Is it okay to fall asleep while meditating?
An ever-increasing number of people from all horizons are discovering that meditation gives them a deep sense of self-awareness and calm. Meditation is a natural practice that offers a wide array of health benefits as well as insights that lead to a more fulfilling and compassionate life. It’s also an effective antidote to the pressures of our modern, super-fast-paced world – pressures that can wear us down and leave us feeling stressed and exhausted.
No wonder that taking a break from the daily grind in order to sit in simple but profound awareness of the present moment may give body and soul the impression that it’s time for some Zs. At one point or another, most meditators find their sitting practice so relaxing that they doze right off. But is it okay to fall asleep while meditating?
Falling asleep during meditation
The type of meditation you practice and your physiological makeup and natural tendencies may determine the likelihood of your falling asleep during your session. If you’re over-stressed or you’ve been dealing with sleep-deprivation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you fall asleep while meditating. In fact, if you’ve been dealing with insomnia, falling asleep may be welcome – if you had enjoyed a restful night, your meditation experience might be more energetic and wakeful.
In any case, if you fall asleep, don’t be alarmed – your body’s response to meditation is usually a reflection of the thoughts, emotions and sensations that linger deep within. Falling asleep is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign that you are a relaxed (and possibly exhausted) meditator. Feel free to experiment with different remedies until you find a way to remain relaxed and maintain alertness. Have patience, apply the right remedies, and with time you’ll find the right balance.
How to avoid falling asleep in meditation
Here are a few tips that can help you remain aware and grounded while you meditate:
- Keep your eyes open
When you’re tired, closing your eyes when you meditate tells your brain and body that it’s time for sleep. Also, meditators who shut their eyes may find it more difficult to keep their imaginations in check and stay centered. Next time you meditate, try keeping your eyes open or half-open while gently gazing downward. You may benefit from finding a point on the wall or floor or placing an object in front of you that can anchor the gaze. Those little flickering plastic tea lights are a good option – the movement of the “flame” can help keep you focused and a stable gaze helps keep you rooted in the present.
- Try different types of meditation
Obviously, lying down when you meditate is more likely to encourage sleepiness than sitting…. or walking! Walking meditation is a perfect partner to sitting because as we walk, our minds become attuned to the environment. The object of meditation shifts from your breathing as you remain still to the movement of your feet and legs and the sound of your feet on gravel or of dry leaves crackling underfoot. Walking also stimulates blood flow.
- Follow a guided meditation that stimulates your mind
Sometimes it’s easier to meditate with a guided meditation than on your own. Mindworks offers guided meditations in all of our online meditation courses, so there are bound to be a few that engage your mind in a way that helps you stay focused. Try our timed meditations, which range from 2.5 to 30 minutes. These sessions will help create a balance between receiving gentle instruction and practicing on your own. Start with short sessions and gradually increase; you may find your ability to stay awake also improves over time.
4. Take a break
You’ve given yourself a reasonable goal for your meditation session and you’ve been sitting for a while. But you’re really wrestling with the sandman. Take a break! Stand up, stretch your body, breathe! Open a window, help yourself to a glass of water or some tea. If you possibly can, maintain awareness during your break. Try to remain focused: when you stretch, be aware that you’re stretching. When you make a cup of tea, be aware that you’re making tea. Don’t check your emails or phone – they’ll still be there when your session is up. You’re still practicing, just a little bit differently. Your concentration will improve when you resume sitting.
5. Meditate with others
If you have the opportunity to meditate with another person or other people, this can help stave off drowsiness – if only for the embarrassment issue. Anyone who has practiced with others knows what it’s like to be the one who starts tilting over or snoring during meditation – it’s almost a rite of passage! But seriously, having another person or other people in the room, whether you’re home or at a meditation center, is a major motivator.
Here are a few more tips that can help:
- Keep the lights on.
- Air is good! Open windows are helpful.
- Cooler temperatures are more wakeful than cocoon-like warmth.
- Adjust your meditation moment – most people find that mornings are best.
- Pay attention to your posture and keep your back (comfortably) straight.
- Raise your gaze.
- Avoid meditating after a heavy meal.