I've been meditating on and off for a year now and began reading John Kabit-Zinn's "Catastrophe Living" to be more consistent and get some of my stress and anxiety under control. The book recommends 45 minutes of meditation a day for 8 weeks. Obviously meditation requires no interruption, which can pose issues for some like me with kids and a dog. John himself practices mediation in the morning before his family wakes up, which is probably the only time I would have complete peace and quite to focus on this practice. However, this means I will have to wake up at least 45 minutes earlier than I am right now. Most of you will probably just say go to bed earlier, but I already go to bed at 930pm and arise at 630am.
Through my experience in practicing meditation I realize it's supposed to be done in a completely aware and awake state, meaning sleeping and meditation is not possible. However, meditation is extremely relaxing and stress reducing and ultimately help me stay relaxed and stress free throughout the day. So my question is, is meditation and sleep mutually exclusive? If I wake wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual to consistently practice meditation, will I ultimately do more harm because of less sleep or will it be worth the sacrifice?
I admire your tenacity and willingness to meditate. I, too, attempt to meditate in the morning along with a wife, daughter and a border collie...lol. For me, I meditate in the morning before my family wakes which is usually around 6:30AM. I begin with prayer and light streching. I remind myself to be mentally and emotionally flexible as well. I would love to be able to meditate for a full 45 minutes which is a real rarity...most days its 5 to 10 minutes of mindful breathing which contributes to feeling calm and centered. My advice is balance and compromise. If possible, can you meditate less than 45 minutes and not lose valuable sleep or would your family allow time for you to meditate at another time of the day. Remember there is no such thing as a bad or perfect meditation. Good Luck.
Can sleep and meditation be mutually exclusive? Like, a zero-sum game? Time spent sleeping must be at the expense of meditation, or vice versa?
That's one way to think about it.
I would say meditation and sleep complement actually each other beautifully. Give sleep its due in life and don't fall into simplistic instrumental thinking about 30 minutes of "deep" meditation being "good for" X-hours of sleep.
There is actually a lot of excellent published research on the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation, as well as studies exploring subjective ("experiential") benefits. Here's one very good resource:
45 is quite a bit, in my opinion. I think you would see noticeable benefits from as little as 10 or 15. I feel that casual meditation is about letting yourself "stop" for a period, and unless you're really looking to explore the higher jhana levels, you shouldn't need a whole lot of time just to reduce stress and center yourself.
Personally I wake up about 30 minutes before I "need to", do a couple yoga poses for 10 - 15 min to stretch out and get the blood flowing, breathe for 5 minutes, and then relax in corpse pose and/or child's pose for 5 - 10 minutes. Some days I finish early and take my time getting ready; not being rushed can be as valuable as the meditation itself.
I'm going to say if I had to choose between sleep and meditation, I'd sleep (in a completely dark and quiet room). Sleep "restores" you both mentally and physically. Meditation will only help with the mental. Now some people are going to say that fixing the mental can help with the physical too, and there's probably some truth to that. However there are still some chemical reactions that take place only when you're sleeping and in the dark and I wouldn't want to give them up.
In my experience, meditation does not substitute for sleep. I will find myself falling asleep during meditation if I am sleep-deprived. I do not rely solely on sitting meditation; but practicing active meditation during any number of daily tasks. For me, it seems natural to do this - to touch base throughout the day, even if it is just for a few moments. This just serves to reinforce mindful awareness at all times, and can be good practice for keeping that balance when things are not so serene as when sitting in a quiet space.
I suppose it depends a bit on how alert you are at the time and how likely you'd actually do useful meditation vs hit the snooze button a couple of times.
I suspect if I tried to do early meditation it would be lose-lose ... I'd miss the sleep and the meditation would be only so-so given that first thing in the AM is not exactly quality time for me.
I haven't read that particular Zinn book (although I've read The Mindful Way Through Depression), but going from my takeaway from that book, I think you could break it up into shorter sessions.
You could do twenty minutes here, 10 or 15 there, etc. Get up, say, twenty minutes earlier for a twenty-minute session, and then hopefully your life is such that you can squeeze in a couple more throughout the day when the kids and dog are distracted or sleeping. :)
You would still have done 45 minutes of meditation in a day that way. Can't be sure without reading the book, but 45 all at once every day seems kind of long, especially if some people reading it are new to the practice.
I've seen a claim(in a book that isn't available in english) that yoga practice can substitute sleep time, but only after quite some time like, maybe, years. I'd rather stay on the safe side and let your bodymind decide as your awareness develops.
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