Falling asleep during meditation is common for beginners.
For the most part, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if it happens regularly, it can get frustrating.
In this article, I share seven simple strategies to help you stay awake and alert while meditating.
Let’s dive in.
1. Get Enough Sleep
First things first…
Tiredness can easily slip into your meditation practice if you don’t get enough sleep at night.
Although the need for sleep varies between individuals, it’s said that adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Children and teens need even more.
If you find it hard to calm down before bed, consider reading some fiction, easy stretching, or mindful breathing.
2. Meditate when You’re Not Tired
Sometimes we’re just too tired to meditate.
(Even if we get enough sleep at night.)
If you begin dreaming during meditation practice, it’s best to stop. Bring your mind back to the present moment and be mindful that the sleepiness impacts your meditation session quality.
Remember, you want to do high-quality meditation for it to have a lasting effect. I often point this out in my articles and my newsletter because it’s essential. Don’t push yourself just for the sake of it—meditation should be an enjoyable daily practice. Try to bring humor to it!
3. Open Your Eyes
Meditating with your eyes closed can have a calming effect and help you go deeper. Still, it can also make it easier to fall asleep.
If you find yourself sleepy when meditating with your eyes closed, try to open your eyes. Find a spot where you can let your eyes rest, but don’t look at anything particular.
At first, meditating with your eyes open can feel a bit strange. If so, consider meditating with your eyes half-closed.
Some people argue that meditating with eyes half-closed is the best way because it can help the practitioner calm down without getting sleepy. However, you have to try out what works best for you.
4. Try Walking Meditation
If you’re someone that easily falls asleep during sitting meditation, consider practicing moving meditation.
Not only will it make it easier to stay alert, but it’s also a type of meditation that many people enjoy doing. Also, if you like variation, consider switching some of your sitting meditation sessions to walking meditation.
It’s not complicated either; here’s how to do it:
- Find a place where you can walk a few meters back and forth. It doesn’t have to be a place far into the woods. Your living room is perfectly fine.
- Walk slowly to the other side and let yourself arrive at every step. Notice how your breathing and walking become synchronized.
- When you reach the other side, slowly turn around and walk back.
Continue in this mindful manner for 10-20 minutes. (Try longer if you’re a more experienced meditator.)
If you want to learn more about mindful walking, I recommend that you check out my comprehensive beginner’s guide to walking meditation.
5. Don’t Lie Down
In the same way that meditating with your eyes closed can have a calming effect, so can meditating lying down.
In fact, if you practice yoga, you know that most yoga classes end with a pose lying on back with eyes closed called savasana (corpse pose). Many inexperienced yoga practitioners fall asleep in this pose due to its calming effect.
Sometimes we just need to relax and go deep into our practice. At these times, these tricks are handy.
However, if you fall asleep when meditating lying down, consider sitting or walking meditation instead.
6. Have Proper Posture
Keeping your back straight improves your focus and reduces the risk of back pain. Sit on a cushion or a blanket. Lean a little forward to support your lower back.
It’s OK to meditate on a chair if that is more convenient for you.
7. Bring Your Attention to the Sleepiness
When meditating, we pay attention to an object, and whenever the mind drifts away, we bring it back.
Usually, we focus on our breathing, a body part, or a word. But, sleepiness can be an object of meditation, too.
If you notice that your sleepiness distracts you from meditating properly, bring your attention to it.
Notice the sensations of the sleepiness. What does it feel like? Maybe it’s located at a specific body part? If you become fully aware of the sleepiness, you’ll stay awake.
Of course, this technique needs some practice. But if done correctly, it can help you to go deeper.
Actually, this technique can also be used when experiencing pain during meditation.
No matter if you’re a beginner or experienced practitioner, when meditating for long periods, most people will experience some kind of pain. Instead of judging the pain, or letting it distract you, bring your attention to it! What does it feel like?
Notice the sensation of the pain, and it will go away.
Summing up, sleepiness during meditation happens to everyone from time to time. Don’t bother about it too much.
(Yes, it’s OK to fall asleep during meditation once in a while.)
If it distracts you from your meditation practice or begins to happen regularly, consider making some changes to your practice routine.
Don’t forget to let me know how it goes. 🙂