The NSDR sleep hack is trending - how the technique could make you feel more rested than ever

Your need-to-knows.

A woman practicing NSDR (no sleep deep rest) in the grass
(Image credit: GettyImages-103011506)

Ever heard of NSDR before? Short for "No Sleep Deep Rest," the alternative hypnotherapy technique is currently trending, promising to boost concentration, relaxation, and mental stillness, too.

Think of the science-backed method as the ultimate power nap - a power nap that skips the sleep part, entering your body into a state of rest and giving you an energy and endorphin boost equivalent to a good few hours of shut-eye.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Right - that said, celebrities including pop singer Katy Perry, host Oprah Winfrey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are all reported to swear by the technique to both boost calm and focus. 

So, how does it work? Despite its name, it doesn't encourage skipping sleep - rather, it's a form of meditative yoga that can boost mood, mental clarity, sleep hygiene and, in turn, deep sleep.

Just like sleep meditation, NSDR promises to help you master "the state you experience just before sleeping, where you're completely relaxed but semi-aware about what is happening around you," explains Dr Smriti Joshi, chief psychologist at Wysa.

If you've ever tried yoga or meditation, you've likely touched on elements of NSDR before. It's based on the principles in Yoganitra, aka those glorious last ten minutes of your yoga session where you simply breathe and relax.

Whether you had a bad nights sleep or are just looking for quick ways to boost your energy levels, it could be a valuable tool. Keen to find out more about what NSDR actually is, how it works, and how to practice it yourself at home? Keep scrolling as psychologist Dr Lila Varsani, lead psychologist at Wysa, specialist NSDR hypnotherapist Dipti Tait, and hypnotherapist and founder of HypnoBox Bernhard Tewes explain.

Introducing NSDR - the sleep hack that promises to boost your energy in just 20 minutes

What is NSDR?

As above, NSDR - short for No Sleep Deep Rest - is a therapeutic practice developed and coined by Stanford University neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. "It's an umbrella term for many practices that can help individuals attain a state of calm and improved attention," explains Dr Joshi.

It's based on practices in Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) and classical hypnosis, both of which create a peaceful, restful state. 

A simple tool for directing your mind into a state of calm, NSDR works by inducing a state of deep relaxation that mimics the brainwave patterns of deep sleep, explains  Dr Varsani.

woman at laptop, NSDR

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How does NSDR work?

So, how does it actually work? Good question. Hypnotherapist Tewes explains that NSDR works in a similar way to hypnosis - "by guiding your mind into a relaxed, natural state by repeating certain suggestions." During the session, you enter a state of focused relaxation, he continues, where "you're not asleep but you're also not fully awake."

Tait adds that the method is also known as a deep hypnotic trance, sharing that, as a hypnotherapist, it's a state she'll guide clients into to "help induce feelings of complete relaxation and calm."

Forget the preconceptions you might have about being in a trance - while hypnotherapy "still has connotations attached to it of illusionists," shares Tait, it's "actually a perfectly natural state of mind that we go into several times a day and also while we dream." 

Did you know? Going into said trances is also how our brain naturally processes stress - "think of it as an emptying of its stress bucket to declutter and clear the metaphorical cache of the brain," she continues. 

The main goal of practicing NSDR - aside from boosting relaxation, focus, and mental clarity? "It's slowing down your body and brain to reach a brain frequency like the one you experience during the deep sleep phase," says Dr Joshi. 

woman laying down, NSDR

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What are the benefits of NSDR?

"This relaxation is hugely beneficial," explains Dr Varsani. "When your mind stops and your body slows down, your body goes into a deeply restful state that helps manage stress, worry, and anxiety. During this phase of non-sleep deep rest, the body can focus its energy on bringing clarity to the mind, consolidating learning and memory and even repairing tissues and physical health," she goes on. 

Wondering what the science has to say on the matter? Well, various studies - including this paper published in the Sleep Vigil journal last year - show that NSDR can help reduce stress, improve cognitive performance, and enhance mood. 

The expected outcome is a restorative level of deep rest which then supports better sleep in the long run, says Dr Joshi.

In short, the benefits span:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved mood
  • Enhanced energy
  • Improved memory
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Improved focus and productivity 
  • Reduced hypertension and insomnia.

Woman relaxing on the sofa doing nsdr

(Image credit: Getty Images 82995718)

How to try NSDR yourself

NSDR is surprisingly simple to do. All you need is a quiet, undisturbed area and five to ten minutes of spare time.

Below, Dr Varsani shares a step-by-step guide on how to practice NSDR from anywhere.

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you won't be disturbed and put your phone on do not disturb. Then, lay down or sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Taking slow, deep breaths, focus on relaxing each part of your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head.  
  3. It can help to listen to a guided meditation or relaxing music - ideally, you want to maintain this relaxed state for ten to 30 minutes.
  4. Once your guided meditation or time is up, gently bring back awareness to your surroundings and slowly open your eyes.

Rather give it a go listening to a guided audio? The below free YouTube NSDR tutorials are a great place to start.

2. 5 minute NSDR with Dipti Tait

2. 10 minute NSDR with Dr Andrew Huberman

3. 15 minute NSDR

"I swear by NSDR - it's changed my life."

Theresa Cheung, 58, swears by NSDR and says the technique has changed her life.

"As a best-selling author and ITV: This Morning regular dream decoder, I'm always keen to try new techniques that can help me enjoy the benefits of sleep and induce vivid dream recall."

"For the last few years, I've experimented extensively with NSDR (no sleep deep rest) or eyes wide shut techniques. I've found it particularly helpful when I don't get a good night's sleep and need to recharge physically and mentally during the day."

"It took me several months to fine-tune the techniques but now it's something I successfully practise several times a week. I set aside 20 minutes and play a guided tape - usually a yoga nidra one - to induce that hypnagogic state between sleep and wakefulness which is so conducive to creativity."

"I like to do it in the early afternoon when my concentration slows down. In the great majority of cases, I emerge from it feeling magically refreshed in body, mind and creative spirit."

"NSDR makes me feel more calm and focused."

Annabelle Baugh, Founder of Cosmetic Surgery Advancements, agrees, telling Marie Claire UK that NSDR has been life-changing for her as someone who lives with fibromyalgia. 

"Since learning about NSDR and incorporating it into my daily routine, my life has definitely improved. I really like the approach because it promotes physical relaxation rather than mental concentration, which makes it simpler for me to reach an intense sense of relaxation."

"You simply lie down on your back and follow the instructions of an instructor, as in place of sitting upright like in meditating. While I initially found it difficult to stay awake during NSDR practice of the deep relaxation it creates, after a few weeks, I started finding it easier. Not to mention, I learnt that as little as ten minutes of NSDR a day left me feeling refreshed."

"Not only that, but I use it as a tool for falling asleep and by guiding me away from anxious, wandering thoughts." 

Baugh has fewer fibromyalgia flare-ups since practicing NSDR, too. "NSDR has made it easier for me to think more clearly - I've experienced far more eureka moments as it makes me feel calmer and more focused."

Does NSDR actually work?

Good question. If the science is anything to go by, it certainly can - one study published in the journal Sleep Vigil last year found that NSDR not only lowers stress levels, but boosts mood and cognitive performance, too. 

"One of the key physiological changes is a decrease in your "fight or flight response" - it reduces the activity in your sympathetic nervous system," explains psychologist Dr Varsani. "At the same time, there is an increase in activity in the parasympathetic nervous system - the part of the nervous system that helps you rest and reset." 

While what works for you might not work for the next person, NSDR involves carving out time to enter a state of deep relaxation for ten to twenty minutes a day. The more you practice, the more rewards you'll reap.

With stars including Katy Perry and Google CEO Sundar Pichai reported to be fans, we reckon it's worth a go.

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.