.

You can also lean on the short meditation below when you need a reset after a stressful interaction or want to feel confident for an important meeting.

If you enjoy the support these meditations offer, you’ll find the 6-part iRest Meditation for a Balanced Workday series beneficial.


¹Article on Sundar Pichai’s practices and routines
²Interview: Andrew Huberman on The Tim Ferris Show
³Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman’s website
Tweet by Andrew Huberman
Research by Kamakhya Kumar

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