Being a CEO indicates erratic sleep schedules caused by work stress and errands. While several CEOs couch by meditation, Google’s CEO prefers relaxing by using a slightly lesser-known practice.
During a recent interview, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed how, sometimes, he prefers unwinding with the help of something called the non-sleep deep rest or the NSDR. The term, coined by Standford neuroscience professor Andrew Huberman, involves self-inducing a state of calm” and “directing our focus to something.
When asked more about it, Pichai cited: “I found these podcasts which are non-sleep deep rest, or NSDRs. So while I find it difficult to meditate, I can go to YouTube, find an NSDR video. They’re available in 10, 20, or 30 minutes, so I do that occasionally.“
According to Huberman, NSDR can help people relax, fall asleep more easily, reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain, and even accelerate learning. It’s commonly achieved through two of what Huberman calls NSDR protocols: yoga nidra and hypnosis. The former involves lying flat on your back on the ground, typically with your eyes closed, and following guidance from an instructor, virtually or in-person, as they lead you through a number of activities.
In yoga nidra, people are asked to scan for places of tension, focus on their breathing, bring their awareness to various parts of the body, or begin diaphragmatic breathing, all with the intention of giving the mind something to focus on. As the body begins to rest, doing these things can cause the heart rate to slow down. The brain may also switch from beta waves, which are associated with an active mind, to alpha waves, which correspond to a more relaxed brain state.
People doing yoga nidra may find themselves hovering in a liminal space between being awake and falling asleep. Their bodies may physically fall asleep, yet they maintain awareness both internally and simultaneously being aware of their surroundings.
The body becomes more receptive to inertia during yoga nidra, which she notes is different from meditation because it is a form of non-doing. Here, people allow inertia to let their body rest and be held by whatever it is that they are supported by. This indicates that the body for once can actually release needing to do anything. As for hypnosis, Huberman describes it as a state of calm and high focus. Hypnosis can be done with the help of a clinical hypnotist, or it can be self-induced using various hypnosis apps or videos. He further describes it: “It’s like looking at something through a telephoto lens. You’re eliminating the surround. So it’s a state of high focus, which normally … would be associated with a high degree of excitement or stress. But hypnosis is a unique state because you have a high degree of focus, but you’re very relaxed.”