Are you often dozing off while practicing meditation and feel some frustration about it? You are not alone because falling asleep is one of the biggest challenges that people have who meditate.
While most meditation teachers consider falling asleep during meditation as a bad habit and teach you how not to fall asleep during meditation, I suggest you do the exact opposite: to lie down and give yourself full permission to sleep.
In this article, I explain why dozing off during meditation can be a very healthy thing for you.
Are you really sleeping during meditation?
It is very common that you’re losing consciousness at some point when you meditate. A lot of people think, especially when they start meditating, that they’re falling asleep. But what’s actually happening is that you are falling into transcendence, a short period in which your brain transitions between waking and sleeping. It is a state of consciousness where the right and left hemispheres of the brain are working congruently. Your mind is still alert, and your breathing is very shallow, but your body is getting very deep rest.
Therefore, especially when you’re getting started with meditation, give yourself full permission to just fall into that sleep-like-feeling. Don’t see it as a failure! Your mind wanders naturally; just note it and return to your attention, or take little power nap which helps you feel better afterwards.
Why do you fall asleep during meditation?
There are different reasons why you get sleepy while meditating. One, of course, is that for your whole life, your brain has been trained that closing your eyes means it’s time to fall asleep. So once you sit down to meditate and shut your eyes, your mind starts to wander and triggers you to nod off.
Another reason is the calming effect of exercising meditation, which can make it challenging to find the perfect balance between focus and relaxation. In a deep calm, meditative state, it is just natural to drift off peacefully. This can also go into the opposite direction: If your focus is too strong, it might be challenging to calm down because your mind gets flooded with random thoughts.
And then there is, of course, sleep deprivation. Even if you sleep enough hours, it may not be a very high-quality sleep you are getting. The better the quality of your sleep during the night, the better are your chances of staying awake during your daily meditation practice. I experienced it firsthand that once I got good rest, I quickly overcame the habit of falling asleep during my meditation.
What is your purpose when you are meditating?
I don’t ask you this question because I think you need a particular purpose when you start meditating. You might have heard of things like going beyond the mind or experiencing the essential nature. If all this sounds a bit too woo-woo to you, don’t worry. Just go in with an open mind and you will experience the more apparent benefits like decreasing your stress levels and improving your focus and productivity.
However, if you use the meditation for the particular purpose of feeling rested, then that might be the very reason why you’re falling asleep when you meditate. Because your mind is going into the direction of your intention. So if you sit down and meditate and say: “Okay, I want to feel rested”, your mind is not going to develop energy to be awake and alert. Your mind will go towards the way that it knows about how to rest, and that is to fall asleep.
Some meditation purists may think that the intention of feeling rested is not the real purpose for meditation. Because when you are meditating, you are supposed to increase your energy and to be fully focused.
They claim that meditating is merely to understand reality and to be able to deal with the difficulties and challenges we are facing in our lives. And it is true, if you go into the meditation with this mindset, then your mind is more likely to be alert, and you’re less likely to fall asleep.
Why falling asleep during meditation is healthy
But there is another very important reason why you should meditate, and that is to heal yourself, and that means you as an energy being. All is energy, we all are made of energy, so you are made of energy. Therefore, if you genuinely want to heal yourself by releasing all your physical, emotional, and mental blocks that keep you limited in your potential and true health, you should meditate.
And in this context, falling asleep during meditation is totally okay; it is even considered being very healthy. Because when you are healing your energy, you are going into patterns where there is unconscious energy, and unconscious energy is easier accessed during sleep.
You have to think of unconscious energy as a kind of buffer in your energy field, which you put around things where there is pain. So when you do your healing work, your attention goes to that place of unconscious energy in order let it slowly wear off and to go somewhere else.
Sleeping during meditation means removing unconscious energy
Especially when you meditate and focus on something which had a significant impact on you (maybe a particular experience in your early childhood), then this has also a lot of unconscious energy around it. While you’re focusing on this particular problem, you may start getting sleepy, and your attention disappears. After a while, you come back, and you may beat yourself up and think: “I don’t know how to do it. Maybe I’m not good at energy healing because I shouldn’t fall asleep.”
But right there, you need to change your perception. If you’re going into the unconscious energy deep enough that you’re falling asleep or you’re losing your focus, you are actually healing yourself. By moving deep into the unconscious, you’re going right into the place where you need to go to remove the unconscious energy and to remove any obstructions and blockages.
You might have to do the exercise a few times before you can break through that unconscious energy and feel some significant change. The important thing here is not to feel bad if you drifted off. That means you were going for something big. It is important to understand that because a lot of people give up. They try once or twice, they fall asleep and think, “I don’t know how to do this. This is not for me.” Whereas the opposite is true; if you’re falling asleep during your meditation, you’re going in the right direction, you just need to keep going.
What can you do if you don’t want to fall asleep during meditation?
Now don’t think that you HAVE to fall asleep in order to heal yourself! If you can stay clearly focused and alert during your meditation, then that is totally perfect too. That means you’re not having that big chunk of unconscious energy you need to break through.
If you want to stay awake, here are some ways which you can try out in your meditation practice and that may help you raise your energy.
- don’t lie down but meditate in a sitting position; it doesn’t need to be the uncomfortable lotus pose but sitting cross-legged will help to keep you up
- give yourself a little bit of physical energy, like pulling your ears, stretching your back and neck, rubbing your arms or giving yourself a little body massage to get the blood flowing
- meditate with half-open eyes
- do walking meditation: walk calmy 10 to 12 steps and then change your direction
- stand up and pour water on your face
- do some light exercise before your meditation session
- stimulate your mind to get rid of the heavy state of concentration by looking in all directions and see what’s going on around you
- listen to some gentle music may help to keep you awake (or will make you feel sleepy!)
- consume a little bit of caffeine before the meditation session; depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine this may serve as a light energy-booster
And: To deal with drowsiness during meditation Buddha actually taught his disciples to lie down, but not comfortably on your stomach or on your back but on your right side with the right arm bent and the head resting on the palm of the hand; then the left arm resting along the body.
Also, keep in mind that after meals, you surely will feel very sleepy; especially if you overeat. So even the time of the day you are choosing to meditate is a crucial factor whether you’ll be able to keep up or fight the snooze during your meditation.
As you can see, there are many ways how you can train yourself not to fall asleep during meditation. You may have to experiment a bit to find out what works for you.
However, if you repeatedly doze off during your meditation, this might be a clear message of your body that it needs more rest and wants to heal. In that case, give yourself full permission to meditate and then fall asleep. This is certainly one of the most effective and fastest ways to regain strength and health.