Meditation is one of the most accessible ways to give yourself a whole host of health benefits. It calms your mind, gives you more clarity, decreases anxiety, and improves concentration. On a physical level meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and increases the serotonin production, which improves your mood. And the list goes on.
But what to do if you get so relaxed during your meditation that you are actually falling asleep? What is happening? Your busy mind may think any pause in thinking and mental chatter is a sign it should sleep.
Meditation and sleep are similar in the sense that during both there is a pause of physical and mental activity as well as withdrawal of the senses. Meditation, however, is a super-conscious state that encourages awareness, while sleep is subconscious that lacks any kind of awareness. Your mind may need some practice in separating these two. But there are other tricks to stop yourself from falling asleep while meditating.
1. Sleep Enough During the Night
This may sound very simple, but it's a fact that more and more people are living with serious sleep deprivation. If you tend to hit sleep mode as soon as you close your eyes, maybe you just need more sleep. Try getting a bit more physical rest, and see how that affects your meditation practice.
2. Meditate for Shorter Times
Meditation does not have to take hours. In fact, just 5–10 minutes can be a very good start. In that time you will teach your mind to withstand the quietness, train your mind to let go of some of the ongoing chatter, and reap the benefits of meditation as well. You’d be surprised how much calmer you can feel even after just 10 minutes.
3. Meditate at the Right Time of Day
We all have different biological rhythms, and feel more awake and energized at different times of day. So when you meditate, pick a time that works for you, when you are not feeling exhausted. If you tend to be very tired during the evenings, it may be a good idea to meditate towards the beginning of the day.
4. Try Guided Meditation
I love guided meditations and visualizations, and I have many different apps and websites on my phone for when I have some time or feel I need some calming down. Guided meditations can be a good gateway to meditation practice, and I love having them as options when I feel like I want to be guided by someone else. Personally I like to close my eyes in the train and meditate for 10 minutes. Nobody will notice a thing, and you are less likely to fall asleep when your mind is focused on imagery.
5. Meditate While You Walk or With Your Eyes Open
A walk in the forest, when done mindfully, can be a wonderful form of meditation. Looking out of the train window while the scenery is flowing by can provide peace just as well. The key here is mindfulness and doing activities with a purpose. Feeling every step, feeling the air, your body, and movement, can be a beautiful moment of awareness into your own self.
6. Move Your Body Before Quieting Down
It's no wonder that meditation usually comes after physical asana practice. After yoga the body is stretched, moved, and alert, and the mind is already quiet and open. There is still energy circulating in your body from the practice, which will work in your favor. If you feel it's risky to stay in Savasana, sit upright on blocks or on a bolster with your spine long, and you will remain more aware.
There are as many ways to meditate as there are people, and we can start where we are today. Meditation does not have to happen in perfect circumstances. It does not have to take hours at a time. And it does not have to be perfect, either. Sometimes you may notice yourself drifting away, but it's not so serious. You are on your way, you are training your brain, and you are giving your body some amazing health benefits along the way.
Are you ready to try?