man in between meditation and sleep

Can Meditation Replace Sleep?

Before we start – I am no ‘guru’ nor a spiritual expert. I just enjoy Meditation and Yoga and wanted to start a blog from my perspective of trying to create a daily routine that allows me a glimpse of the stillness they can bring. I try to link out to as many reputable sources within these posts as I can, some of these external links enable me to earn a commission which helps towards the running of the blog.


Meditation can Help you Reach Deep Sleep

The human body needs an ample amount of sleep to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ignoring this fact can cause an adverse effect on your physical and mental health.

One of the most important things to remember in your daily routine is not to compromise your sleeping schedule as it is essential to have 7-8 hrs of sound sleep daily. Two – four hours is not enough for anyone to get by on and still be healthy.

Unfortunately, not all of us, have the ability to fall asleep quickly and soundly.  Some of you may experience trouble sleeping peacefully while others can drift away as soon as their head hits the pillow. Many of us have a strong stress response, finding it hard to switch off from the day.

Whatever category you fall into you may be interested to hear the role that meditation can play in impacting your sleep schedule as well as the quality of your sleep.

Meditation and sleep go hand in hand, some people even meditate purely to improve their sleep pattern. Once they achieve this, the same meditation practice can even reduce your duration of sleep, but this is a sign of progression.

It is extremely important to understand that both sleep and meditation have their own significance and performing meditation and having sufficient sleep is always important.

Basic Sleep Hygiene is also crucial for us to get good shuteye. That means going to bed at the same time every night, keeping the room dark and not too hot, and avoiding looking at screens for half an hour before bedtime.

Meditation vs Sleep: Differences and Similarities

People sleep to get enough rest and the same calming state is the purpose of meditation.

Regular meditation promotes positive changes in the body that are similar to the ones that occur by sleeping. Meditation results in decreased heart rate, increased metabolism, anxiety reduction, maintaining a good weight, high functioning of the nervous system, and overall develop a good immune system. The same can be achieved by sleeping calmly. The word ‘calm’ is mandatory to experience the above benefits. Disturbed sleep may even cause increased health issues, and bring imbalance to your mind and body.

If you are running out of time and need to compromise your sleep hours to focus on the other tasks, then you are opening the doors of physical and mental problems. Sleeping is not a waste of time; instead, it leads you to the path of everlasting healthiness.

Meditation requires you to be fully conscious, whereas, in sleep, the body and mind remain in the unconscious state. Scientifically, sleep, and meditation is inversely proportional.

Your sleep intensity reduces when there is an increase in meditation. Novice meditators, who meditate one to three times a week for 5-10 minutes, may experience sleep promotion and relaxation benefits that are vital for the smooth functioning of the body. As your Meditation practice increases, you may notice a decrease in your sleep period. Due to these benefits, meditation has also been known to help fight insomnia   and help you to sleep better overall.

Therefore meditation is a natural therapy to solve sleep disorders.  Sleep problems arise because of the constant flow of thoughts in your mind. Meditation requires focussing on your breath to have control over the mind. The constant worry about your past, present, and future end slowly, thereby preparing your mind to openly accept life’s experiences. Once you reach this level, you will be able to sleep peacefully. If you do currently suffer from a sleep disorder than a creative way to ease your self into meditation is to do so while lying down the last thing at night.

Practicing mindfulness meditation during the day is also beneficial. When you stop to ground yourself regularly in the present moment, you learn to relax and invite calm into your being. You can bring that practice of mindfulness meditation at night to focus on relaxing each part of your body. It’s an excellent way to connect to yourself and reduce your stress (or fight or flight response), inducing calm instead.

So, Can Meditation Replace Sleep?

Meditation relaxes your mind and leads you to the path of tranquillity. It may also teach your body to release tension, preparing you to sleep better and with better sleep quality. Unless you are a Tibetan Buddhist who has been meditating two hours a day for years, you won’t want to actually replace sleep with meditation. But if you suffer from sleep disturbances, insomnia symptoms, or poor sleep habits, learning meditation techniques can help you in the middle of the night.

Practically, by meditating (especially meditating by lying down), most of you will be on the verge of sleep and this is great practice for falling asleep quickly. One particular effective tactic is visualization meditation, rather than letting your mind unconsciously thinking negative thoughts you can project positive vibrations just before you fall asleep, allowing them to manifest themselves as you sleep.

However, replacing sleep entirely is not a good practice. Nothing can replace sleep.

There are plenty of sleep benefits and here is a list of just a few of them-

  • Boosts memory
  • Improves immune system
  • Stress reduction
  • Helps weight issue
  • Improves learning performance
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Increases concentration power
  • Enhances creativity

These benefits cannot be achieved by meditation alone and thus a healthy sleep is necessary to achieve them. Sleep for 7-8 hours each night to experience long-term benefits.

 

Maybe Not Replace, but Meditation Can Decrease the Amount of Sleep You Need?

Meditation is performed to rejuvenate your mind and has a profound impact on your health. As a relaxation technique, it can help you to quiet your mind and loosen your body. You don’t have to be a professional, novice meditators can get the same results.

Technically, it helps in solving sleep-related issues, but there is more to add in this context.

The number of hours of sleep needed to feel refreshed and rejuvenated will vary for each of us depending on the frequency of meditation and other factors as well. Each of us has our own sleep habits and requirements.

Although sleep is important by reducing hours (while staying around 7-8 hours) you are not destroying the quality of your sleep; rather you are increasing your mental strength. You feel fresh and positive after waking up even though you may not have slept as much as you did in college.

Below are the key points that summarise the impact of meditation on sleep:

  • Meditation increases the Melatonin level (chemical) in the body that is critical in having a sound sleep. Stress prevents the body from generating Melatonin. As meditation reduces stress, allow yourself to generate this chemical naturally through regular practice.
  • Meditation trains your mind to divert the thoughts that occur around bed-time, providing you with deep and efficient sleep. Your body doesn’t need more hours of sleep, and thus your sleep efficiency increases naturally.
  • Meditation controls the brain and body when they come in reaction to internal or external stimuli. Your body reduces the ability to release stress hormones, and you don’t need more rest. Hence it is logical to experience less sleep with more meditation.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can also help to keep blood pressure low.
  • With meditation, there are no side effects, unlike some medications used for sleep.
  • Meditation improves your relaxation response.

No matter how often or how long you meditate, replacing sleep with anything else is not an option. The combined effect of sleep and meditation is the formula for excellent results.

If you’re worried about comfort while meditation then the best meditation cushions can have a huge benefit, while one factor that holds beginners back is what they should be doing with their hands during meditation, our tip is not to worry too much and just concentrate on your breath.

Charlie Morley

I'm Charlie. I’m not a ‘guru’ or yogi with ten vipassana retreats under my belt. Far from it. I just enjoy Meditation and Yoga and want to create a daily routine that allows me to be present, mindful and in touch with consciousness and thought I would blog about the process.

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