Meditation Vs Sleep: Key Differences, 4 Questions Answered
Meditation & Sleep: Frequently Asked Questions Answered
Meditation and sleep. What's the difference? Can meditation replace sleep? Here, we dive into these questions and much more. Pro Tip: Use the links below to skip down the page to your particular question.
Can Meditation Replace Sleep?
So, how much meditation equals how much sleep? It's hard to say. One study out of Oregon State University's College of Business found that 10 minutes of meditation replaces about 44 minutes of sleep. But the study only looked at overworked entrepreneurs who were already somewhat sleep deprived. Not super conclusive, you could say.
Perhaps the main thing to consider is that, as far as the body is concerned, meditation and sleep are two different things. While sleep is meant to replenish your energy and help you heal, meditation is designed to cancel out the stress that made you tired in the first place. A bit of a chicken and egg situation.
But what about the stories of the ancient yogi meditating in a cave or mountaintop monastery for days and weeks on end, no sleep? How does he do it? While expert meditators are able to "go so deep" that sleep is no longer required, it requires incredible skill(s) to do so. And as such, the kind of dedication required to fully bypass the nightly sleep cycle is out of the question for 99.9% of us.
In the end, perhaps the best solution is the most natural one. Practice meditation everyday, go to sleep at your normal bedtime, and let your circadian rhythms reset themselves naturally. You may find yourself with more hours in the day before you know it.
What's the Difference Between Meditation & Sleep?
Many people, especially those new to the ancient mind practice, will confuse meditation and sleep. Or maybe they'll wonder, "why not just skip meditation and take a nap instead"? Well, the differences between the two are vast. Let's explore a few here.
Meditation Vs Sleep: How We Feel Afterward
When we wake up in the morning (or even after taking a nap), we typically feel a little slow, dull, and out of it. However, when we finish a meditation session, we usually feel very good. People often report feeling positively energized, calm, and clear afterward.
At least part of why meditators feel so good: endorphins. If you've ever felt a "runner's high" then you know about these euphoric hormones. Well, meditation boosts these very same chemicals, in the very same way, with benefits lasting long after each session. Like joggers hitting the pavement, day after day, seeking out the wonderful post-run feeling — meditation has many of the same attributes, and is quite addictive in its own right.
Obviously, when it comes to how we feel immediately afterward, meditation and sleep are very different.
Meditation Vs Sleep: The Breath
As compared to the waking state, during sleep our breathing is slower and deeper — but not that much "less," in terms of oxygen intake. Whereas in meditation, as the mind quiets and our body (therefore) needs less oxygen to function, the rate of breath will often diminish dramatically.
In fact, studies have shown that expert meditators and yogis have the ability to slow their physiology down to a level where, for seconds at a time, their heartbeat stops altogether! While the regular everyday meditator isn't looking to perform such a circus act, this level of physiological slowdown isn't really possible when we sleep.
It's the level of control over the mind that makes meditation such a different animal.
Meditation Vs Sleep: Awareness & Consciousness
Perhaps the clearest dividing line between meditation and sleep is our level of awareness. In meditation, we are highly aware of the thinking (conscious) mind and the deep thinking (subsconscious) mind. Whereas when we sleep, our non-thinking (unconscious) mind and deep thinking (subconscious) mind run the show. But because we're zonked out, sleep doesn't really allow the subconscious mind's plethora of benefits to be truly harnessed.
It's only through meditation are we able to, while awake, derive benefits from this highly creative, super calm, highly intuitive, deeply intelligent, and stress-free mind layer. The result? Better relationships, more success, more happiness, and really, just a better moment to moment existence. You could say that sleep is essential for living, while meditation is essential for living your best life.
You can use the infographic below to better understand the differences between your conscious mind, subconscious mind, & unconscious mind.
Tip: EquiSync® targets the brainwaves of the subconscious/ unconscious mind levels (Alpha, Theta, Delta) via a super safe & highly effective sound technology. You are invited to learn more about how it works on this page.
Can Meditation Help Me Sleep Better?
After a "good night's sleep" do you sometimes feel like you hadn't slept at all? The truth is, when it comes to maximizing health and happiness, sleep quality matters far more than sleep quantity. Many of us simply don't sleep deeply enough to fully recharge the old battery. And perhaps the most common (and least understood) reason for poor sleep? A busy mind.
Now you may be thinking, "my mind is calm when I sleep, right?" Not necessarily. It's been said that the human mind cranks out about 70,000 thoughts per day, with the most "superficial" mind layer (the conscious mind) the true culprit. Doing a little bit of math, 70,000 thoughts per day breaks down to about one thought per second! And if you think that "merry-go-round" stops when we go to bed, then think again. And not only are we totally oblivious to it when we're "sound asleep", it can leave us feeling like a zombie, day after day.
So, if resting the body and resting the mind are two very different things, then what's the best solution? How do we give the mind the rest that it so desperately needs? Meditation!
By putting to bed the whirlwind that is the "overthinking" conscious mind, meditation gives us a level of rest that lasts a full 24 hours, including when we're under the covers. And not only does meditation help us think fewer "superficial" thoughts overall, but the thoughts that remain come from a much deeper, much more powerful place (the subconscious), and impact us much less, physiologically. Let us clarify this important point.
This means that, instead of "distressing" thoughts causing physical reactions like a racing heart or tensed-up muscles, they're stripped of their power. As a result, they simply fizzle out, again and again, no matter what enters our mind. By transforming how "negative" thoughts affect our physiology — we stay cool, calm, and collected in every situation. This phenomenon is part of meditation's beauty, and is especially helpful for deep, restful sleep.
What Does Falling Asleep in Meditation Mean?
Dozing-off in meditation, especially in the beginning, is common. If this is the case for you, it could mean a few different things, including that you need more sleep, plain and simple.
Or it could be that you're "over-relaxing," especially common for those who meditate lying down. As a practice that balances both focus and relaxation, it's easy to go too far in one direction. That is, focusing so hard that we tense-up or relaxing so much that we fall asleep. Finding that happy medium is the name of the game, and is a skill that sharpens with practice.
Falling asleep in meditation could also mean that your mind is releasing layers and layers of emotional baggage — a necessary process before a "true" meditative state (i.e. more wakeful & alert) can be achieved. If this is the case for you, once you clear the subconscious backlog, not only will your sessions be more wakeful, but meditation's treasure trove of benefits will be much more readily accessible.
So if you're regularly falling asleep in your meditative practice, be patient, stick with it, make an adjustment or two (like better posture or getting more nightly shut-eye) — and the dozing-off will eventually resolve itself.
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