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Meditation Makes You Sleepy: What To Do

If you find that meditation makes you sleepy, in this article I share six tips so you can better navigate it, prevent it from arising, and soothe it when does.

It’s very common to feel sleepy during meditation, and sleepiness can jeopardise our efforts to maintain attention and even mean we doze off on the cushion.

You may combine these strategies. Experiment and see what you find helpful.

My Six Tips When Meditation Makes You Sleepy

1. Changing Your Surroundings

Your surroundings impact your levels of sleepiness. Think about it: when we try to fall asleep at night, we turn off the lights, get cosy, and make sure the room is silent.

If you find yourself dozing off during meditation, it’s a good idea to change your environment. Turn on a light and sit facing it. Open a window to let in cool air and external noise, or anything else that stimulates and activates your senses.

2. Improve Your Posture if Meditation Makes You Sleepy

In meditation, our goal is to hold a posture that helps us be alert yet not straining, and loose but not limp.

If you have your bent back, your head leaning forward, or your weight leaning backwards against a chair or sofa, it’s likely you’ll feel sleepy.

If you find meditation makes you sleepy, sit with no support for your back, and extend your spine as much as you can, without straining the rest of your body. You should notice this promotes alertness and presence. Check in with the spine every so often to make sure it’s erect.

You can also alter your posture entirely. If you’re lying down, sit up, and if you find sitting doesn’t help, try standing up. You can also try doing your meditation during daily activities instead.

3. Open Your Eyes If Meditation Makes You Sleepy

Another trick is to open your eyes to let some light in. This works especially well if you have a well-lit room. If you do this, avoid staring at the objects around you. Just let your eyes be open.

4. Turn From: See Sleepiness as a Distraction

A crucial part of all meditation is to notice when your attention wanders and bring it back to the object of focus, like the breath, the body, or the thinking process. Common distractions are thoughts, sounds from the environment, and physical discomfort.

Yet sleepiness is also a distraction. Next time you feel sleepy, pay attention to how it really feels. It’s a persistent and powerful experience in the body. As such, it takes centre stage in our attention and distracts us.

Just like we do with all distractions, see sleepiness as something other than the object of focus, and attempt to maintain the object of focus at the forefront of your attention. From this point of view, the sleepiness is just another weight we’re lifting to strengthen our attention muscles.

This is a Turn From strategy because we’re diverting our attention from the sleepiness.

5. Reduce Sleepiness by Turning To

You can also work with the sleepiness directly – Turn To it – by making it your object of focus. Hold it at the forefront of your attention, attempting to detect qualities such as size, shape, location and intensity. Have a curiosity – what is the sensation of sleepiness really like?

Try to broaden your awareness such that you can feel the entire experience of sleepiness. This will help you avoid getting caught up in it. Open up to it, letting it move and change as it wishes.

For me it feels like a strong magnet that’s pulling me out of awareness, and I tend to feel it primarily in my head and eyes. It feel dense, slow, yet also alive.

6. Feel Less Sleepy by Lying Down

This tip seemingly contradicts all my previous advice, but bear with me.

When I feel physically tired and it’s time to meditate, I often lie down instead of sitting on my stool. It might seem counterintuitive, but I don’t fall asleep.

Instead, I feel that I give my body a rest as I’m doing the meditation. In a sense, I can forget about the body and just let the floor support it. I can’t get that same rest by sitting on my stool, which takes more physical effort.

If you try this and it only makes you more sleepy, then perhaps it’s not for you. But you might just find it works.

The above tips give you options for when you feel sleepy during meditation. Sleepiness isn’t an enemy, but another phenomenon that we can work with skillfully.

That said, if you find your meditation jeopardised by it, try out the following ideas to avoid feeling sleepy during meditation in the first place.

Preventing Sleepiness Ahead of Time

1. Choose The Right Time for Meditation

Our energy levels wax and wane throughout the day, and it’s wise to meditate when we have a good amount of energy.

We usually feel sleepy early morning, after lunch and dinner, and right before bedtime. My least active time of the day is between 1 and 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I just feel sluggish and uninspired, so I rarely meditate at this time.

Pay attention to these cycles and try to do your meditation when you’re alert and energetic, not sleepy. You might find morning meditation works best for you. Or it might be that doing it after dinner is best. Experiment and find what works for you.

2. Feel Sleepy? Nap First

If you have no choice but to meditate when you feel sleepy, I suggest taking a nap first. 15 to 25 minutes is usually all you need. When you wake up, you’re bound to feel energised and ready to meditate.

For more free articles on meditation, head to my Learn To Meditate series.