When a meditator asks a non-meditator whether or not they meditate, they will occasionally joke by saying “Yes, every night, I zone out for about 8 hours.” In other words, they say that meditation is simply a form of sleep. Although they both recharge and relax the body, sleep and meditation are two completely different things.
A common misconception of meditation is that meditation is just conscious sleep. Although this is a close description of what meditation is, it is not completely accurate. Let me put it this way. Your body is like a car. A car needs gas to run, and you need to refill it regularly. But with a car, just putting gas in it over and over again isn’t enough to keep it running efficiently. You also need to get the oil, filters, and spark plugs changed, along with other maintenance done to keep it running efficiently. Sleep is like filling your car with gas-it keeps your body running. Meanwhile, meditation is like maintenance-it keeps your body running efficiently.
So what exactly is the difference? I mean, both meditation and sleep relax and rejuvenate the body. Here are a few differences.
- While you sleep, your body may be relaxed, but your mind is still racing around with thoughts, dreams, and is never resting. In meditation, your mind does have a chance to relax.
- You can meditate for 15 minutes and feel better, but if you sleep for 15 minutes, you feel more tired than you did before you fell asleep.
- You can meditate anytime, anywhere, but to sleep, you usually need a quiet, dark place so you can actually fall asleep.
- It takes some people a while to fall asleep (30 minutes for me personally), while meditation takes little “prep time.”
- Meditation involves less “tossing and turning” (usually).
- You are conscious during meditation.
So it appears that meditation has many benefits over sleep. This begs the question: Can meditation replace sleep? Personally, I have never tried replacing meditation with sleep (that’s an experiment for another day), but remember the car metaphor. If you just do maintenance on your car, and not put gas anywhere, it will not go very far. So if you just meditate, and not sleep, it will could not be helpful. But like I said, its an experiment for another day.
So do you think meditation and sleep are similar? Have you ever tried replacing meditation with sleep? Comments are always welcome!