Q: Every time I try to meditate, I wind up falling asleep. Should I be trying to do something to force myself to stay awake?
Meditation is a practice that can involve both relaxation and focused attention. It’s not uncommon to feel drowsy or even fall asleep during the relaxation phase of meditation, especially if you’re tired and/or haven’t been sleeping well. In fact, some meditation techniques, such as Yoga Nidra and Guided Imagery, are specifically designed to promote relaxation and sleep.
But most people in the US today are stressed and exhausted by life’s demands. So I expect many people learning how to meditate will go through a period where they fall asleep regularly during their meditation sessions. Is it bad if you fall asleep; are you failing meditation? No. Your body is just taking the opportunity to catch up on the rest that it needs.
When I first learned how to meditate, back when I was in college, I fell asleep pretty much every day for the first two years! Once I graduated, had a chance to catch up on my sleep, and had a more reasonable workload, I stopped falling asleep.
Meditation shouldn’t be approached as one more task on your to-do list that you power through. It’s okay to be kind to yourself. You will eventually catch up on the rest you need. And your body will thank you for it.
But if you are determined not to fall asleep, then there are a few things you can do to help avoid that likelihood:
- Don’t meditate in bed.
- Don’t meditate lying down.
- Don’t meditate right when you wake up. Wait a half hour.
- Don’t meditate right after eating.
- Meditate with your eyes open.
- Drink a glass of water first.
- Go for a brisk walk first.
- Change the type of meditation you do to a Concentration meditation.
The main thing with meditation, whether you occasionally fall asleep or not, is to just keep at it. You’ll find that with consistency, practice, and time, you will get much better at it. The rewards are well worth it.