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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Starting to nod off during meditation

Starting to nod off during meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby bodom » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:58 pm

From Ajahn Chah:

Q: I feel sleepy a great deal. It makes it hard to meditate.

Answer:There are many ways to overcome sleepiness. If you are sitting in the dark, move to a lighted place. Open your eyes. Get up and wash your face or take a bath. If you are sleepy, change postures. Walk a lot. Walk backwards. The fear of running into things will keep you awake. If this fails, stand still, clear the mind and imagine it is full daylight. Or sit on the edge of a high cliff or deep well. You won't dare sleep! If nothing works, then just go to sleep. Lay down carefully and try to be aware until the moment you fall asleep. Then as you awaken, get right up. Don't look at the clock or roll over. Start mindfulness from the moment you awaken. If you find yourself sleepy everyday, try to eat less. Examine yourself. As soon as five more spoonfuls will make you full, stop. Then take water until just properly full. Go and sit. Watch your sleepiness and hunger. You must learn to balance your eating.
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby manas » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:37 pm

Hi snufkin,

only very rarely will I sit meditation with anything still inside my stomach. I time meditation so the stomach is totally empty (of any solid food) before I start. Practically speaking, that usually means just before either breakfast, lunch or dinner. Waking up early, having just rested adequately, helps also, as does washing one's face in cold water and going for a walk outside in the cool, fresh morning air, before you come back inside to sit meditation.

with metta

manas. _/I\_
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby khlawng » Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:06 am

Walking meditation as suggested by a lot of folks here is a good way to fight sleepiness.

But honestly, I would like to suggest going to sleep. Your mind and body is telling you that it needs some rest so just go to sleep. Set the alarm for an hour or two and then wake up fresh to meditate again. Don't feel like you are chickening out or anything like that. By taking a nap, you are providing optimum factors to train the mind when you wake up. Time is precious to all of us so why spend time trying to fight off sleepiness for a little quality meditation when you can sleep it off and spend quality time meditating later?
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby Nyana » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:29 am

khlawng wrote:But honestly, I would like to suggest going to sleep. Your mind and body is telling you that it needs some rest so just go to sleep. Set the alarm for an hour or two and then wake up fresh to meditate again. Don't feel like you are chickening out or anything like that. By taking a nap, you are providing optimum factors to train the mind when you wake up. Time is precious to all of us so why spend time trying to fight off sleepiness for a little quality meditation when you can sleep it off and spend quality time meditating later?

Drowsiness can arise because one actually needs sleep. This is true. But often times this isn't the case. What can occur, especially at a particular stage in one's practice, is that during sitting meditation the mind begins to calm down a bit from it's habitual restlessness, and then, because it's not used to remaining in this calmness with wakeful clarity, the mind begins to lapse into dullness, followed by drowsiness. This is the hindrance of lethargy and drowsiness (thīnamiddha). If one just gives in to this drowsiness then this can impede further development. Therefore, remedial practices should be used to refresh the mind in order to remain awake, calm, and clear.
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Jun 14, 2012 8:14 am

I had a horrible problem with drowsiness for years. Besides changing my eating habits one thing I found that work really well was taking a 7 to 15 minute power nap as it were. Obviously this only works if you are truly physically tired and it's not simply a hindrance but you have to try it to find out and become familiar with your mind and body. I feel that 1 or 2 hours would just be far too long and certainly wouldn't fit into my schedule. Anyway, those are my two cents. Every good blessing!
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby dhamma follower » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:41 pm

Snufkin wrote:Had this problem for a little while, it doesn't happen every time I meditate, but it's started to be more frequent. I'll be following my breath, and then next minute I feel like I'm almost being nudged backwards and I realise I had stopped following my breath and started to nod off to sleep. This happens even when I'm not very tired. I try to renew my focus on breathing and continue, but it often happens again. It seems to have only started to happen when I increased my meditation time to 30 minutes.

Nothing in MIPE seems to really address the issue properly. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thank you.


Hi Snufkin,

According to U Tejaniya's POV, when this situation happens, especially when you are not tired, it is a sign that there's not enough interest ...the minds feels calm and just goes to sleep...

The advice he would give to yogis in that case is to:
- stimulate one's interest: you should try to understand more about the nature of the breath, the nature of your drowsiness. When the mind has more interest,it will be easier for it to stay alert.
- ask your self questions from time to time: Am I still aware, what is the quality of the awareness right now? Because nodding off doesn't come all of a sudden, it is a gradual process. So if you can recognize drowsiness when it just first set in, still very gently, then you can invite it out (actually it will go away by it-self if it is seen). Drowsiness usually comes because of the liking of the calmness, so watch out for that liking (lobha), and look deeply, because lobha is very deep rooted in our mind!

Like all dhammas, drowsiness has its own conditions to arise, you are the best person to figure out those conditions in your own situation. With understanding, defilements will have less chance to arise...

Regards,

D.F
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby Snufkin » Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:56 pm

Many amazing replies. Thank you all very much.
I have definitely found meditating on an empty stomach has helped a lot, and the breath techniques Bhante G describes in Mindfulness seem to have helped too.

Only problem of late, there have been many outside distractions cutting my sessions short.

Meditation sure can be tricky.
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Re: Starting to nod off during meditation

Postby nobody12345 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:25 pm

If I may, I would like to add one more tip.
That is cutting down carbohydrate, especially the form of carbohydrate known as sugar (i.e. simple carbohydrate).
It reduces sleepiness big time.
My Dhamma practice has been continuously improving for past 2 years and this diet technique is one of the contributing factors of that success.
You might worry about low carbohydrate intake since some scientists raise concern about it stating carbohydrate is the basic fuel to run the brain.
So they believe low carbohydrate will effect the brain in negative manner.
So let me share my own experience and take it as reference, if you will.
According to World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended dosage of carbohydrate intake, it's 309.25 grams a day.
I have been eating only 140 grams of carbohydrates for a couple of months and before that, was eating around 160 grams of carbohydrate for more than one year.
(I know the amount precisely since I have been eating the exact same foods every single day for closer to 2 years so far. I did this in order to destroy the desire for foods. And it worked for me. My craving for foods is gone. Now I just see them as fuel to maintain my practice and to perform daily duty.)
So you can say that my carbohydrate intake is very low according to WHO.
I have been doing this only to improve alertness and mindfulness.
And it DID help tremendously to improve my alertness and mindfuless.
The only concern (according to scientists) should be that the brain function (memory retention and etc.) deterioration according to them.
And let me assure you with the direct example of mine.
I am currently preparing to take the last exam to obtain a certificaton of the Court Interpreter.
And that is widely regarded as one of the most challenging area of interpretation.
So I do various tests to assess my 'short term memory retention' and 'the processing speed of unstructured information'.
And let me tell you.
My performance is mind boggling.
I am 41 years old and my brain is more fresh and quick responding than I used to be in my teenage years.
When I started reduce carbohydrate, my goal was improving my Dhamma practice.
However, now I got a side effect of which is the brain that is so well performing without the recommended amount of carbohydrate.
This was not my goal but I have to admit that this is one of the best side effect I ever had.

To sum it up, cutting down carbohydrate intake (especially sugar/ fruit sugar/ corn sugar) is the technique that can be useful if you want to reduce sleepiness and improve alertness.
I think reduced sleepiness is a great benefit for Dhamma practitioners since it leaves us more time to practice fully alert and mindful.

Hope this tip might help some of readers.
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