How to relax/meditate without falling asleep?
September 15, 2015 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I've been told I need to take regular rest breaks during the day, and do relaxation/meditation exercises in them, but not sleep. The problem is that any of these sort of exercises seem to send me to sleep. Does anyone have any ideas how I can stop this happening, so I can relax but still stay awake?

As part of my treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I've been instructed to take a number of rest periods during the day. In these rest periods I'm meant to be relaxing - ie. doing some sort of meditation or relaxation exercises, rather than just reading a book or watching TV.

The problem I have is that whenever I start doing any of these activities I just start falling asleep (obviously the severe tiredness that goes along with CFS makes this more likely).

A lot of guided relaxation exercises seem to be focused around going to sleep, and even ones that aren't definitely seem to have that effect on me.

Can anyone suggest any slightly more 'active' relaxation techniques, or any ideas for how I can stop these relaxation techniques sending me to sleep?
posted by robintw to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you're doing a breathing meditation, one piece of advice I've found helpful is to concentrate more on your breath as it enters and leaves your nose/mouth as it keeps your awareness more in your head.

Another thought is some kind of mandala you could focus on so you can keep your eyes open. It doesn't have to be a traditional Buddhist one - any kind of intricate, abstract-ish image could work I think.
posted by crocomancer at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe try "walking meditation. " I find it works well for me. It relaxes me but obviously I can't fall asleep while doing it.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Logic problems, listening to music, gluing Popsicle sticks together, anything that is engaging but not physical should do it. I survived cfs by obsessively knitting and crocheting, even though the pain in my hands was so severe that my pinkies would eventually just go numb. Making something has the added benefit of making you feel useful and productive. Try to do some of your relaxation activities in full sun and see if that helps. And don't fight the sleep. It just has to happen sometimes.
posted by myselfasme at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2015

Sleepiness is one of the basic hindrances even to those who do not have chronic fatigue syndrome. This is partly due to the fact that we don't often slow down that much unless and until we're trying to go to sleep, so our bodies automatically go into sleep mode when we start a meditation practice. (One of my old teachers calls sleep "the poor man's Nirvana")

You may find that this goes away on its own, but the Buddha also recommended: Standing meditation, walking meditation, opening your eyes during meditation, speaking the dharma aloud (you can use a mantra and say it quietly to yourself), washing the face with cool water, pulling on the earlobes and rubbing the limbs, and taking a nap.
posted by janey47 at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2015

Thirding walking meditation. Here's one from Plum Village.
posted by vecchio at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2015

anything that is engaging but not physical should do it

CFS is not just about "physical" fatigue. I can't imagine anyone with it trying to do logic problems for relaxation.

How about Yin Yoga? You're supposed to hold each pose for up to twenty minutes. You can do the ones that don't involve laying on your back. Though I think if you're falling asleep, that's a sign that that is the rest you need.
posted by Blitz at 3:58 PM on September 15, 2015

Colouring or pattern drawing meditation.

Pattern tracing meditation, as when you run your fingertip through a maze.

Using poetry as a meditation device. You can memorize a poem that means something to you and then chant it quietly out loud.

Nature break. Go outside and stand still under some trees on some grass. Feel the wind moving.

Water enhanced meditation: Stand in a shower or wade in a wading pool.

Fake smoking meditation: (Best for people who have never smoked and won't be tempted to grab a real cigarette.) Go outside and pantomime smoking an entire cigarette including the inhaling, holding and exhaling.


Watch the same episode of a very short, very soothing video over, yet again.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:03 PM on September 15, 2015

Is cooking a viable option for you? The act of kneading bread, for example, can be a meditative/mindful process (adjusted as needed for your current abilities).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:20 PM on September 15, 2015

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