Is Sleep or Meditation Better for You?

Sleep and meditation are both hypometabolic states which can help reduce stress. But can meditation replace sleep? Research suggests it may be possible. Learn more about how to use meditation as an alternative to sleep.

Is Sleep or Meditation Better for You?

Sleep and meditation are both hypometabolic states, in which breathing and other bodily activities decrease. Both can help to reduce stress, but the rest that meditation provides is much deeper than the rest that comes from sleep. This means that the most entrenched impressions, or samskaras, can leave the system. But is there an alternative? Research suggests that meditation can replace sleep.Rather than trying to fit it into your daily routine, you could try meditating instead of sleeping.

Studies have found that sleep deprivation is quite common during times of intensive meditation practice, such as multi-day silent retreats. In fact, according to some Buddhist texts, a full night's sleep amounts to approximately four hours among competent meditators. These subjects had a sufficient amount of daily meditation time so that it could produce a noticeable decrease in total sleep time if meditation can actually replace part of sleep or compensate in some other way.If this is your experience, it could mean a few different things, including that you need more sleep. It may be that there is a basic amount of sleep that is fundamental for all mammals (and perhaps also for all or most non-mammals) and it cannot be replaced by anything other than sleep.

Further research is needed to determine whether meditation can actually replace part of sleep or pay off sleep debt. The restorative alertness that you can experience with meditation is associated with a decrease in heart rate, a decrease in metabolism, and changes in the nervous system that reduce the arousal that occurs during sleep.But what about the stories of the ancient yogi who meditates in a cave or in a monastery on the top of a mountain for days and weeks without sleep? How does he do it? While expert meditators are able to go so deep that they no longer need sleep, it takes incredible skills to do so. The key difference between meditation and sleep is being alert during meditation and not being alert during sleep.

Sue Ashauer
Sue Ashauer

General food junkie. Extreme zombie buff. Extreme coffee trailblazer. Hipster-friendly travel guru. Devoted food trailblazer. Tv buff.

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