Falling asleep during mindfulness training is quite common. When we are learning to meditate we are looking for a balance between focus and relaxation. In that process of learning, we’ll sometimes drift a little too far in either direction, either feeling too tense or falling asleep. Learning how to apply just the right amount of effort is a subtle skill that takes practice.
There are a number of things we can do to help improve and stay alert:
- Meditate sitting up rather than lying down.
- Avoid meditating in bed.
- Try meditating first thing in the morning
- Open a window. The fresh air may help you feel more awake.
- Avoid eating a big meal beforehand, as this tends to make the body sleepy.
- Get more sleep. Try shaving off an hour of email or TV at night.
Even if you’ve created the right quiet environment and given yourself the very best chance of staying awake, you might still find yourself falling asleep. That’s okay. There’s nothing to worry about. You may find that focusing on the very top of your head helps the mind feel a little lighter and more alert.
Some people have asked whether it’s helpful to drink coffee beforehand, as a way of preventing sleep. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it kind of goes against the basic premise of meditation, which is to witness the mind as it is. Better to save your first cup of caffeine for after your meditation training session.
Each person is different though, so find out what works best for you. If you’re falling asleep for weeks on end, you probably need to tweak the exercise a little. Usually, the residual tiredness you feel when you start your practice will fade with time.