Do you ever struggle to stay awake during meditation?
While sitting or laying down, your eyes begin to feel heavy, head starts to nod, and before long, you’re either snoring away or having an argument with yourself to stay awake!
Feeling tired during meditation is very common.
One of the biggest reasons for this is while you’re meditating, your mind is balancing between a state of relaxation and awareness. (Or for some of us, balancing between staying awake and falling asleep…).
It’s very easy to get pulled away into sleepy land just as it is to lose control of your mind and let it wander.
Here are 15 tips to help you strengthen your practice, maintain awareness, while staying awake during meditation.
1. Keep your eyes open
There’s no rule that you need to meditate with your eyes closed. In fact, if you’re new to meditation, you might find it easier to practice with your eyes open.
This might sound counter intuitive because there is a lot of visual distraction going on around you. However, when you close your eyes, the sky’s the limit for the number of things you can begin to visualize. A blank canvas with closed eyes can open an infinite number of possibilities for mental movies, ruminating, and day dreaming.
A wandering mind also uses up a lot of energy as well. If you’re already a little tired, it’s best to conserve your energy and focus on your practice in the manner least likely to inspire mind wandering.
Try keeping your eyes open and gazing in front of you, slightly downwards. You aren’t looking at something necessarily, rather just focusing your attention on being aware of where you are at this moment.
If your eyes are open and you’re still feeling tired, make sure that you aren’t staring at something. Eye fatigue alone can make you tired, especially if you’re already spending a lot of time staring at a screen.
2. Don’t meditate in your bedroom
Meditating in your bedroom, on your bed, or even wearing your pajamas can make you extra tired. Because you already associate these things with sleep, your mind gets confused and wants to head off to la-la-land.
Practicing meditation somewhere other than where you sleep makes it less comfortable for you to doze off. It forces you to try just a little bit harder to stay awake as well.
Also, if you’re in the habit of playing meditation music you might want to hit the pause button for a while. This relaxing music can send you right off into a peaceful slumber.
If you’re finding it difficult to stay awake while listening to relaxing music, try instead to meditate in silence. And if silence is just too quiet for you, try a timed meditation practice that uses bells to help you recalibrate your focus and stay awake.
3. Go outside
Chances are, if you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time indoors.
Whether you’re sitting a desk, working in an office, or busy in the house, being inside all the time can tire you out.
Try to change up your meditation routine and head outside on those days that you find yourself extra sleepy. You might just find that you prefer practicing outside in the fresh air and natural light.
Even if you live in a busy city, you can still practice meditation outside. Try sitting on a bench in a park, at a cafe, or even while waiting for the bus.
Anywhere you find yourself can become a great place to practice mindful awareness.
4. Incorporate essential oils
Although essential oils are most often associated with relaxation, they can be incredibly beneficial in meditation.
To use, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils to a diffuser with some distilled water.
Alternately if you don’t have a diffuser, try adding a few drops of oil to your meditation blanket, onto your palms, or in a spray bottle with some distilled water.
[More information on our top essential oils for meditation.]
5. Splash cold water on your face
Waking up and meditating right away can be challenging.
Since you’re just coming out of sleep, the idea of sitting or laying down with your eyes closed can make you want to crawl right back into your warm cozy bed.
If you’re planning to meditate in the morning and have a hard time waking up, splash some cold water on your face.
It will help to snap you out of sleep mode and make you more alert. You don’t need to do this every day, but if you’re feeling particularly tired or lazy, try it out.
6. Sit in a firm chair
It’s important that you’re comfortable if you plan on sitting for an extended amount of time. But if you’re too comfy, you might want to just lay back and catch a quick nap.
While you’re establishing a meditation routine, it’s best if you start with sitting. Choose a chair that’s firm and upright. It will encourage you to maintain good posture. It’s best that you avoid the temptation to practice meditation while laying down if you’re prone to getting too sleepy.
Eventually, once you’ve developed a strong practice, you will be able to try other meditation seats. Cushions, bolsters, and meditation chairs are all fantastic options to consider.
7. Don’t wait until bedtime
If you’ve had a busy day and are trying to cram in your meditation right before bed time (or while you’re laying down under the blankets with your head on the pillow), it’s easy to get very tired.
Try to schedule a time when you aren’t already exhausted from a long day. If setting aside one long block of time isn’t feasible, break up your meditation sessions into smaller and more manageable time frames.
There isn’t one meditation schedule that works for everyone. Be patient with yourself and create a routine that works for you. Stick to the assigned times as best as you can.
8. Stretch before
Wake up your body before you come to sit down.
If you’ve been at a desk all day, your body is already tired and lacking blood flow. Go for a quick walk to stimulate your circulation. Practice some stretching or do some yoga.
Get your body moving, energized, and awakened with freshly oxygenated blood.
9. Use a meditation tool
Despite how simple it looks or sounds, meditation isn’t always easy.
The good thing is that there are meditation tools that can help you deepen your practice and stay awake.
Many of these tools such as malas, bells, and wheels have been used by Buddhists for centuries. Other tools such as spinner rings are modern inventions that are also very useful.
10. Practice walking meditation
Walking meditation is a great practice because it encourages you to foster a peaceful mind in the presence of a moving body.
Additionally, it’s much harder to fall asleep walking than it is sitting or laying down.
Try walking meditation if you’re struggling to stay awake during your seated practice.
You can practice mindful walking as your daily meditation or simply as a regular mental break throughout the day. A few minutes of walking can stimulate blood flow, improve circulation, and help you reconnect with the present moment. Not to mention that some fresh air and sunshine are great for a natural energetic boost.
11. Don’t meditate on a full tummy
Meditating after a big meal is a recipe for sleep.
Instead of chowing down right before you sit down to meditate, try instead to have a light snack.
Your body needs energy after a meal to digest food and depending on what and how much you ate, this can make you tired. Processed and sugar filled foods can cause peaks and crashes in your blood sugar and make it harder to concentrate.
Choose healthy light snacks before meditation. You can have your regular meal afterwards, but it will make it a lot easier to focus and stay awake during your practice if your tummy isn’t stuffed full.
12. Change your routine
If you’ve been meditating at the same time and consistently find yourself getting sleepy, change up your schedule.
Maybe you are too tired at the end of the day to sit down and commit yourself to practice. Or maybe morning just isn’t a good time and you’re better practicing at night.
The point is, you’re free to meditate at a time that suits you best. And if life changes and things come up, you might need to reschedule to another routine. Instead of getting frustrated, accept the nature of impermanence and simply allocate another part of your day to your practice.
13. Take small mindful breaks
Learning to meditate takes practice.
It requires discipline, patience, and a great deal of self-compassion.
Resist the urge to get frustrated with yourself the moment you notice that your mind has wandered. It’s okay that you missed your practice, it’s okay that you can’t shake some stressful emotion and find balance today. Stuff happens! Life happens!! Are either of these situations optimal? No. But are they really really that big of a deal? No.
Just start wherever you are.
A great way to do this is to take small mindful breaks during the day. Set little reminders or cues that help you check in with yourself and get grounded in your awareness. TryMaybe it’s the sound of a phone call, a message alert, the moments before you have your meals. Whatever works for you.
14. Get some natural light
If you’re meditating in a dark, warm, cozy space, it will be very tempting to keep your eyes closed and drift off.
Your meditation space should be comfortable but not so much that you feel like you’re wrapping yourself in a sleep cocoon. Try to open some windows to bring in fresh air and natural light.
Natural light increases productivity, offers benefits to your health, and will help you sleep – at night. Meaning, use natural light throughout the day to stay productive, healthy, and help maintain proper sleep cycles.
15. Be patient
Cultivating a meditation practice takes time, patience, and a lot of dedication.
Try not to be hard on yourself and expect results right away. Start with shorter sessions so your mind doesn’t get bored or go on overload.
When you’re used to thinking all the time, and letting your mind wander at its will, it can be a huge shock when you finally sit down to stillness. It takes a lot of energy to keep your mind present.
If after 5 minutes you feel so tired you can’t focus, stop meditating. Take a break, stretch, do some moving meditation such as yoga, or step away from your practice.
When you’re ready to resume, start again. If you get to 6, 10 or 40 minutes the next time, consider it great progress. If you can only manage 5 minutes for several sessions, this is totally fine!
Everyone learns at their own pace. Gift yourself with patience and compassion as you work to deepen your practice.
Staying awake during meditation can be just as challenging as resisting the urge to let your mind wander.
Many factors such as food, sleep, location, and time of day can influence how you feel as well as how you go about your practice.
Taking care to become mindful of what your body needs and how it reacts to different stimuli can help you approach your meditation with more patience and compassion.