Sleep & Meditation

July 04, 2014

Sleep & Meditation

Each week we feature Andy's answer to one of the questions he has been sent by a member of the Headspace community about their meditation practice.

Here he answers a question from a Headspacer about finding the right balance between sleep and meditation.

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Question:

I find the only time I'm able to meditate is before my girlfriend and her daughter wake up in the morning at 6:30. Previous to this I was getting another 30 mins sleep every day.

I have just started to meditate again, and I'm concerned that I might not be getting enough sleep. Is it OK to replace 30 mins of sleep with 20 mins of meditation (10 mins to get out of bed and sit down etc)?

Often I don't manage to get to sleep until 11:30pm, which doesn't give me the 8hrs or so that I would like to get. I've only just started doing 20 min meditation from Take20 instead of sleeping as of Monday, and I feel more relaxed but also more tired.

Answer:

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 6-8 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 8 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, Andy

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Do you have a question you'd like to ask Andy about any aspect of your meditation practice?

Simply visit the Andy's Answers section of our community forum where you'll find instructions on sending your question in, as well as all the questions he has answered to date.

We also recommend you check out our FAQ section, which is full of insights to help ease you along your Headspace journey.

2 Comments on this article:

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1

ccooter

July 13, 2014

The only trouble is.....I find myself drifting back into a doze early in the morning whilst meditating, and have even nodded off a couple of times! Any suggestions Andy?

6

danielgrosvenor

February 2, 2015

Don't worry, falling asleep while meditating is no bad thing. Mindfulness meditation can be a fantastic way to enter your dreaming mind consciously, giving you chance to explore the real depth of your subconscious. It's a fascinating and deeply healing experience which I'd thoroughly recommend.

The book "Dreams of Awakening: Lucid Dreaming and Mindfulness of Dreams & Sleep" by Charlie Morley is a book I'd highly recommend if you'd like to learn more about this.