Have you ever struggled to stay awake and pay attention when listening to a Circle+Bloom program? I recently got a question emailed to me about this, and thought I’d answer it here on the blog, since I know that others have the same question as well.
First of all, visualization and meditation are new to a lot of us here. It’s a new thing to learn, and it’s totally normal to have questions and to feel unsure if you’re doing it “right”. There is no right – not really. Each of us has our own needs, our own unique body, and different goals that we’re trying to work toward. So use the visualization programs in the way that best suits you.
That said, there are some ways that the program can be more effective than others. So I’ll give you my thoughts on this one, but then please make your own decision about what works best for you!
Here’s the question that I received from one member of our Circle+Bloom community:
“I’m listening to the natural fertility program, and I find it very relaxing. I always tend to fall asleep after the relaxation and before the visualization starts. Is that the right way? I get frustrated in trying to stay awake – I hope when I fall asleep I’m still absorbing something subconsciously.”?
There are a couple of things happening when you fall asleep during a guided visualization or meditation. It could be:
- You’re sleep deprived, and your body needs the rest
- You’re new to meditation, and are still learning how to relax your body while still staying focused and alert, instead of falling into a sleepy state
You’re Tired and Your Body Needs the Rest
I don’t have to tell you that we’re all tired these days. The CDC has declared insufficient sleep a “public health problem”, and studies show that 35 percent of Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night.
And that’s just for average people with fast-paced lives. Add on the stress of infertility, or cancer, or other serious challenges, and it can be really difficult to get enough quality rest.
No wonder you’re falling asleep!
If your body is truly tired and you’re not getting enough rest, it may be just what you need to relax enough to fall asleep when listening to a guided meditation. Whether it’s a midday nap or falling asleep earlier than you normally would, it could be just what your body needs. So try not to worry about whether you’re doing it “right”, and consider that you’re giving your body and mind something important and needed: more rest.
The Fine Line Between Meditating and Sleep
When someone is new to meditation or visualization, one of the most common concerns is about falling asleep. It’s super common. Even long-time meditation practitioners still fall asleep sometimes. According to Headspace, one of the main reasons is that it can be tough to find the ideal balance between focus and relaxation, especially when you’re first starting out in your practice.
In her article on MindBodyGreen, Jennifer Wang wrote about this exact experience:
“When I first started meditating, falling asleep was par for the course. About five minutes in, you can bet I’d be nodding off. This went on for almost a year, and looking back on it now, it makes sense. Before I started meditating, my mind was so used to constantly running, planning for the future and analyzing the past, that when I was put it in a situation where the goal was just to stay still in the present, it went straight into sleep mode because it didn’t know what else to do with that stillness (and I was constantly tired, so this seemed like a good opportunity to catch up).”
But eventually, she noted, she started to notice that she was falling asleep and would jolt herself awake. She learned to stop beating herself up for falling asleep, and just went with the flow of dozing and waking up until her mind was ready to move on from dozing.
Think about it: when you’re listening to a guided meditation, you’re sitting (or laying) still, you’re quieting your mind, breathing calmly, and are probably in a space with minimal sensory input. All the same environmental factors that make an ideal sleeping space.
Your body is trained to prepare for sleep when it’s quiet, dim or dark, and comfortable. Of course you’re struggling to stay awake!
To dig into the idea behind meditation a bit, many practitioners think about consciousness in three different states:
- Waking consciousness
- Subconscious sleep
- Superconscious meditation
To enter subconscious sleep requires a decrease in energy, while going into a superconscious meditative state actually requires an increase in focused energy. Part of learning and growing with a meditation practice is figuring out how to increase and direct your energy toward a guided meditation in a non-physical, relaxed way. It seems really tricky and hard to grasp at first, but with practice you can figure it out.
If you fall asleep during a guided meditation or visualization, your brain may still be listening, so you may still notice some benefits. But it will be more effective if you remain fully awake, though.
Over the past few decades the effectiveness of guided imagery and visualization has been established by research findings. Even just ten minutes of imagery can reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol, and can be very effective for treating of stress, which has been shown in various studies to have an overall negative affect on fertility.
Your body cannot tell the difference between what it is actually experiencing versus what you are only visualizing. Isn’t that amazing!? So using guided visualization, we can essentially communicate directly with our body and instruct it to function in a certain way. Imagery can help your body release brain chemicals that act as natural tranquilizers, lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels.
10 Ways to Stay Awake During a Guided Visualization
If you feel like you’re getting enough sleep and don’t need the extra rest, and you want to try to stay awake during the guided visualizations, there are some tricks that could help.
Here are a few ideas that can help you stay awake and get to that superconscious state where you’re getting the most benefits from the visualizations.
1. Change the Time of Day
Try meditating first thing in the morning when the mind is a little brighter. Or if you’re already listening first thing in the morning, try shifting to the afternoon or evening. Try different times of day to find the ideal time for your body energy.
2. Exercise Before You Meditate
Even gentle exercise will get your blood flowing and your body moving enough to increase your energy and mental focus. Try going for a walk around the block, or doing some gentle stretches before settling in to listen to the guided visualizations.
3. In the Morning, Make Sure You’re Fully Awake First
If you like to listen to the visualizations in the morning, make sure you give yourself enough time to fully wake up first. Without enough time to adjust, it’ll be far too easy to fall right back asleep again.
4. Get Fresh Air
Open a window and welcome the breeze and cool air. The added oxygen and air movement will help you feel more alert.
5. Move Out of Bed
Your body is conditioned that your bed is the place for sleep. Try moving to another room, and sitting up to listen to the program.
6. Drink Some Water First
Drinking water invigorates your body and helps you feel more alert. (Just don’t drink so much that you’ll need a bathroom break in the middle of the program.)
7. Don’t Meditate After a Big Meal
Digesting a lot of food requires a lot of energy, and can make you feel sluggish and sleepy.
8. Try Listening While Walking
If some of these other ideas aren’t working, try listening to the visualizations while going for a walk. It may be more difficult to visualize while you’re walking, but you can still picture the ideas in your mind with your eyes open.
9. Adjust Your Posture
The ideal posture for meditation is to sit with an upright back and soft front. If you start to slouch, gently pull yourself back up.
10. Keep the Lights On
Dim lighting is bound to make anyone feel a bit sleepy. Even with your eyes closed, a bright room will help you feel more awake.
I hope these ideas help you feel like you’re getting what you want out of your guided visualization. Whether your body just needs some extra rest (which is totally fine, and definitely beneficial!), or you’re trying to get even more out of a Circle+Bloom program, try to remember that this process is a practice – there is no “right” or “perfect” way to do it. Every day may be a slightly different experience for you, and just the process of listening and trying will deliver benefits for you.
With love & gratitude,