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Health Psychology

Here’s Why You Feel Sleepy When You Meditate


The science behind meditation and sleep

Meditation can induce a general sense of well-being as well as improve sleep quality.

A study in 2020 looked at the effects of an 11 minute yoga meditation using a large and diverse sample group. The result showed that it lowered stress, increased well-being, and improved the sleep quality for 341 participants. These effects remained at 6 weeks.

There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of mediation for sleep, however, there is not that much evidence as to why you may feel sleepy.

Some possible reasons include:

  • similarities in brain wave activity between meditation and sleep
  • lack of sleep or daytime fatigue
  • eating too close to a meditation session
  • meditating in bed or in the bedroom
  • depletion from illness or stress

Brain wave activity

A review characterizing meditation with an EEG in 2020 showed that meditation appeared to be similar to the sleep stages 1 and 2, or non-REM sleep.

The researchers also showed increases in alpha brain waves compared to resting states.

Some research showed increases in theta waves and decreases in central beta and low gamma rays. This essentially means that relaxation-related brain waves increased while problem solving brain waves decreased.

Lack of sleep or daytime fatigue

One effect of meditation is that it puts you in touch with what you may not have noticed before. This is an overall benefit that may have some undesirable outcomes at first.

Meditation generally puts you in touch with things you may have not noticed before actual meditation. If you are feeling tired, stressed, or overwhelmed your body might react to meditation and tell you to get some sleep.

Eating a heavy meal

Having a full stomach can induce a general feeling of sleepiness. This can be caused by:

  • the release of hormones
  • the nutrient content of the foods eaten
  • the fact that your body is focusing energy on digestion
  • consuming a large volume of food

Foods like fish, eggs, cheese, and tofu are known to contain tryptophan. Tryptophan might induce sleepiness via the release of serotonin.

Some foods also contain melatonin which controls the body’s the sleep-wake cycle.

Other foods like avocado, chocolate, grains, and bananas contain magnesium which can cause your muscles to relax.

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