Shards of Consciousness

Learn to Sleep Consciously

We spend up to a third of our lives asleep. By the time we reach the age of sixty, we've slept 20 years. What would you give to have 20 years of your life back? What would you do to add another 20 years to your sixty?

There is a way to get at least part of it back. We can learn to sleep consciously. This is the first in a series of articles on how to do so.

Conscious Sleep Has Positive Effects

Other than getting back some of the time we lose to sleep, retaining consciousness during the sleep states can have several other beneficial effects.

  • You deal directly with unconscious aspects of your mind, bringing them into awareness. You directly face your fears, hopes, aspirations, desires, and hates.
  • Much of the benefit of spiritual practices and psychotherapy is window washing. It sweeps the dirt from the mind, so we can see clearly. As with meditation, conscious sleep restructures the contents of your consciousness you allow yourself to experience the deep parts of your mind.
  • You learn detachment.
  • You can experience increased creativity and learn to exercise your imagination.
  • You can experience psychoemotional healing.
  • You can take a vacation, exploring new worlds.
  • Eventually you may experience states of consciousness similar to those you encounter during deep meditation as you begin to enter the deep sleep state consciously. Advanced practitioners consider sleep to be a perfect time to meditate.

Who Can Learn To Sleep Consciously

In rare cases, from what I've been able to read, some people learn to retain consciousness 24 hours a day throughout much of their lives. In most cases, the retention of awareness into the sleep states is more sporadic, but with practice, much more extensive than we are conditioned to believe is possible and experience as the norm. The ability to sleep consciously is inherent in all of us.

A System of Conscious Sleeping

Tibetan Yoga is one system that has formalized the techniques to take consciousness into the sleep state. The intellectual underpinnings of this set of techniques are Buddhistic. One of the basic concepts of Buddhism is that we live a conditioned existence that is inpermanent, subject to change, and ultimately insubstantial due to this change. Following this line of thought, the waking state is no more real than the sleep states, and just as we are aware when in the waking state, in the sleep states we can also be aware.

Daytime Practices

This points the way to the first step in retaining awareness during the sleep state. Throughout the day, stop occasionally and realize that your perceptions are illusory. It isn't that there isn't something out there, but that what you perceive, and what you think about it, is a result of pattern-making processes in your mind and the your interpretation of what you experience.

As you learn to accept the self-created aspects of your world, you begin to build a detachment that will help lead to increased awareness during sleep, and an increased skill in dealing with what you encounter during sleep.

Some other daytime practices to increase you chances of sleeping consciously include

  • Meditate. No matter what your goal, meditation cannot help but assist you. The grounding, centering, and clarity it induces are immensely helpful in learning to sleep consciously. Perform your meditation at least several hours before going to bed, though.
  • Don't go to bed exhausted. I can almost guarantee that exhaustion will prevent conscious sleeping. Be tired, but not overly tired when you go to bed.
  • Don't overeat. Digestion takes energy. You are better off with no more than a little food in your stomach when you go to bed. That little bit can help prevent the nausea that sometimes accompanies deep relaxation.
  • Practice rhythmic breathing.
  • Avoid alcohol or sedatives close to bedtime if at all possible. These interfere with normal sleep patterns.
Coming Next

In the next article of this series I will talk about the techniques to use when you are going to sleep to develop your ability to sleep consciously.

[tags]sleep, conscious sleep, meditation[/tags]

6 Pingbacks to Learn to Sleep Consciously

  • [...] Learn to Sleep Consciously I’ll be following this series… it sounds really interesting. (tags: sleep consciousness meditation todo) Filed under Links by Lyman Reed [...]
  • [...] In the first article of this series I introduced the idea of conscious sleeping. It isn’t a concept that is common in the West, but has a long history in cultures that have devoted more effort to exploring the inner world, such as India and Tibet. I detailed some of the benefits of learning to sleep consciously, and began sharing the techniques that will aid us in doing so. [...]
  • [...] Welcome back to our series on learning to sleep consciously. Part I of the series focused on the possibility of sleeping consciously, and some of the benefits of doing so. I discussed some of the activities and thoughts to use during the day to encourage and ease the onset of conscious sleep. In Part II of the series I talked about the different phases of sleep and activities to carry out as you prepare to sleep. This week I will begin from where I left off. [...]
  • [...] Welcome back to our series on learning to sleep consciously. Part I of the series focused on the possibility of sleeping consciously, and some of the benefits of doing so. I discussed some of the activities and thoughts to use during the day to encourage and ease the onset of conscious sleep. In Part II of the series I talked about the different phases of sleep and activities to carry out as you prepare to sleep. This week I will begin from where I left off. [...]
  • [...] the first articles in this series we have explored the benefits of sleeping consciously and daytime practices to encourage conscious sleep, the phases of sleep, and practices when you go to bed to encourage conscious sleep. We had just [...]
  • [...] also found a great series on dreaming consciously at the Shards of Consciousness Blog. It’s worth [...]

14 Responses to Learn to Sleep Consciously

  • What an interesting article, Rick!

    I didn't realize exhaustion could lead to less conscious a sleep. Not that I was trying to sleep consciously, but I was not aware going to bed so tired means I'm blocking some possibly good things.

    Look forward to more!

    #1012 | Comment by Gleb on April 25, 2007 1:42pm
  • If you wait until you're exhausted to go to bed, you are missing out on good things, Gleb.

    A proper amount of sleep at regular hours is essential for good mental and physical health. On a purely physical level, one of the purposes of sleep seems to be to repair the damage done to the body during waking activity. If you become too fatigued, too many poisons have built up in the system and your sleep will be disordered as the body recovers. On a psychological level, a lot of the work of processing the events of your waking hours gets backed up, and so again sleep is disordered as your mind and brain work to catch up. These things lead to a sleep deficit.

    In either case, you'll remember fewer of your dreams, and the dreams you do remember will probably be abnormal. One aspect of personal growth is expanding awareness. Keeping yourself in a state of exhaustion increases the separation between your conscious and unconscious. I think this is one of the reasons they used to say one hour of sleep before midnight was worth two after, and also the rationale behind having two or more sleep cycles instead of one mondo block of sleep.

  • Very strange that I never thought of it this way. The truth is, Rick, that just a few years ago, when I had much more sleep, I had such vivid and interesting dreams that I was regularly taking notes of them, making them into short stories.

    I haven't had such dreams in a while, and now it seems obvious why ;) I'll focus on sleeping better from now on.


    #1031 | Comment by Gleb on April 26, 2007 11:22pm
  • I'm glad I could give you a reminder, Gleb. ;-)

  • Even if you have busy days, there are great tactics to help you sleep. Added to what you say about meditation, good diet and exercise, I have found that very soft ambiant music helps to slow my brain waves.

    #1042 | Comment by Robyn on April 27, 2007 5:14am
  • Robyn,

    Thank you for the tip. Soft music is effective in helping to induce sleep. I used to do this quite a bit. Dreamboat Annie by Heart was one of my favorite albums to sleep by when I was younger.

    Have you ever noticed an influence on the content or type of your dreams in relation to the music you listen to as you go to sleep?

  • Interesting information indeed. A few month ago I went through a phase of retaining consciousness whilst I slept; lucid dreaming, and being aware of my sub-conscious thoughts.

    I have found one way to maintain conscious sleep is to avoid an excessive amount of distractions during the day. Easier said than done - I know, as there is a lot of noise nowadays. I wrote a short piece about this very subject:

    #879 | Comment by Marcus on April 29, 2007 5:12am
  • Have you been able to identify anything you were doing differently during that period of time, Marcus?

    The point about distractions is a good one. Some of what I've read about sleeping consciously has dealt with the same issue, saying the same thing you do.

    Thank you for the link. It's interesting reading. You've got yourself a new subscriber.

  • I have been caring for my 96 year-old mother. I usually work at night when she is asleep so I can concentrate.
    Here are some of the items I have found which contribute to a sound sleep experience:

    1. Same-e : Sam-e is the precursor to melatonin in the body. If Same-e is given, then the brain will begin to secrete melatonin as soon as the eyes are closed. However this Sam-e should not be given in the day time because this will promote daytime sleeping which is an antagonist to a good night'w sleep.
    For those who can control sleep, however, Sam-e may be the key to the power nap - it is for me.

    2. Niacin : right after a good niacin skin-flush the user will feel tired and sleepy, so I give the niacin at bedtime. Niacin also promotes good circulation and 50% of aging is simply constricted blood vessels.

    3. Melatonin, 3mg.

    4. 1/2 of an Elavil. Elavil has the effect of inducing sleep in about half of all people.

    5. 1/2 of a Xanax.

    6. No food within 2 hours of bedtime.

    7. Simple suggestion that good sleep will happen.

    8. Clearing the nasal passages for easy breathing. This is done by using a small spray bottle of pure sea salt and distilled water. The salty aerosol is speayed into the nose and inhaled into the passages. This will clear the passages within 20 minutes - no Breathe-Right strips needed.

    I find that these measures will allow anyone to get a good night's sleep with no hangover.

  • You've chosen a dangerous way to get a good night's sleep, Henry. It should be noted that SAMe can also induce anxiety and worsen mania in bipolar disease. Side effects include gastric problems, heart problems, agitation, sweats, and breathing problems. It shouldn't be taken with antidepressants.

    Xanax is addictive, worsens breathing disorders, and can have a host of other effects.

    Elavil is a trycyclic antidepressant, one of the types of drugs SAMe shouldn't be taken with.

    Enough drugs allow anyone to get a good night sleep for a short time. The side effects of your regimen are dangerous and ultimately self-defeating. No one should self-medicate in such a way.

  • For my lucid dreaming sessions I generally use a sedative - nimetazepam (not available outside Asia - Japanese pharma co.). It works wonders - I tend to dream during last few hours - waking and going back into dreaming. I used to be able to lucid dream as a child - had nightmares for years due to bad childhood and gained lucidity in final nightmare - was chased by my vampire and finally made consious decision to stop running - I woke up when he bit me and never saw him again but could control my dream world, reenter dreams I had woke up from, continue dreams from previous night - was a total master back then but I dont know when I lost the habit. Picked it up after using the sedative again and generally need it to induce the proper sleep environment. I dont have the skill level I had as a child but I am trying all sorts of things. I can kill characters at thought, fly/float, psychokinesis. The other day saw my face in mirror for first time - face looked too perfect but I could see was still me. Having sex and maintaining dream is a bit of a problem but kissing random girl characters is fine though they usually look bewildered after.

    #1085 | Comment by GD on May 8, 2007 3:43pm
  • Hi GD,

    Thank you for stopping in.

    Your remembering more dreams from the last part of the night makes perfect sense. The first part of the night is primarily dreamless sleep, when the biological reasons for sleep seem to be taken care of. Most dreaming occurs after that.

    You may be interested in a book by Oliver Fox called Astral Projection: A Record of Out-of-the-Body Experiences. He talks a great deal about the need for emotional control in order to maintain a lucid state.

    I think you may be better served learning to use meditation as a way to induce lucid dreams than the drug.

  • Maintaining awareness while sleeping is something I have been very interested in since I began meditating and having more lucid dreams. One thing that has helped me is to invoke the grace of Kundalini Shakti, or the Holy Spirit, or Divine Presence. Whatever name you want to call it, it's the divine power that resides within each of us and is absolutely capable of helping to guide you into deeper states of awareness, such as meditation or conscious sleep.

    I am also going to take a set of courses by Joseph Dillard at the Southwest Institute of the Healing Arts in Arizona in Dream Yoga. His approach seems very interesting to me, in which you are able to consciously speak with various aspects of your Self in your dreams, and consciously come into an awareness about yourself that maybe you didn't know before. Thanks for the great insights!

    #1004 | Comment by Ralph on June 14, 2007 5:24pm
  • Hello Ralph,

    Thank you for stopping in! I've been interested in sleep and the dream state since my teens when I first found out about out of body travel. Invocation of a higher/deeper source is always helpful.

    I thank you for the link to Dillard's site. I've never heard of him or his work and look forward to exploring it.

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