Author Topic: Overcoming Sleepiness  (Read 4089 times)

alex

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Overcoming Sleepiness
« on: April 02, 2009, 07:29:58 PM »
Do any of you know of any method to treat sleepiness during meditation? I try to explain:
I have been to many group retreats. Sometimes when I could not sleep and went into the hall in the middle of the night, I was surprised to find it full of meditators. How do they do this? (I want to add that several times I heard someone snoring ;)). Sometimes, after a few days, I felt full of energy and no need to sleep for a whole night, and only a few hours the following nights. But this happened only occasionally.

This one's a solitary retreat, and I want to make best use of my limited time there for meditation. Reducing sleep (reasonably, of course) seems a good idea to get more time. But with less than 8 hours I feel sleepiness during the whole day.

What I have tried is meditating with open eyes, or if it gets worse, stand up. This helps as long as the eyes are open, or as long as I'm standing. When I'm sitting again, sleepiness returns. I have tried to observe the moment of nodding off, but get caught in dreams before it happens.

In Goldstein's book "Settling back into the moment" I found the advice to "be resolute and energetic in dealing with sloth and torpor". Now how can I do that? Is there a possibility to deliberately get into the energetic state I described above? I guess to do sports and drink lots of black tea is misleading here.

So is there anything you can tell me which might help me with this issue?

Greetings,
Alex
« Last Edit: April 02, 2009, 07:31:59 PM by alex »

alex

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Re: Overcoming Sleepiness
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 09:08:52 AM »
Hi, Alex from yesterday! ;)

After a good night's sleep  ;D I think the following is an acceptable solution:

1. at first occurrence, take a mental note of sleepiness, but do not pay much attention
2. if sleepiness persists: meditate with open eyes
3. if still sleepy: meditate standing
4. if still sleepy: walking meditation
5. if still sleepy: sleep! if it is daytime: take a nap.

Another thing I want to try is to think about the impermanence of life, about death. I can imagine it's stimulating to be aware that this moment might be the last. Maybe I'll try this in phase 2 or 3 (open eyes, standing). If at some point I get naturally into an energetic state (where I need little sleep), good, and if not, it's fine!

The stupid thing about sleepiness is that it blurs the mind. This what now, as I am awake, seems very obvious to me, was out of reach yesterday. So either I write down these advices or I learn them by heart before I go.

I would be thankful for any additions or comments.

Greetings,
Alex

humanoid

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Re: Overcoming Sleepiness
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 01:34:57 PM »
Hey alex from today and yesterday.


i don't officially practice vipassana,
although i guess the meditation i practice is very similar or perhaps exactly similar,
albeit explained differently (see the hindu anatta thread if you want to know more)

also i am not a teacher of any kind and i am not enlightened so make sure to not blindly accept my words as truth.




either way,
when i'm meditating i just can't sleep!
even if the body has very little energy left, as long as i am meditative then i can't become tired. (although i have never stayed awake for a whole night so maybe after 5 hours of laying awake i would eventually fall to sleep anyway)
so for me, i need to stop being meditative and let myself sink into ego/thought patterns,
if i want to be able to fall asleep.





when you feel the body is low in energy,
and you give in to feeling sleepy then that feels pleasurous.
how i see it, is that to feel sleepy is attachment to pleasure.

i guess the way i avoid "feeling sleepy" (and therefor avoid drifting off in tiredness ;) )
is to witness the sensations in the body without identifying with them.

for example:
  • if the body is low in energy... and i don't identify myself as "i am the body",
    then i do not feel sleepy... only the body is low in energy.
  • if the body is giving the hunger signal... and i don't identify myself as "i am the body" then i do not feel hungry... only the body is giving hunger signal.
  • if the body is giving the pain signal... and i don't identify myself as "i am the body" then i do not suffer... only the body is giving pain signal.
....

if you ask me, i guess your problem originates in identification with the body


as far as i know, vipassana is concerned with witnessing sensations and witnessing only.
so no attaching to sensations or pushing away sensations,
which means that you shouldn't assume yourself to be the body;
but instead that you must remain anchored as the witness.



when you assume yourself to be the body,
you crave pleasure and have aversion to pain.

i guess wanting to give in to sleepiness is craving pleasure
and perhaps simultaneously having aversion to the body feeling low in energy and muscles feeling a bit tired.

so i guess feeling sleepy is a mixture of "craving" and "aversion".
« Last Edit: April 03, 2009, 11:26:03 PM by humanoid »

alex

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Re: Overcoming Sleepiness
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2009, 09:15:01 PM »
also i am not a teacher of any kind and i am not enlightened so make sure to not blindly accept my words as truth.
These very words make you very credible, my friend  :). Don't worry, I'm looking for suggestions and will make up my own mind.

Quote
how i see it, is that to feel sleepy is attachment to pleasure.
Yes, this is exactly what I want to avoid. Sleep is necessary, just like food, but both can become pleasures, in which one can overindulge.

Quote
i guess the way i avoid "feeling sleepy" (and therefor avoid drifting off in tiredness ;) )
is to witness the sensations in the body without identifying with them.
As stated above, sometimes I managed to get into an energetic state. Maybe this is the reason.

Quote
so if you ask me, i guess your problem originates in identification with the body...
[...]
so i guess feeling sleepy is a mixture of "craving" and "aversion".
This is a good thought, I will contemplate it and be aware of the possibility, especially the "aversion" part seems to bear some truth for me.

Greetings,
Alex

Matthew

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Re: Overcoming Sleepiness
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2009, 07:11:51 AM »
so i guess feeling sleepy is a mixture of "craving" and "aversion".


More usually it is indicative of needing to sleep.

5. if still sleepy: sleep! if it is daytime: take a nap.

Yes. This is a good idea. And the best idea is to get your eight hours sleep so you don't feel sleepy during meditation. But if you do, open your eyes a little but if you remain sleepy, sleep. Meditation can be tiring.

Matthew
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Flipasso

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Re: Overcoming Sleepiness
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2009, 09:18:04 PM »
In a meditation course the teacher told us a "dhamma story". - Portuguese buddhists love these stories, I don't know about the rest of you...

He told us about a great meditation teacher (female). She had a big depression in which she could not sleep. On her 1st retreat as a meditator she could do nothing else than sleep. The advice of her teacher was: Sit with it. If you must sleep, sleep sitting.
She latter became a great teacher.

I don't remember quite well, but I think it was Mother Sayamagyi.

- IMO, it is like Pavlov's dogs. If you go to bed after a while of trying to sit inspite of the sleepiness, you will never kick it.
If instead you "fight it" or if you preffer, hold on to it, and little by little increase the time of your morning sittings you'll gradually beat that habbit, and learn to have a fresh mind in the morning.

Also: Obesity causes Sleep Apnea, which a disease which causes excessive sleepiness. Also, watch out for sleeping pills. I started to wake up a lot fresher since I change my medication.