Author Topic: Vipassana keeps me awake at night.  (Read 4786 times)


Vipassana keeps me awake at night.
« on: March 26, 2013, 05:17:40 PM »
Hi! During my first 10 day vipassana retreat in Febuary, I had to take prescription sleep medication the entire time because the technique was keeping me awake. I tried to continue my practice once I returned home, but I found I was still unable to sleep, even if I only practiced in the morning and dropped the night meditation.  I was therefore forced to stop meditating completley. I found it was not worth it to me to be exhausted every day. From time to time, I will try meditating in the morning again, and every time I do, my sleep that night will be very light, and non-restorative. Yesterday morning I meditated for only 30 minutes, but I still slept very lightly last night, and  I am exhausted again today. I actually still gain  profound benifit from the meditation even if it is sporatic, and I would love to do it on a regular basis. Has anyone else had this type of experience? Does anyone have any advice for me?

Thank you!
« Last Edit: March 27, 2013, 02:33:40 AM by Vegemate »


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Re: Vipassana keeps me awake at night.
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 05:29:27 PM »
The need for sleep usually decreases for a Vipassana practitioner. I don't believe there is any need to be alarmed about this, unless there is a possibility of a medical condition. If you become too concerned about the light sleep and keep reacting to it, chances are that this will make you even more tired and frustrated. The best thing to do, is to keep the awareness of sensations while LYING DOWN. IF the body needs sleep, you should be naturally dropping to sleep. Do not try to control the activity, it will only lead to more frustration. Try to see clearly if there is any craving to have deep sleep. If so, keep observing it. If you choose to, you can turn this into an opportunity for some really good Vipassana practice.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Re: Vipassana keeps me awake at night.
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 06:40:49 PM »
here is my story,

when i attended my first 10 day course i was very enthusiastic to learn whatever it taught and wanted to give my best.
day one i meditated all the time. loved to observe breath.
day one night - no sleep till 3. i am going into dream and getting back out. too much awareness. I started to question - have i forgotten how to sleep? how do i sleep?
next day i was sleepy. still too determined to learn meditation gave my all. night repeated the same way. teachers were of no use.
i was so angry on teachers.... i wanted to sleep again.......

after few years....
increase in awareness without developing in equanimity is the cause of deprived sleep. if we are able to remain equanimus towards no sleep and just let the thoughts (dreams) arise and fall its better than sleeping and gives much more rest than sleep does. if we worry that i am not getting sleep and think about what will happen tomorrow then whole process gets nasty and one would wake up sick.
It takes time to get used to all this. Not giving up and working intelligently is the key.


Re: Vipassana keeps me awake at night.
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2013, 11:28:51 PM »
Hi there Vegemate,

I presume during your day you think about not being able to sleep later that night and it agitates you. When this happens just know it is just a thought at THAT time, be aware of where you are, look at your surroundings, take a deep breath, and go back to whatever it is you're doing in THAT moment. Try to adapt some mindfulness to your day and it will help you come sleep time.

I've had a fear of the night and trouble sleeping for many years, leading to panic attacks and depression. When I went to my course I felt comforted in the surroundings of the retreat center but after night 3 I found myself, like you, and Sid, laying in bed shuffling about and not sleeping until 2 or 3 in the morning. I asked my teacher and he said its normal as its a "deep operation" and for me the first time sharpening the mind and then onto to Vipassana. He told me to focus my attention to the soles of my feet or palms of my hand, and I thought this worked well through the rest of the course.

When you lay down to rest. Maybe lay on your back for 5 minutes or so. Feel your body as a whole energy. I heard this from Eckhart Tolle and I find it to be beneficial. Goenka also talked about meditating from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep, this of course is impossible all of the time, but at times during your day, just be aware of your breath, your body, sensations as you're sitting still or as you move, your surroundings, etc.

Added little story I'd like to share: I wanted to stick to the rules of the Vipassana course rigidly, but my room-mate was using sleep potion to help him sleep. A chemically made liquid he'd dabble on his pillow. I didn't mind him using it, I just felt for me I wanted to let things happen naturally, if I didn't sleep, I wouldn't sleep, if I did, I did. I felt these remedies were but another way to avert reality, and that's really what the course was about for me.

So I had a dilemma: obviously we weren't allowed communicate, but he showed me this little bottle and he made a gesture about putting it on my pillow so that it would help me sleep... because we just HAD to sleep! This was my first encounter with the stuff, so I took it from him, put some on my pillow and gave him two thumbs up. After about 10 seconds of lying down I realized this was but another drug to help me through life, I became a little drowsy with the scent and threw my pillow off the bed. The smell from his pillow was still surrounding the room, I was angry, and stayed up contemplating the issue for hours.

The next day I was just as angry and confused as to what to do. So during lunch I met him in our room and picked up the potion. Got his attention and pointed at the bottle, then made a "meditative stance" through some sort of improvised sign language as to TRY to say "I'm sorry my friend, but I'm here to meditate." He replied "Ahhh, yes" quietly. I'd thought he'd understood where I was coming from, I was delighted with the outcome. That night we finish up our day and I go to my room, the smell is worse than ever. I guess he thought I was trying to say "Thank you my friend, this sleeping medicine has really helped meditation today because I was able to sleep last night." I flip out and leave the room directly upon entering, and decide to go talk to an assistant teacher, I explained the situation to him and he explained it to my room-mate, he was understanding and I was thankful for this. I didn't want any quarrels.

On the 10th day when we're allowed speak. I brought up the topic lightly and he seemed understanding but he didn't see the funny side of the situation as I did. Then he left without saying goodbye. I thought there was a moral from this added experience on the course. I encourage you to continue your practice and not use anything but nature to help you sleep. I think Sid's post above can really help you. Try not to fall asleep, and you will be successful. Sorry this is very long winded. I'm fascinated by the effects meditation has on each individual, and I know how annoying sleep deprivation can be. Very best of luck with everything.

« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 11:34:12 PM by garyblackhouse »


Re: Vipassana keeps me awake at night.
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 05:32:21 AM »
I haven't done a retreat, nor had a session much longer than 30 minutes, but I have also experienced difficulty in sleeping soon after a session. I attribute it to my experience of meditation in general - it feels like continuous rushes of adrenaline. I often feel more stimulated and thoughtful/insightful after sitting and want to explore those thoughts. So I've tried to keep some time between an evening session and my bed time, and so far it's worked. I hope you find a process that allows you to maintain a balance between insight and restful sleep.


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