Reduced need for sleep

Malte, modified 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 12:59 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 12:59 PM

Reduced need for sleep

Posts: 38 Join Date: 4/24/15 Recent Posts
I suppose this topic must have been raised previously. However, I could not find any threads on it.

​​​​​​Would anyone here like to share insights or techniques or experiences with lessening the need for sleep. 

Currently I am in a situation in which I am not fully in control of my sleep amount - children is partly a reason for this! At the same time, my work demands a lot of focus, and being able to set my own tasks, goals, schedule etc - a challenge when sleep is deprived.

Previously I have found 30m-1h of The Mind Illuminated-inspired meditation daily (concentration/insight combined) have made me much more resilient with regards to mental functioning when deprived of sleep, being able to function as normal even with 1-2 nights of quite bad sleep. Now, 1 bad night is a slight disaster for the mind's functioning.

I am wondering if anyone else have tried things that has worked for them? I am curious about other things to try as well. 

Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 4:13 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 4:13 PM

RE: Reduced need for sleep

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I believe that any method that works for your awakening may also make you more resilient with regard to challenges including disturbed sleep and maybe in the long run also decrease the need for sleep somewhat. If I'm sleep deprived, an hour of just resting in awareness as awareness goes a long way as a short time solution on single occasions. However, I wouldn't recommend replacing sleep with some meditation method, as experienced resilience doesn't necessarily mean that the negative health effects are gone. Sleep is really important. I don't think there are any shortcuts, except maybe for some people whose awakening is remarkably deep. I messed with my sleep patterns when I was finishing my doctoral thesis. It was an extreme situation in many ways (also family-wise) so I had only time to sleep 1-2 hours per night. I have forgotten how long that time period was. My memories from that time are fuzzy. I do know that it took me two years to redevelop the body signals of needing to sleep instead of just suddenly falling asleep anywhere anytime. Please don't do that to yourself! Getting to sleep is a human right. Ask for help! When you see cutting down on your sleep as the solution to unreasonable demands, you are already on a very dangerous path. It means that your judgement is already severely affected by sleep deprivation. I have been there. I feel for you. Please say no! 
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 4:30 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 6/21/21 4:30 PM

RE: Reduced need for sleep

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Lack of sleep can also mess with your meditation practice, taking away whatever resilience you have gained, so even if you find a practice that seems to be the answer, it may not last long.  

There are phases in the practice where energy is so high that less sleep is required, or so it feels. Personally I find that it's important to get a reasonable amount of sleep anyway. Otherwise things get unstable and the low that follows gets much worse. 
Eudoxos , modified 3 Years ago at 6/22/21 3:31 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 6/22/21 3:30 AM

RE: Reduced need for sleep

Posts: 136 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
During intense practice, the need for sleep really changes significantly; in the Thai-Mahasi tradition where I practice, the (adjustable) standard is 6 hours sleep during retreat, reduced to 4 towards the end in high EQ. My sense of it is that clarity and vigor (energy) of the mind is boosted by sleeping less, if (momentary) concentration has enough momentum. The hindrance of tiredness can occlude this effect, if it comes strongly, though.

Really advanced practitioners can manifestly keep that during normal life (because of high concentration/mindfulness without formal practice); the abbot in Thailand (Ajahn Tong, in Chom Tong) was 97 and slept perhaps 3-4 hours every day (he was chanting with monks till long after 10pm and there would be chanting at 3am again already, could hear that from the loudspeakers); but also seemed to land in cessation when there was an occasion during a ceremony and such. So it seems if the mind can maintain the clarity, the body does not need that much apparently. This is not the case for most of us, I suspect.

My experience with off-retreat is: practice gradually reduces the extra stress (such as anxiety from not feeling well, self-judgement and comparing etc) around the tiredness, which in itself is a big help, as Linda wrote already. Sleeping less still takes its toll in terms in intellectual ease and creativity (I work as physicist/programmer). Short practice during the day can somewhat compesate the lack of sleep (kind of recharge), but only to a certain degree. The post-retreat transition for me is to sleep about 5-6 hours for about 2 weeks, but then the need quickly gets to 7 or 7.5 which is like my daily baseline (it used to be more, 8+, but it might be just normal aging). I was really wanting to get the baseline down through the practice but it does not seem to be happening, which is giving me lessons about my attachement to high-performance and letting go of that emoticon

OTOH & IIRC Dipa Ma recommended (it must be a story in the Dipa Ma book) to a student who had family and high job demands, to reduce his sleep from 11pm-4am to 11-3am to squeeze in meditation; I suppose she knew what she was doing (and to whom). I would be very cautious about this approach, though, and agree with Linda 120% that such demands are very likely unreasonable and already an expression of skewed cognition and/or craving one is perhaps not so mindful of.

It was (and is) very important for me to pay close attention to what "tiredness" actually is in that very moment; this is easier during meditation, but useful off-cushion more and more. We don't have physical receptors for tiredness (unlike e.g. touch or warmth), it is a constructed phenomenon, and the mind reacts to this construction quite a bit; the more I can see it already deconstructed, the easier it is to deal with it, although it is still unpleasant. Where it is in the body right now? Tension around the eyes. Heavy shoulders. Pain in the jaw. How does it change? It was here half second ago, now the pain is gone; now again. There are thoughts and feelings. I will be more tired if I don't sleep right now! Panic: with mind like this, I can't do anything. Craving to control the mind. Judging myself: after so much practice, still this!! Inclination to switch off the attention. Expectation about what "good" meditation (or "good" off-cusion moment) should look like. Resistance. Hating this moment. And so on emoticon

When I can't sleep, it helps me a lot to label rising/falling, just staying in the bed, lying, with eyes closed. With no effort, no noting stuff other than rising/falling, just that, gently like swinging a baby in the arms putting it to sleep. It prevents the mind from developing big story about not sleeping (oh, it will be such a horrible day tomorrow if I don't sleep!) and even if I don't fall asleep soon, or not at all, it is in a way surprisingly restful.

Short practice before going to bed (walking/sitting or just sitting), and then falling asleep with the rising/falling has semi-consistent good effect on soundness of the sleep as well.