Here’s Why You Fall Asleep During Meditation and 8 Ways to Stop

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
One second your eyes are closed, you're breathing deeply, and you're listening to the soothing voice of an instructor on your go-to meditation app—and 30 minutes later, you're waking up with a puddle of drool on your yoga mat. If your sessions always tend to lead to an accidental power-nap, you're not alone—but why exactly does it keep on happening?

First thing's first: Falling asleep during meditation is an incredibly common occurrence. And according to Headspace, one of the main reasons behind the phenomenon is simple: It can be really hard to find the perfect balance between focus and relaxation, especially when you're first starting out in your practice. Because of that, it's easy to veer too far to the relaxation side every now and then, resulting in the only logical end result: peacefully passing out. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum: If you veer too far to the focus side of meditation, you'll typically feel a little tense.

It can be really hard to find the perfect balance between focus and relaxation. Because of that, it's easy to veer too far to the relaxation side every now and then.

Aside from learning how to find the proper balance between focus and relaxation—which can take a lot of time and practice, by the way!—another reason you could be falling asleep is an obvious one. According to the Melbourne Meditation Centre (MMC), conking out could simply mean your body is trying to get what it's lacking. If you're not sleeping enough hours every night—which the Mayo Clinic says is 7 to 9 hours—it's only natural that you'd drift off the second you get comfortable, relax, and close your eyes. And if you're meditating during times of the day when you have low energy anyway—like after lunch, after work, right away in the morning, or before bed—your mind is probably just trying to get the rest it needs.

Whatever the issue is, the best thing you can do to make sure you're not falling asleep while meditating is setting yourself up for success however you can. Sometimes your meditation habits make it all too easy to drift right off into that nap you're trying so desperately to avoid, and there are some easy tips and tricks you can keep in mind before your next Zen sesh.

Try these 8 ways to avoid falling asleep while meditating.

1. Separate your sleep and wake time

Anyone who likes meditating first-thing should try to avoid doing so minutes after waking up. If you don't give your body some time to adjust, it'll be far too easy to fall right back asleep again. "If you do it first thing in the morning, make sure you clearly break up the time you've been asleep and your waking hour," said Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of Headspace, in a video. That way your brain won't be confused once you close your eyes again.

2. Breathe in some fresh air

If you're trying not to fall asleep during meditation, the MMC says you have to create an environment "conductive to wakefulness." And one easy way to do that? Just open a window and let in some fresh air. Once you feel that invigorating breeze, you'll definitely perk up.

3. Don't meditate in bed

It seems obvious, but meditating in your bed is just asking to fall asleep—that's what it's there for, after all. "Get out of bed, go to the bathroom, and do what you need to do to feel properly awake," said Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of Headspace, in a video. In fact, the app recommends steering clear of your bed altogether: Don't meditate in it, on it, or even around it because it'll instantly make you tired.

4. Drink some water beforehand

Drinking water invigorates your body and gets your energy levels up, so why not have some pre-pillow sesh? According to Project Meditation, it's a great way to beat drowsiness. Just don't drink too much—otherwise you'll have another problem: having to go to the bathroom halfway through.

5. Splash cold water on your face

There's no better way to perk yourself up before meditating than utilizing the power of cold water. "Splash a little bit on your face," says Puddicombe. It'll instantly wake you up—especially if you're planning on having a session right away in the a.m.

6. Don't lie down when you meditate

Lying down and for a meditation always sounds so nice, but that position is the easiest way to go from Zen to zzz's. Instead, find a comfortable spot to sit. "Take a cushion or a rolled-up towel and place it under your backside so you lift your posture a little bit," Puddicombe says. "Also, focusing above the top of the head at the start of your meditation can help lift the energy a little bit so you don't feel quite so sleepy."

7. Don't meditate after eating a big meal

Eating big meals instantly make you sleepy: Your body needs that energy to digest the food, after all. According to the MMC, it's only going to make you more tired and easier for you to pass out the second you close your eyes. Maybe try meditating before you munch instead.

8. Do a walking meditation

You don't have to sit with your eyes closed to reap the benefits of meditation. Unless you can fall asleep while you're moving—which is unlikely!—try switching to a walking meditation. Or, just find a nice place outside to hunker down, whether it's lying in the grass or sitting on a park bench. You'll get all those feel-good vibes and some vitamin D at the same time.

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cult-fave wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly. 

Loading More Posts...