Meditation for sleeplessness

Half Lotus

It is 10:50 am.  I worked last night from 9 pm until approximately 4:30 am.  I then went to hang out with friends and I came home around 7 am.  I attempted to sleep but I was not able to due to the invading rays of the sun shining through my window.  So what did I do you ask?  I meditated.

For some time now I have engaged in meditation on and off; several years of experimenting with different techniques, but mostly sticking to one.  This technique is popularly known as Mindfulness meditation, but I did not know it by that name when I first found out about it around a decade ago.  I understood the technique I practiced by the simple name of thought control.  The following is a brief excerpt from a longer article on the subject:


“Sitting on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you… Begin by just sitting in this posture for a few minutes in this environment. If your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back to your body and the environment. The key word here is “gently.” Your mind WILL wander; that’s part of what you will notice with your mindfulness: minds wander. When you notice that yours has wandered, come back again to body and environment.”[1]


The main purpose of the technique is to aid the practitioner in understanding the flow of their thoughts while being impartial to them.  One becomes a witness, as it were, to the ebbs and flows of the mind.  One pays attention to one’s breath and uses that breath as an anchor, so to speak, to help the individual bring their mind back to the immediate moment.  Eventually one goes from 5 minutes twice a day, to 6, to 7, to 20 minutes, to half hour and beyond.  The more one practices, the more one’s thoughts decrease in frequency while in these instances of meditation, and one begins to slowly develop a more intimate understanding of the processes of that great instrument, the mind.

Besides the aforementioned being the main goal of that particular practice, a benefit of it is that it allows the mind to rest and in so doing, it tends to help when one has not had sleep.  Of course, this takes practice and I have oftentimes almost fallen asleep while attempting to meditate after a sleepless night.  When the meditation is successful though, I have experienced a feeling of deep rest and my fatigue has temporarily gone away.  Meditation also helps me if I can’t get to sleep due to a busy mind.  It helps to quiet things down internally and it brings one closer to a solid sleep.

I will say though, that meditation alone is no substitute for sleep (at least for me).  A proper eight hour sleep is valuable and should be part of one’s routine.  An interesting point here is that there are different ways of getting a good night’s rest which involve changing one’s sleep patterns in order to get the most out of one’s day.  A brief excerpt from an article on Polyphasic (meaning many phases) sleep:


“Although it’s a common belief that 8 hours of sleep is required for optimal health, a six-year study of more than one million adults ages 30 to 102 has shown that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate. Individuals who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 4 hours a night, were shown to have a significantly increased death rate compared to those who averaged 6 to 7 hours.  Many may like to point out ‘or less than 4 hours a night’, but these individuals also were tested to get far less REM and less SWS than the suggested amount.  Polyphasic sleep depends on the fact that you are getting the same amount of REM and SWS as you do monophasically.  A 4h monophasic sleep will not be the same quality sleep as 4h polyphasically.”[2]


Perhaps one day soon I shall experiment with different sleep cycles in order to get the most out of my day.  I do sleep… but this here is one of my favourite lyrics from one of my favourite lyricists of all time:

“I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death”
-Nas



References

1. How to practice mindfulness meditation.  Retrieved from
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-courage-be-present/201001/how-practice-mindfulness-meditation

2.Poly sleep quick start guide.  Retrieved from
https://www.polyphasicsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/PolySleep-Quick-Start-Guide.pdf

3.Half-lotus pose picture retrieved from
http://wwzc.org/dharma-text/posture-zazen

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