Falling asleep is one of the most common obstacles to meditation. Perhaps you are sitting at home when your eyes start to roll and your head begins to nod. You may be in a meditation center when you discover that you have been snoring for the past two minutes.
If you want to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of meditation, you will need to stay alert. Study these tips so you can apply them the next time you start to feel sleepy when you’re on your cushion.
SLEEP PROPERLY BEFORE MEDITATING
Nodding as soon as you sit down is a sure sign of lack of sleep, and the problem is widespread. Nearly 80% of Americans sleep less than the recommended seven to eight hours each night, according to a study commissioned by Dr. Oz.
The best solution to staying awake during meditation is to get enough sleep on a regular basis:
Be consistent. One of the most effective sleep hygiene routines is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Stick to your schedule as much as possible, even on the weekends.
Adapt your bedroom. Block out distracting noises and backlights. Buy a new mattress or pillow if the old ones make you toss and turn.
Manage stress. Anxiety can keep you awake at night. If meditation is the only time you relax enough to sleep, it may be more constructive to take a nap rather than straining to stay awake.
STAY ALERT WHILE YOU MEDITATE
Getting a good night’s rest will take care of most of your napping problems during meditation.
If you need additional help, try these tips:
Open your eyes. Most forms of meditation recommend keeping your eyes slightly open and looking down with soft focus. If that makes you fall asleep, try keeping your eyes wide open at least temporarily.
Check your posture. Sitting upright on the floor or in a chair instead of slouching will allow you to breathe more deeply and feel more energetic. It also helps to lift the head slightly.
Find your rush hour. Is there a time of day when you usually feel most productive? Change your sessions to first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon if that is when you are in top form.
To walk. Meditate on your feet. You can make walking meditation your main activity if you are just starting out, or use it to supplement your sitting practice on those days when you feel especially tired.
Join others. Sitting with a group provides additional stimulation. You may also want to avoid the embarrassment of someone else waking you up.
Go online. Even if you are meditating alone, you can find company on the Internet. Look online for guided meditations that you can listen to if your own thoughts are making you sleepy. You can also watch videos with nice pictures that will keep you engaged.
Turn on the lights. Bright lights trigger hormonal changes that facilitate concentration. Sit in a well-lit room or go outside on a sunny day.
Refresh. Likewise, colder temperatures are getting stronger. Turn down the thermostat at home or take off your sweater.
Eat light. What you consume also counts. Heavy meals and dehydration are likely to make you want to go to bed. Before meditating, enjoy a small snack like fruit or a green salad. Drink lots of water or tea.
Reduce stress and increase your mindfulness by creating a regular meditation practice. Developing positive sleep habits and making some adjustments to your environment can help you meditate without falling asleep.