The significance of the role that sleep plays in the human body is irrefutable. The experience of sleep deprivation affords us a glimpse into the decline that commences when the body is denied the recovery it requires. In our fast-paced world where productivity is prioritised, often at the expense of proper sleep, it is no surprise that we are constantly seeking ways to optimise our time and energy. One such approach that has recently gained some time in the spotlight is called Non-Sleep Deep Rest. Non-Sleep Deep Rest (or NSDR) is a tool which can be used to help achieve a state of restorative relaxation. This article will explain NSDR, explore the purported benefits of following NSDR protocols and why it is important to question its utility if you’re serious about optimising your health and wellbeing.
What is NSDR?
Non-Sleep Deep Rest is a novel concept and presents as an umbrella term used to encompass an array of techniques that calm the nervous system including, but not limited to, meditation, breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation which allow you to enter a restorative state. Participating in NSDR protocols has been said to induce many of the health benefits associated with sleep without having to enter a conventional sleep cycle.
The Promise of NSDR
Utilising NSDR protocols activates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for “rest and digest”) wherein the body performs restorative functions and facilitates a significant increase in serotonin and dopamine - i.e. your “feel good” and “pleasure and reward” hormones” (1). Being in this state enables your body to reduce the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and focus on fundamental biological processes (1). Without any sense of immediate threat, the body can thrive and the outcome of this is evident in the array of positive effects listed below:
- Reduce Stress
- Improve Mental Clarity
- Enhance Creativity
- Elevate Mood
Not surprisingly, the benefits of NSDR protocols are all inextricably linked. It can be seen that each of the positive outcomes stem from the effects of placing your body in a parasympathetic state to allow it to recharge and flourish.
“A large percentage of what we think of when we talk about stress-related diseases are disorders of excessive stress-responses.”
― Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping (2)
The Bigger Picture
Despite having just spruiked all the reasons why NSDR can improve your wellbeing, like most things in life, the caveat is quick to follow. While it is evidently an overall positive practice, it is prudent to question why specific NSDR protocols are something that have been necessitated in the first place. Why are our bodies not capable of transitioning between alert and rest (or sleep) states effectively without concentrated intervention? What is lacking in our lifestyles that we are attempting to solve by using these techniques?
Taking this back to the foundations of what the human body needs to operate like a well-oiled machine leads us to consider how we have evolved and follow the cues that nature has dictated. Concentrating on respecting our evolutionary biology encompasses components such as circadian rhythm alignment and sunlight exposure, achieving proper restorative sleep, high quality water and nutrition intake, avoiding environmental toxins and of course improving biomechanics. At Functional Patterns the ultimate goal is not just fixing your chronic pain or helping you move better. Instead, it is about aligning all facets of our lifestyles with how nature intended and consequently allowing the body to be more readily able to operate as it is designed.
Nourishing the body with the correct stimulus on a routine basis means transitioning between an alert state and a state of deep rest will become more rapid, more automatic and something that will not require specific, concentrated and regimented effort (i.e. NSDR protocol). In essence, this is adapting our stress-response in a more functional way, in turn lessening the impact of stressors, boosting mental clarity, enhancing mood, and overall returning the body to a regenerative state more readily.
Biomechanical correction is an often-overlooked topic when it comes to enhancing the ability to switch between alert states and rest states, such as sleep. What we have found in FP, is when an individual learns to activate their body (neuromyofascial system) for better human performance, they concurrently learn how to relax their muscles and nervous system, in turn allowing them to achieve deeper rest states more quickly. In the increasingly demanding modern world, the more time in the rest state, the greater the propensity for regeneration.
Here is just one example among countless other stories of those who have undergone training with a Functional Patterns practitioner - this is regeneration in action! Here’s what Aiden has to say,
“I now move pain-free and exercise without fear of injury. I have also found that as I learn to improve how I move & decompress my spine, my body seems to function better overall. I have more energy throughout the day, handle stress better, & feel a consistently sharper mental acuity. Improved biomechanics has also changed the way I think and interact with the world.”
For more info on this result by Frida Douglas out of FP Minnesota, follow this link.
It's important to note that while Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) techniques have the potential to offer certain benefits, it shouldn’t be overlooked that their use has come about in response to the stressful modern way of life. NSDR should not be considered a substitute for the comprehensive restorative functions of finding a regenerative state of being, leading to less stress and inflammation in the body as well as enhanced sleep.
Functional Patterns aims to bring individuals back to a regenerative state quickly, for longer and more regularly. As aforementioned, one of the main tenets of Functional Patterns is alignment with nature, through such mechanisms of respecting natural circadian rhythms, sleep/wake patterns, high-quality nutrition, and improved biomechanics just to name a few.
In doing so, Functional Patterns is helping people across the globe reduce their stress/anxiety, improve their mental clarity, boost their mood and improve their biomechanics by respecting this blueprint. To see the real-life effects, check out more of the Functional Patterns Instagram Page for other results and testimonials: Functional Patterns (@functionalpatterns) • Instagram photos and videos
- Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct;115(10):1397-413. doi: 10.1080/00207450590956459. PMID: 16162447.
- Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping