Meditating when sleep deprived

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby philosopher » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:09 pm

I find that meditating is much easier and more pleasant when I am alert and well rested, but this is sometimes a rarity. I take walking meditation even when quite sleep deprived and am wondering if there are any specific tips for dealing with fatigue and sleepiness during the practice. I assume it's probably optimal to meditate when well-rested, but oftentimes I have to wake up very early in the morning to have time for my morning meditation before heading out for the day. Meditating in the evening is easier because I can take a nap beforehand. Do you have any tips for scheduling meditation sessions, etc, to deal with this? Do sleepiness and fatigue eventually go away after one has been practicing long enough, so that one can stay alert even when moderately sleep-deprived?

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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Clarence » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:46 pm

There is a tradition in Thailand where, at the end of one's retreat (21days or more), one has to meditate continually for 3 days and nights. Don't know how they do it but sounds pretty cool.
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:10 pm

We can learn more by doing what is difficult and unpleasant than we can by doing what is easy and pleasant.

There's no need to go looking for difficulty, but when it comes, make good use of it. When you're really sleep deprived, you may sometimes nod off during meditation. Never mind, that was still a useful session, and better than that extra time spent in bed before skipping breakfast and rushing off to work.
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:36 pm

Many people find that a regular meditation practice reduces the need for sleep. I even knew someone, years ago, who meditated one hour per day just so that he needed two hours less sleep per night and gained a whole hour for useful activity. So he said, anyway. :juggling:

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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:52 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:We can learn more by doing what is difficult and unpleasant than we can by doing what is easy and pleasant.

There's no need to go looking for difficulty, but when it comes, make good use of it. When you're really sleep deprived, you may sometimes nod off during meditation. Never mind, that was still a useful session, and better than that extra time spent in bed before skipping breakfast and rushing off to work.


Sadhu! I have to wake up between 4 and 4:30 to get in my morning meditation session of 45 minutes. It's ebb and flow really but the venerable's advice is priceless. I must admit though, I had a five year stint where I fought sleepiness just about everyday. Stick with my friend! :heart: :anjali:
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Dan74 » Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:03 pm

It can be done. Just keep going!

Sometimes fatigue passes and inspite of being tired one can sit very alert.

Sometimes not.
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby philosopher » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:11 am

Thank you all for the advice. In one of Ajahn Munindo's talks I recall him saying that if one is sleepy, sometimes it's best to just take a nap, but I wasn't sure what to do with predictable sleepiness at certain times during the day - i.e. mornings. I appreciate the encouragement. I will practice with the sleepiness and fatigue.

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Last edited by philosopher on Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby marc108 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:55 am

tea! i believe there is a good reason tea is so tightly interwoven into Buddhist culture.

http://www.tea-time.com/home.asp?menuit ... &pageId=87
The story goes that Bodhidharma had taken a vow to spend nine years staring at a wall in constant meditation. Five years into his meditation he experienced extreme tiredness. One day he fell asleep during meditation. Angry on his failure he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. The story goes on that where Bodhidharma's eyelids landed, the first tea plant grew. Committed never to fail again after this incident and thanks to the tea plant extract he had successfully completed the meditation.


Also power naps and sleeping in 1.5 hr intervals.
http://sleepyti.me/
http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/hea ... s-rem-nrem
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_nap#Benefits
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby philosopher » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:41 am

marc108, thanks for the recommendation about tea. Also, are you referring to polyphasic sleeping? i.e. limiting all sleep to 1.5 chunks to reduce total time spent sleeping? I have experimented with polyphasic sleeping and am always interested to hear others' experiences with it. I wasn't terribly successful on the schedule I chose - one 3.5 "core" sleep at night with 3 20 minute naps throughout the day. On that schedule, every time I'd try to meditate I'd invariably drift off, so I'd always meditate right before naps. Eventually I gave it up though and found that my mindfulness improved dramatically going back to mono- or biphasic sleeping.

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ps. LOVE that sleepytime website -- thanks! I am well aware of how waking up at different parts of the sleep cycle affect my perceived levels of drowsiness and sleepiness. This is an awesome tool for quick calculations!
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Jay1 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 pm

If I understand correctly, non-rem sleep is equivalent to meditation. It follows that via meditation you'll need less sleep. However, there's that rem sleep that you need couple hours of (or something like that) and it can't be replaced by meditation...
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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby philosopher » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:41 pm

Jay1 wrote:If I understand correctly, non-rem sleep is equivalent to meditation. It follows that via meditation you'll need less sleep. However, there's that rem sleep that you need couple hours of (or something like that) and it can't be replaced by meditation...


Interesting.. do you know which exact non-REM stage (there are several non-REM stages) is considered equivalent to meditation? I'd be very interested to read more about this.

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Re: Meditating when sleep deprived

Postby Jay1 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:55 am

philosopher wrote:
Jay1 wrote:If I understand correctly, non-rem sleep is equivalent to meditation. It follows that via meditation you'll need less sleep. However, there's that rem sleep that you need couple hours of (or something like that) and it can't be replaced by meditation...


Interesting.. do you know which exact non-REM stage (there are several non-REM stages) is considered equivalent to meditation? I'd be very interested to read more about this.

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No, I've read about this long time ago when I discovered that I need significantly less sleep. I imagine that easily the first two stages to be covered by meditation, though.

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