How to Stay Awake During Meditation
Is your meditation routine putting you to sleep? I had this same problem when I started doing mindfulness meditation, but I’ve managed to get rid of it by using some of the methods you’re about to read. I’m confident that implementing these positive tweaks will help you immediately.
1. Take a cold shower before meditating
A cold shower will wake you up and keep you awake. It will also increase your breathing capacity and improve your breathing pattern, which will additionally improve your meditation. If you’re meditating first thing in the morning, I suggest taking a cold shower before meditating it will definitely put your problem to rest.
If you can’t take a cold shower for whatever reason, at least wash your face with cold water. Filling a sink with cold water and placing your face inside for 30 seconds or so is the most refreshing method. If you have a cold and don’t want to take any chances, at least wash your eyes with cold water.
In case you’re too sensitive to cold water and weather in general, do a few sets of the Wim Hof breathing method. Wim Hof has multiple Guinness World Records related to withstanding extreme cold temperatures and he attributes his success to this specific breathing method, which has also been traditionally used by Tibetan monks living in mountains to stay warm. It also has a positive, peaceful effect that can improve the quality of your meditation and overall well being.
2. Open the window
Let fresh air enter the room during your meditation practice. If it’s too noisy outside do it before you start meditating. This will also improve your breathing.
3. Have a refreshing drink
Drink something refreshing before meditating. Just avoid drinking coffee, alcohol or energy drinks which can spike up your insulin and negatively effect your brain. Brain scans have shown that drinking coffee changes brain patterns from regular to irregular. Instead, choose a glass of water, juice or a smoothie.
4. Correct your posture
Bad meditation posture will make you fall asleep. Slouching your back and forward neck posture cana reduce your breathing capacity and make you sleepy. It’s important to be upright. Correct your posture while you meditate if necessary.
After self-correcting for long enough, your posture will improve significantly. If you want faster and better results, incorporate stretching movements in your daily routine to improve your overall flexibility.
Yoga and variations of sport stretching can both be very helpful. Focus on releasing tense hip flexors and any underlying back issues like scoliosis. Improving the strength of lower back muscles with exercises like hyperextensions and deadlifts can also be really helpful for reducing back pain during meditation.
It’s also important to sit on a flat and relatively hard surface. Avoid meditating on the bed because it’s usually too soft and ruins your posture. Plus, if you fall asleep during meditation, being in bed will make this an even more likely scenario.
5. Meditate on an empty stomach
Meditating comes easiest in the morning before breakfast. If you eat and then try to meditate you’ll inevitably feel sleepy because a large portion of blood is taken away from the brain and into the digestive system.
All credible meditation experts recommend waiting at least 1-2 hours after eating a large meal to meditate, otherwise it’s likely to turn into a power nap, as well as create stomach discomfort.
6. Perform a walking meditation
Performing any movement while you meditate will keep you awake, and walking is the most extreme version of that. There are different types of walking meditation. You could focus on each step you take, and do it slowly.
I like Eckhart Tolle’s walking meditation from The Power of Now. It has you focusing on different objects in front of you. Instead of identifying these objects, you identify their qualities.
For example, a chair in front of you could be yellow, so instead of saying to yourself “that’s a chair”, observe that it’s “yellow” or “small” or any other attribute you find interesting. Then switch to a different object when you’re ready. It’s a great way to slow down a racing mind and improve concentration.
7. Keep your eyes open
You don’t have to meditate with your eyes closed. Buddhist meditations typically involve keeping your eyes gently open. The benefit of doing so is improved mindfulness that stays with you long after you’ve finished your session.
Logically, keeping your eyes open will also reduce the chances of falling asleep. You could also focus your attention on a visible object like a candlelight. If you don’t have a candle, draw a small dot on the wall in front of you and focus on it instead.
Repeating a mantra or chanting out loud will also keep your mind engaged enough that it doesn’t have the chance to fall asleep.
8. Get enough sleep
There’s no point in meditating when you’re too tired to even keep your eyes open. Dalai Lama says that “sleep is the best meditation”, and that’s definitely the case when you’re tired.
Some people thrive on 6 hours of sleep, while others require 9 hours. You could be somewhere in between. Experiment a bit and find how long you need to sleep in order to feel refreshed, then make sure to put in those hours on a regular basis.
9. Clear your airways
Nasal congestion can make meditation really difficult. To meditate properly you need clear nostrils and healthy lungs. Otherwise it’s hard to find inner peace.
I’ve struggled with this problem due to recurring sinus infections and it makes a huge difference in the quality of meditation. Nasal congestion leads to reduced breathing, which makes you sleepy. Some things you can do to open up your airways:
- take a vitamin C supplement (vitamin C is a powerful anti-histamine, I usually take 1000 mg, 3 times a day to reduce/eliminate congestion)
- use a neti pot (try the advanced inverted method if you have a sinus infection)
- perform Wim Hof breathing
- exhale, hold your breath and perform push ups or walk as long as you can without breathing (the build up of CO2 acts as a natural decongestant
- use a nasal decongestant like Afrin (use decongestants only when you really need to, because they’re addictive and frequent use can damage the nasal cavity)
- reduce or eliminate your dairy and wheat intake
- check yourself for allergies if the problem persists
With optimal sinus health your breathing will improve and you’ll definitely feel more awake during meditation.
10. Make it short
If you’re feeling tired but want to check meditation off the to-do list, make it short and sweet. Five to ten minutes of full concentration is often doable even when you’re really tired, but it’s still enough to get some benefits like mental clarity and reduced anxiety.
11. Keep the lights on
Don’t meditate on the bed and keep the lights on. These are the two most important tips for staying awake during meditation.
12. Start your session with pranayama breathing
Prana or chi is defined as life energy that permeates the Universe. By using specific breathing techniques to increase prana in the body (pranayama), you can get energized and wakeful in as little as 30 seconds.
Each of these techniques is unique and is designed to produce a different result. As a pre-meditation technique for energy and wakefulness I recommend doing a set of kapalbhati, followed by agnisar kriya.
These pranayama methods will also help with sluggish digestion and respiratory issues. However, make sure to do them right. Follow the video instructions linked above very closely. While pranayama is very beneficial when performed properly, it can also be dangerous if done with improper form.