Am I Meditating or Sleeping? 4 Key Differences

Am I Meditating or Sleeping

This is one of the more frequent questions I get from people who are new to meditating – and it’s one of the most difficult to answer.

Am I meditating or sleeping? Falling asleep while meditating is common, especially when you’re new to meditating. On a positive, it’s a good sign as it means you’re able to fully relax. The negative is that while you’re sleeping you’re not meditating, however.

How Is Meditation Different From Sleeping?

There are some fundamental differences between sleeping and meditating.

When you’re meditating, some of the things you are doing include:

  • Being aware of smells, sounds, and feelings around you
  • Deliberately observing and controlling your breathing
  • Focusing on areas within your body (body scanning)
  • Channeling “energy” in and around your body
  • Visualizing images, colors, and observing things in my mind’s eye
  • Chanting mantras or other words/sounds (such as transcendental meditation)

When you’re sleeping, you are:

  • Dreaming, not thinking or engaging your brain with your subconscious thoughts
  • You’re not in control of your breathing
  • You are not aware of what’s going on around you

There are some things that overlap between the two. There is also a thin line between reaching a deep state of relaxation required for meditating and sleeping.

I’ll dive a bit deeper into this throughout this article, and go through some ways you can control whether or not you’re sleeping or reaching a deep state of relaxation.

How Do You Know If You Are Meditating?

It’s possible to fall asleep while meditating and wake when you’re finishing. Especially if you’re using a guided track.

Meditation leaves most people with very profound feelings. You may not be aware if you were awake for the duration of your meditation or not.

When reflecting on the period of time you spend meditating, here are some of the signs to look for that indicate you were indeed meditating:

You had vivid visualizations – It can be difficult to separate visualizations from vivid or lucid dreams. Over time, and with practice it does become obvious, however.

You had heightened senses – This is one of the best ways to tell if you were awake or not. Were your senses heightened? Could you hear, smell, and feel more than when you’re awake? 

You were aware of your thoughts – Meditation is not about clearing your mind and thinking about nothing. That’s one of the main misconceptions of meditation.

In fact, it’s about guiding your focus to something like your breathing or a chant, and letting you mind guide you.

You’re realizing the benefits – The reason you’re meditating is to benefit from some of the known benefits, right?

Whether you’re looking to; reduce stress, become calmer, lower anxiety, change a habit, or gain some other results, over time you should see and feel those benefits if you’re meditating and not sleeping.

Related – If you’re in deep meditation and seeing colors, read these; Seeing the color blue while meditating? And, seeing the color purple white meditating?

How Do You Know If You Are Meditating

How to Stop Yourself Falling Asleep While Meditating

If you’ve determined that you are, in fact, falling asleep while meditating, there are some things you can do to stop this happening:

Meditate sitting up rather than laying down. For most of us, our brains are trained to go into sleep mode when we lay down and close our eyes.

Meditate in the morning when you’re fresh. There are a number of pros to meditation first thing in the morning, I advise giving it a try.

Don’t get too comfortable. You want to be comfortable, but if you’re getting so comfortable that you can’t help falling asleep you need to change something.

Start with short meditations. You might have a general idea of how long it’s taking you to fall asleep. Start meditating for shorter periods, aim for a duration where you’ll be able to stop before falling asleep.

You can lengthen your sessions over time as you become more comfortable.

Is It Ok to Fall Asleep While Meditating?

It’s perfectly fine to fall asleep and more common than you are probably thinking.

Obviously, you don’t want it to keep happening because you’re not effectively meditating if you’re asleep. So, I recommend going through the steps above to find a way to stop it happening.

Meditation is such a personal thing and people have such different experiences, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s going to work for you.

It might take some trial and error. All I can advise is that you’re patient and willing to try different techniques.

You will find a method of meditation that works for you and stops you from falling asleep, I’m sure.

Related Is it bad to fall asleep while meditating?

In Summary – Am I Meditating or Sleeping?

Hopefully, I’ve helped you realize that you’re not alone if you fall asleep while meditating – it’s perfectly normal.

It can be hard to understand what’s really happening when you’re in a deep state of relaxation and connecting with your subconscious mind.

Most of your answers will come with practice. The more you meditate, the clearer it will become of exactly what’s happening and how you’re benefiting from this practice.

I’ve given you some tips and things to look out for to help you identify if you’re meditating, sleeping, and the results you should be experiencing.

If you have any additional thoughts or comments, please feel free to leave me a message below. Thanks.


What happens to your body when you sleep? –

Image credits – Header image by Katie Moum on Unsplash

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