Many people who practice meditation tend to feel drowsy the first few minutes. Falling asleep during meditation is a very common occurrence and doesn’t mean that you are bad at it or doing something wrong. If you are tired, sleep-deprived, or stressed, then it’s perfectly normal for your body to see the meditation practice as a chance to get some much-needed shut-eye.
When you are learning to meditate and are looking for a balance between relaxation and focus, your mind can drift and you can end up feeling sleepy. So, no need to be alarmed because it’s a sign that you are feeling relaxed, perhaps tired. But learning how to apply the right amount of effort in your meditation practice is important so you don’t end up constantly struggling to stay awake while you meditate and can complete it.
Don’t worry. Learning to meditate properly is an ongoing process and requires patience. There are, however, many ways you can beat drowsiness as you meditate. We will discuss a few of the most simple and effective ones here.
Tips to Stay Awake While You Meditate
1. Keep your eyes open
Most of us meditate with our eyes closed. It’s a very common habit that helps people reduce external distractions and focus only on their meditation. However, closing your eyes might send your brain a message that your body needs sleep. If you do feel frequently drowsy during meditation then try practicing with your eyes open. Many mediators, in fact, recommend keeping your eyes open during the practice to maintain openness.
Open-eye meditation can send a signal to your brain that you need to be awake and that should help you remain sharp during the session. What you might find helpful is to focus on a specific point or image as you meditate with your eyes open. This is to ensure that your eyes don’t wander around and get distracted by some other things.
2. Practice before having your meal
Practicing after your breakfast or during your lunch break may be the most convenient for you, but try and avoid meditation after you’ve had a heavy meal. The reason is simple: if your stomach is empty, you are likely to be more alert while meditating. On the other hand, if you’ve taken some drowsiness-inducing meals before you start the session, it might become difficult at times for you to keep your eyes open.
In case you can’t find time to meditate after your meals owing to a hectic schedule, try eating lighter meals before you begin the session. Add in some fresh fruits and veggies, proteins, and fats to your diet and see if that makes a difference during your meditation sessions.
3. Practice outdoors to stimulate your mind
Another way to keep your mind alert and active during the meditation session is to practice in an open space, preferably a garden. Practicing outdoors will keep your senses awake – the chirping of the birds, the feel of the natural air, or taking in the sun shining down on you will all work to keep your senses stimulated. Moreover, you will also be getting that extra dose of vitamin D from practicing outdoors.
Research has also shown that spending time amidst nature can be great for your mental health. So now you have extra reasons to meditate outdoors.
4. Meditate on a bench
Have you ever tried meditating while sitting on a bench? It might prove beneficial if you do feel dozy during your sessions. Benches are usually hard and generally made of wood. So you are unlikely to feel too comfortable and nod off in the midst of your practice. Once you sit on a wooden bench and start meditating, you will realize that your core needs to work harder to stay straight and that extra effort is almost certain to keep you sharp and keep your mind away from dozing off.
You can even buy some really good meditation benches online these days. If the hardwood hurts you, bring a small pillow just for your legs.
5. Try walking meditation
One of the best ways to ensure that you stay awake during your meditation sessions is to try walking meditation. Also known as mindful walking, it’s basically a form of meditation in action. It simply means walking while being aware of each breath you inhale and exhale and being mindful of each step you take. Your movements have to be slow and deliberate and must be coordinated with each breath you take to achieve mindfulness. You can learn all about How to Do Walking Meditation from our previous article on the subject.
Now, mindful walking can be a terrific way to keep you from dozing off because, well, it’s quite difficult to fall asleep as you are walking. Walking meditation is also known to improve blood circulation and increasing energizing brain chemicals. So it’s beneficial on all counts. Remember that you might take a few weeks to get used to mindful walking but it should certainly prove to be a sure-fire way to stay alert.
6. Take a break. Move around
The next time you find your eyes dropping shut while you are meditating, just take a break! Stand up, stretch your body, and take a few deep breaths. Move around the house for a couple of minutes or maybe take walks around the block too. If you have a stairway nearby, climb up and down it a couple of times. This will all help get rid of the sleepiness from your system.
Also, if possible, try and be aware of your movements during the break. For example, when you are stretching, focus on the movements of your body. When you are walking, be mindful of the steps you take and of your breaths. Paying attention to how your body feels when you move can be quite invigorating and should definitely help keep you awake.
7. Make sure you’re hydrated
Drinking water has plenty of benefits. Studies have shown that dehydration can trigger headaches, negatively impact your mood, and even lead to impairments in cognitive function. Keeping yourself hydrated has also proven to improve endurance. So, you have more than enough reasons for drinking a sufficient amount of water every day.
Drinking enough water throughout the day can also make a difference during your meditation practice. Keeping yourself hydrated before your session should help you remain alert and clearheaded. But if you feel that isn’t really doing the job, then simply splash some cold water on your face before you start. That will certainly keep you awake.
8. Follow a guided meditation
Sometimes, meditating with a guided meditation can be much easier than doing it yourself. This is because our mind can wander off at any time and many of us hence find it much more relaxing listening to someone guide us with their calming voice. This type of meditation is often guided by recordings presented on apps, videos, CDs, etc. These gentle instructions, apart from being relaxing and easy to follow, can also help you keep your focus intact and prevent you from dozing off. Begin with short sessions and then slowly increase the time.
You can find a bunch of really helpful guided meditation options to choose from on YouTube.
9. Keep your sessions brief
When you have trouble staying awake during meditation, another thing that can help is to keep your sessions short, preferably around 12-13 minutes. A 2018 study found that brief, 13-minute meditation enhances attention, memory, and mood. The study also indicates that short, frequent practices can have the same effects as the long, high-intensity ones.
There are also lesser chances for you to fall asleep during short sessions than the long, drawn-out ones where you keep sitting in the same position for an extended period of time. Therefore, try 13-minute daily meditation sessions for a few days and see if it helps you keep any less sleepy than what you had been feeling with your regular, long ones.
We hope that with these tips, you will be able to achieve full wakefulness during meditation. However, despite following them, you may still find yourself nodding off. But that’s perfectly okay. As we said before, getting sleepy while you meditate is fairly common. So, don’t fight it too much. After all, if you are feeling sleepy then it probably means that your body feels the need for some extra rest.
Remember that each person is different and you need to find out which tip works the best for you. Keep practicing and with time you should be able to command it. If you feel, however, that sleepiness is becoming a significant impediment in your meditation practice, then maybe you have some underlying issues like chronic fatigue or sleep deprivation and it would be helpful to consult your doctor once.
Share these helpful tips with your loved ones!