Sleepiness during meditation is quite common. Even advanced practitioners have periods of drowsiness in their meditations. But sleepiness is not necessarily a problem, even if it does not go away. In fact, there are ways to use it to enhance the results of meditation.
Sleepiness in meditation has several elements. We will look at three important ones: physical, mental/emotional, and life circumstances.
Physical elements of sleepiness
When you get sleepy in meditation, you tend to lose your ideal body posture to one extent or another. In the extreme, you may suddenly feel that you are falling forward or backward, perhaps because you’ve nodded off for a moment. Or maybe you just lean or drop your head forward or slump your lower back.
If any of those happen, here are some solutions to try:
- Focus on and return to good meditation posture. That alone will often awaken you. In particular, straighten your back and sit as upright and balanced as possible.
- Stand up and continue the meditation that way, or change to a walking meditation. These are helpful when you are especially sleepy.
- Meditate with your eyes open. That is more demanding, and the extra effort can overcome drowsiness. If your eyes are already half or fully open, open them a bit more.
Mental and emotional elements of sleepiness
You may experience sleepiness during meditation by becoming less alert, as discomfort, or even as pleasure. Each has specific techniques to overcome or, in the case of pleasure, you can actually use the sleepiness as a door to deeper insight into the mind.
How to become more alert
Sleepiness often involves a loss of concentration and sensory clarity. Here are some ways to sharpen your attention and become more alert:
- Choose a more active technique that demands more concentration. If you are meditating on rest, doing nothing, or freely moving your attention, try switching to a labeling technique or one where you focus on change (see below).
- If you are already labeling, say the labels out loud, that is, to yourself in a low or…