Both meditation and sleep involve different levels of consciousness, and in most cases lead to a more relaxed state. This is why some meditators end up falling asleep, while some people who meditate often claim that they need less sleep. However, they are both different, because meditation mainly involves the conscious and subconscious, while sleep mainly involves the subconscious and unconscious.
Admit it, sometimes when you meditate you think, “Why don’t I go to sleep?” There is no shame in this! In fact, this is part of the purpose of meditation to rest and relax the mind, but sleep and meditation do not affect the mind in the same way.
In this blog, you will read about how sleep and meditation are different from each other.
What Happens in the State of Deep Sleep or Samadhi?
When we sleep well, it means that we have entered a deep sleep cycle. Similarly, after completing the meditation course, we reached the deepest level of meditation called Samadhi in Sanskrit. A place where mental activity stops completely.
Scientific research shows that in deep meditation (samadhi) and deep sleep, the number of low-frequency delta waves in the brain increases, so our brain behaves the same in deep sleep and deep meditation.
Another physical similarity between sleep and meditation is related to their effects on heart rate and breathing. In deep sleep and meditation, the heart rate and breathing rate tend to decrease.
However, in deep meditation, breathing becomes very subtle and shallow, and even stops for a while. Even if the breathing slows down during deep sleep, it will not slow down as it does during deep meditation.
9 Major Differences Between Meditation & Sleep
When we meditate, our mind and body are deeply relaxed, but we (as consciousness) remain alert and aware. This is the main difference between sleep and meditation.
If you have tried meditation, you may have noticed a tendency to fall asleep when your body begins to relax. We fall asleep during meditation, because our body’s mind tends to associate relaxation with depth of sleep. On the contrary, we tend to associate sobriety with mental and physical overload, that is, the body is full of tension and impulsive minds.
But in meditation, we train to stay alert and awake even when the body and mind are very relaxed. This is the core of meditation practice: deep relaxation of the body and mind, let our true nature, as the spiritual essence of pure consciousness, shine.
Here are a few major differences between the two.
Meditation mainly involves the conscious and subconscious, while sleep mainly involves the subconscious and unconscious. Compared to sleep, it is usually easier to transition from a meditative state to a normal waking state.
When we sleep, our non-thinking (unconscious) thinking and deep thinking (subconscious) thinking are driving this show. But because we are separate, sleep actually prevents us from enjoying many of the benefits of the subconscious mind.
Only through meditation can we benefit from this highly creative, ultra-calm, intuition, deep intelligence and stress-free mind in a waking state. The result includes better relationships, more success, more happiness, in fact, this is just the best moment of existence. We can say that sleep is essential, and meditation is for a better life.
Compared with the waking state in sleep, our breathing is slower and deeper, but there is not much “less” in terms of oxygen consumption. Therefore, less oxygen is required to function, and the respiratory rate usually drops sharply.
In fact, research shows that skilled meditators and yogis have the ability to slow down their physiological functions and stop their heartbeats for a few seconds. In the circus, when we fall asleep, this physiological slowdown is actually impossible. It is the level of mind control that makes meditation a different animal.
There are different types of meditation, such as mindfulness, physical exploration, and Zen; many of them also have subtypes. On the other hand, sleep has five stages.
It is recommended to sleep for 78 hours a day, and meditation can last a few minutes (usually 30 minutes), and some will last a few hours.
5# Teaching or Instructions
Practitioners must follow instructions or receive training to master meditation techniques or certain types of steps. However, sleep is only an instinct for the body to rest and relax.
For certain types of meditation, such as Zen, Vedic, and Yoga meditation, certain postures may be necessary. As for sleep, posture is not necessary to achieve it.
Meditation requires a high degree of concentration, because the practitioner must observe his own breathing and strive to achieve another cognitive state. On the contrary, sleep is often given to people who exercise less.
8# Spirituality or Transcendental Experience
Compared with sleep, meditation is more related to spiritual connection. Whoever reaches a very deep state of meditation will experience a clear sense of inner peace and a lively connection with the universe. Sleep does not take you to that state and does not give that feeling.
9# After Effects
When we wake up in the morning (even after a nap), we usually feel a little drowsy, bored, and out of place. However, when we complete a meditation course, we usually feel very good, energetic, calm and clear afterwards.
At least some meditators feel good because of endorphins. If you have ever felt like a runner, then you will know these exciting hormones. Well, meditation stimulates the same chemicals in the same way, and it lasts a long time after each meditation. Just like those runners who run on the sidewalk day after day looking for a good feeling after running, meditation has many of the same characteristics and is inherently addictive. In terms of how we feel immediately afterwards, meditation and sleep are of course very different.
The Bottom Line
Sleep and meditation are generally similar in that they promote physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, reduce stress, and rejuvenate the body and mind.
The main difference between sleep and meditation is that we stay alert, awake and aware during meditation, while when we sleep, we lack vigilance and instead fall into dullness and unconsciousness.
Over time, regular meditation practice can improve our sleep quality. Good sleep is the foundation of a more effective meditation course. Therefore, both parties are extremely beneficial for the human body and mind!