Novices to meditation often find themselves going to sleep during a meditation session. Many get discouraged and give up practice when they have hardly even started. Yet the truth is, sleepiness is a most common problem at the early stages and should not be taken as a sign of failure or inability to do the exercises.
Eating the wrong kinds of food is one of the leading factors in poor meditation performance. When you eat heavy foods, they use up your body’s energies in digestion, and there’s little resources left to keep the brain (and mind) alert during meditation. You feel lethargic and sleepy as a result. Hence, yoga teachers of all times have always recommended a sattvic diet, or a diet that consists of pure, light and wholesome foods that digest quickly and energize the body. Don’t obsess with your food though. You know what foods are healthy: fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and a moderate amount of dairy and meat (though strict vegetarians will be more absolute, of course). Do not drink alcoholic beverages if you are serious about meditation.
Meditation is futile when you do it tired. Tiredness may be caused by one or several factors, such as lack of sleep, poor lifestyle, stress and choosing the wrong time to meditate. Try to get more sleep every night, don’t stay up watching television and exercise daily. Learn to recognize the best times to meditate. Generally, the early morning when you have just gotten up is good, and so is sunset. You should try to sync your schedule around these times so you can practice without being tired. But if that’s not possible, you should still identify your “alert” hours and use those for practice.
Certain postures may induce drowsiness. Many people fall asleep when they lie down to relax for meditation. Sometimes even sitting in the cross-legged pose can make you nod off too when you become so relaxed. Sleepiness like this will pass with continued practice. Be consistent. As your awareness of your mind and body mechanics improves, so will your wakefulness.
Poor posture during the day can also make you sleepy. Work on keeping a good pose all the time. Specific yoga exercises help give you balance. During meditation, make sure you sit up with the spine straight up. A good meditation pillow or chair may help.
Sleepiness can be blamed on various things, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Look carefully at what you are doing and how, and you’ll be able to understand what the source of the problem is so you can solve it. And once you overcome sleepiness, you will be ready for the next phase of your practices.