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Help! I keep falling asleep while I meditate

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It is not uncommon to find yourself falling asleep when you first start meditating. In fact, this is something that happens to experienced or regular meditators. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood you will fall asleep while meditating. We share a few tricks that work for us, and for many people that have come along to our courses.

1.Meditate sitting or standing up rather than lying down

Your body is likely to associate lying down with going to sleep so it is no surprise that it might signal sleep time while in this position! Ensuring your back is straight will also help you to stay alert (placing a cushion at the base of your back can be a good way to support you to sit upright).

As some people will discover, just because you are seated doesn’t mean you won’t nod back off to sleep. The very act of closing one’s eyes can result in falling asleep while seated upright. To combat this, you might like to try meditating while standing up. Standing up is no impediment to focusing on your breath or tuning into sounds (should your breath or sounds be your anchor) so this is a perfectly legitimate way to meditate even if it is slightly unconventional.

2. Keep the room cool

Nothing is more conducive to falling asleep than a very warm room (other than a couple of glasses of wine, perhaps!). Ensuring the room you are meditating facilitates alertness will support you to stay awake.

3. Meditate earlier in the day

Most people are pretty exhausted by the end of the day right before bed. If this is the time you decide to meditate, it won’t be a surprise that you find yourself falling asleep. Ideally, meditating when you are most awake and alert is ideal and this will often be earlier in the day.

4. Eat lightly before meditation

A full belly is like a warm room – it will support you to fall asleep or at the very least, make you feel lethargic. If you can, try to meditate when you are not feeling really full. That said, meditation can be difficult when you are feeling hungry so make sure you have eaten something before you meditate.

5. Energise your body before meditation (if you are doing a seated or lying down practice)

In preparing to do a seated or lying down practice, take steps to make your mind feel more alert and your body less sluggish. This will assist you to maintain focus during your meditation practice and decrease the likelihood you will fall asleep. This could take the form of gentle yoga or a short walk to get some fresh air.

 

Do you need more rest before you meditate?

It is important to remember that for many people, falling asleep during meditation is their body’s way of say ‘give me some rest!’  Meditation should not replace sleep – it should be an addition to.  The main reason people fall asleep during meditation is because they are tired and this is often due to lack of sleep. It is important to ensure your body’s need for sleep is met – when it is, you will be in a better condition for meditation.

All this said, I think there is huge merit to using meditation as a tool to help you fall asleep. While falling asleep during a meditation practice means you are unlikely to gain the benefits of meditation, if it means you are able to fall asleep (when you otherwise wouldn’t), this is just, if not more important than meditation. I know first-hand that meditation before bed can be a great way to slow down the mental chatter (the thing that frequently keeps many of us from falling asleep in the first place) or reduce the amount of tossing and turning I do before eventually falling asleep. I also find I am much less likely to get up and go to the toilet multiple times if I have meditated for at least 15 minutes before going to bed!

 

To learn more about meditation and experience its benefits first-hand, register for the upcoming Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course commencing in May.

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