Get the App

Does meditation replace sleep?

by Andy Puddicombe

  • Share

Hi Andy — The only time I’m able to meditate is before my girlfriend and her daughter wake up at 6:30 a.m. Prior to this, I was getting another 30 minutes of sleep every day. I’m concerned that I might not be getting enough sleep. Is it OK to replace 30 minutes of sleep with 20 minutes of meditation (allowing me 10 minutes to get out of bed)?

I often don’t manage to get to sleep until 11:30 p.m., which doesn’t give me the eight hours or so that I’d like to get. I’ve only just started doing 20 minutes of meditation from Take10 instead of sleeping, and I feel more relaxed but also more tired.

* * *

This is a great question and one which I’m sure a lot of other Headspacers will be wondering about, too. In short, is it worth replacing sleep with meditation? Yes, absolutely. But let’s look at why it’s beneficial and the best way of going about it.

When we meditate, we are resting the mind in what is generally quite a peaceful and relaxing place. That doesn’t mean that it is always easy and it certainly doesn’t mean that the mind is always quiet, but nonetheless, the experience for most people is an increased sense of calm and clarity. The more often we do this, the more we refine the experience, so over time, even short periods of meditation can be very effective. This type of rest for the mind is very important.

Compare this post-meditation feeling with how you feel when the alarm goes off in the morning. Is it similar? Most people say that when they wake up they usually feel quite groggy and even a little confused. Most people say they feel tired too. Which is an interesting thing when we consider we have just rested the body for the last six to eight hours. But of course resting the body is very different from resting the mind. We can be sound asleep but still have a racing mind, which explains why we might wake up feeling so tired. And of course there’s very little we can do about this as for most people, there is no sense of being conscious or having choice during the sleeping process.

So, meditation gives us choice. It means that even when the mind is busy we can relate to it in a different way, less engaged by the thoughts and less flustered by the emotions. How much meditation is equal to how much sleep? Well, it’s hard to say as there are so many different factors, but I would say that 20 minutes of meditation, plus the 10 minutes to get ready, more than make up for the 30 minutes of sleep you’d otherwise be having.

Now at first, the body might object a little. It’s used to getting a sleep with a fixed time. And of course, the mind is also attached to this idea of having or even needing eight hours sleep. But in time both the body and mind will adapt. So give it time, be patient, be confident that you are doing the right thing and feel good that you are going the extra mile to look after the health and happiness of your mind—which in turn takes care of those around you. That’s something to feel really good about.

Warm wishes,

Try a one-minute meditation exercise for a more restful night:

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.