Controlling the amount of sleep you need



I have propensity to sleep too much with very deep sleep. I have a job and hence limited time. I do not want this habit to eat away the time I can devote to practice meditation (Hong-Sau). Please guide strategy how can I change my state of mind to control this habit.



—Shailesh Nautiyal, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India


First, “very deep sleep” is not a bad thing. Far too many people these days have trouble getting deep enough sleep. So don’t feel bad about that unless you feel it is impairing your waking functions.

Another thing to realize is that different people need different amounts of sleep. Eight hours is considered a healthy minimum for most people—but how many people these days do you know who get that much? Most try to get by on much less, much to their disadvantage. And some people legitimately need more than eight hours.

Another issue to consider is your diet. Eating heavy or hard-to-digest foods can subtly fatigue the body so it needs more sleep than it would if you ate a healthy diet. So ask yourself, Is my diet contributing to this sleep problem?

If, after thinking about those points and deciding that you still think you sleep too much, then one strategy is to plan a regimen that gradually cuts down on your sleep. It would involve going to bed and awaking at predetermined times, and gradually shortening the amount of sleeping time, a little bit at a time (e.g., 10 minutes per week). The key with such regimens is to stick to it no matter what. Then your body will have a chance to accustom itself gracefully to a new sleeping pattern. And that means living the rest of your day in such a way that you can stick to it, e.g., don’t do things in the evenings that will interfere with your sleep regimen (making it harder to go to bed and/or get up at your prearranged time, for example).

Deep meditation is an excellent way to cut down on the sleep you need, but don’t imagine you’ll be able to do that effectively if you are starting from a place of bad sleep habits. Take care of the gross solutions first; then approach the subtler solutions. Work patiently and persistently, with a foundation of healthy lifestyle habits. You might be surprised at how things can change.