How to Stop Falling Asleep in Meditation

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche gives these five suggestions for dealing with sleepiness during your meditation practice. If you tend to fall asleep in meditation, you can try any of these physical or mental methods to help you stay awake.

Physical methods

1. Pay more attention to your posture.
Sit a little bit more upright than how you’re sitting in that moment.

2. Strengthen your sensory perceptions.
For example, strengthen your sense of sight by looking up into the sky as opposed to looking down at the floor. You can look a little bit higher, up into the sky, and strengthen your gaze. In other words, bring more awareness to the sense consciousness of seeing.

If you’re doing meditation on an object, you can focus on the sky out there or some object outside, bringing more strength and awareness to the eye consciousness.Or if you’re doing meditation on sound, you know, you can strengthen your ear consciousness and bring more awareness to that, and so forth.

3. If strengthening the senses doesn’t work, sprinkle a little water on your face.
In the West it’s easy to do this. I just learned recently that there are sprays you can buy. The mist is very nice, it’s good for your skin and keeps your mind awake. So you can do this mist. If that doesn’t work, then throw on a bucket of water. No, just kidding. The meditation teachings don’t suggest that. I’m just joking there.

4. Also it’s really important to do walking meditation or physical yoga.
You can do hatha yoga, any kind of yoga, or lüjong, Tibetan yoga.How to do walking meditation. Instead of focusing your mind on the breath, on counting, or on an outer object, focus your attention on your feet and legs. You focus on how they lift up, move forward, set down, how the weight shifts, and how this feels. You keep your eyes looking slightly downward to avoid distraction.

You can let your arms rest along the sides of your body or you can hold them, one hand resting over the other, at the front of your belly. The walking pace is slow but not solemn. When your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to the movements of your legs.

Mental method

5. Engage in more analytic meditation, rather than a resting meditation.
Resting meditation is very helpful and very good, but at the same time it can be hard to draw the line between when you’re resting in meditation and when you are falling into the sleep state. So if this distinction is not clear for you, then it is suggested that you engage in more analytic meditation.

You can try any of these methods to help you stop falling asleep in meditation. Remember to take care of your health, too. Some of us are not getting enough sleep, and that can also make it hard to stay awake during practice sessions. Be gentle with yourself, and keep trying!

Enjoy your meditation practice!