Sunday, 8 March 2015
Meditation and Sleep
I love sleep.
I have always been a good sleeper .. luck of the genes I guess. But questions around sleep come up a lot in meditation class .. and the two most common questions are:
'can I use this meditation to get to sleep'
If you are battling sleep every night and find a meditation exercise or technique sufficiently relaxing that it helps you fall asleep .. then my suggestion is that you call it a 'relaxation practice' not meditation. Use it - and sleep. But don't tell yourself that you are meditating. And when ready to focus on your meditation practice, schedule a time well away from sleep time and then call it 'meditation' and then focus on cultivating present moment awareness (for the whole of your practice).
'why do I keep falling asleep when I meditate'
Because we are all sleep deprived .. and since birth we have been trained to lie down, in a darkened room, and go to sleep. It is ingrained in us. The neural pathways are now heavy trenches.
But in meditation the idea is to cultivate a state of deep relaxation AND heightened awareness and awakeness. So if you are dozing off in meditation I would suggest you: *check your posture (to ensure you are not slumping or too comfortable ie. don't meditate in bed), *see if you can sit up a little straighter (try a hardback chair or sitting on the edge of a chair), *don't darken the room, maybe take your meditation outside or near a window; *meditate mornings or during the day, but probably not in the evening or close to bed time; *focus on the inhalation when you sense an apathy descending (being aware you will notice and then you can adjust your focus for six or so breaths on just the inhalation which will increase your oxygen intake and freshen your mind).
Meditation for a Good Night's Sleep
A recent article in the New York Times, Meditation for a Good Night’s Sleep reported on some interesting research from a clinical trial published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
in the trial, participants underwent a six-week program on mindfulness meditation 'the nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings drifting through one's mind', led by a certified teacher, and at the end of the year long study, those who learned the mindfulness approach had greater improvements in sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia, depression and fatigue.
"The lead author of the study, David S. Black, said mindfulness meditation probably helped settle the brain’s arousal systems. And unlike widely used sleep drugs, it does not have potentially severe side effects, said Dr. Black, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California".
Full article here