Falling asleep during meditation

sleeping lionThe most common questions I hear from my meditation students is about falling asleep while meditating. “I have trouble staying awake during meditation, is this a problem? Why is this happening? What can I do?”

The simple answer is:

You do want to stay awake and lucid during meditation as much as you can. When you are sleeping, you are not meditating, and therefore not getting the benefits of meditation.

The deeper answer is:

Over the years I have heard two general theories in answer to why some people have trouble staying awake during meditation:

  1. They are simply tired and need sleep.
  2. Falling asleep is a form of resistance to doing the ‘work’ of meditation. This resistance may be a subconscious reaction to meditation, as meditation is about observing and training the mind.  Sometimes it’s not pleasant to witness what your mind is doing.

Questions I would ask the student include:

  • When are you meditating? Is it late in the day when you are tired? If so, try meditating earlier in the day. Mornings are typically best for most people.
  • What position are you using? I find many people try to meditate while lying down, such as when they’re going to bed at night.  When you are new to meditation, this generally isn’t an ideal position, because your body is used to the lying down position being for sleep.  Try to use an erect sitting posture (either the ‘proper’ meditation sitting posture or simply in a regular chair, feet flat on the ground and spine erect.) This signals the body to stay more alert.  It’s best to avoid meditating in your bed.
  • Do you meditate with your eyes closed?  Some people meditate with their eyes open and some do it closed.  If you meditate with your eyes closed, when you notice you are falling asleep, try opening your eyes slightly using a soft gaze for a few minutes, until you feel lucid again. Then you may close your eyes again when you wish.

I hope this post has been helpful. Sleepiness is a common issue for almost all meditators, especially when they are newer to meditation. Over time, as the mind is trained, most people find they fall asleep less often, and can enjoy meditation for longer and more lucid periods of time.

In a future post, I will discuss the different brain wave states and their relation to meditation.

Have a lovely day everyone,


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