Getting Sleepy While Meditating

For many, meditation's greatest challenge is not to feel sleepy in the act. Of course, it is wonderful that meditation can bring about such a relaxed state, however, it is ultimately counter-productive. There are many things you can try when you catch yourself nodding off in meditation (or to prevent nodding off altogether).

First, ensure that your posture is upright. Sit on the floor with a pillow under you (causing your hips to tilt slightly forward) for help. Still others recommend sitting directly on the hard ground in the lotus position if sleepiness is an issue. Furthermore, many people do sit up straight while meditating, but they do it with the aid of leaning on a chair back or wall. While this might seem like good posture, the very best stance for proper meditation is to support your own weight. If sitting up straight doesn’t do the trick, standing is also an option.

Alarmclock Another tip is to simply be mindful of the sleepy feeling. When a drowsy sensation arises, simply take note of it without concern or sentiment. As you know with other intrusive thoughts and feelings during meditation, the practice of mindfulness allows one to acknowledge the disruption without losing focus or getting distracted from the meditation. Let the sensation of sleepiness fade away as you would any other unwanted thought during meditation.

If sleepiness is a chronic problem, consider changing the time of your daily meditations. Maybe a before-bed or after-waking meditation is not appropriate for you. Studies show that our minds are most active in the late afternoon—try meditating or 3:00 or 4:00 PM everyday. As counter-productive as that may sound, it will certainly teach mental discipline and flexibility. Also, meditating right before a meal (preferably lunch or dinner) is a recommended time.

Having a cup of green tea before your meditation is another option. Green tea is naturally caffeinated and known to invigorate and energize. Drinking too much tea might create the feeling of agitation or needing to use the restroom during the meditation (which can certainly help keep you awake but also be highly distracting). Take a few sips of green tea on an empty stomach for the best results.

You might also consider trying walking meditations or open-eye techniques so the meditation is less like sleep. In walking meditations, you simply walk around your neighborhood or a natural area (river, lake, hill, garden, forest) and practice mindfulness. You see what you see, noting it but not allowing a mental dialogue to flow in your mind. Likewise, open-eye techniques involve staring at a spot on a soft-colored wall or allowing your eyes to glaze over and become foggy so that you are seeing but not looking. In general, any non-rhythmic focus during the meditation can help keep you awake (such as focusing on listening rather than breathing).

Still other meditation gurus argue that sleepiness during meditation is not really a concern. They say as long as you come out of the meditation to find greater peace and serenity, your purpose has been accomplished. Whether this sentiment resonates with you or not is entirely up to you. If your purpose in meditation is to connect with God or the Universe (not relaxation), then sleepiness may still be an issue.

~ Jillian Avey,


Posture for Meditation

To get the most from your meditation, it is important to use the correct posture and positioning. Good posture is important because it allows for better energy flow and circulation in the body. When your posture is completely upright with your back straight, your lungs are more open and able to take those all-important breaths that are crucial for getting into a proper meditation mindset. So make sure that you keep your shoulders rolled back, your chin up, and your pelvis slightly tilted forward. If you are sitting on a cushion, try having the front of the cushion tilt a bit more forward than the back does—this will help you sit with appropriate meditation posture.

The traditional meditation pose or posture that you commonly see is called Vairochana’s posture. There are 7 features to this important pose:

  • Your legs should be crossed in front of you. says, “This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.”
  • There are two different positions for your hands: 
    1. Hands on legs: Let your arms drop to your side and place your hands where they fall when placing them on your legs from this position. The palms can face down or up depending on the type of energy you desire. Palms-up is a welcoming posture. Palms-down is a more closed, inward position.
    2. Hands folded: Alternately, place your right hand in your left with your palms facing upwards. The tips of your thumbs should barely be touching and slightly raised. Allow your hands to rest about 4 fingers below your belly button on your stomach. says, “This helps us to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom–the two together symbolize the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolize the blazing of inner fire.”
  • Posture - buddhaYour back, again, should be straight and upright without being strained or tense. “This helps us to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely,” writes
  • While your chin is slightly tucked as a part of your upright posture – creating a little space between your first and second vertebrae – also be sure to relax your jaw but keep the tip of your tongue touching the back of your front teeth. Apparently, this helps to prevent excessive salivation and/or cotton mouth during the meditation.
  • To help prevent mental excitement, says, keep your gaze pointed down a bit (whether your eyes are opened or closed).
  • While this step differs depending on the style of meditation you practice, the traditional Vairochana’s posture involves having your eyes neither completely closed or completely open. It is suggested to just look down and let your eyes get fuzzy. Closed eyes can lead to drowsiness, while fully open eyes can allow in too much distraction and mental stimulation.
  • The final step in the traditional Vairochana meditation pose is to keep your shoulders and elbows from not being pressed into your body to allow for good ventilation and air circulation.

While it might not seem terribly important how you sit or breathe or any of that tedious stuff, all of these little details can greatly effect the quality of your meditation. Doing an awesome meditation is much like an athlete preparing to compete. When every last detail is just so, there are no distractions so your attention can be completely on the meditation. An athlete does their pre-game ritual to better ensure they'll be competing “in the zone,” as Michael Jordan used to call it. The same applies to meditation—if you want to get into the zone, create the right conditions for success.

~ Jillian Avey,



more than one type of meditation