Meditation results in a deeper relaxation of our minds. Benefits of meditation are so widespread and well known. So is it possible to eliminate the need of sleep with meditation? Is meditation superior to sleep?
The short answer is NO. And we will see why.
There are many experiments designed to test the effects of meditation. Bruce O'Hara, from the University of Kentucky conducted one such experiment. He gave a vigilance test to his subjects. Then he repeated the same experiment following a period of conversation, meditation and napping. He was amazed that all of his subjects performed better after meditation than any other activity including sleep. But when he repeated the test after one hour, it showed that the positive effect was short lasting. O'Hara conducted further studies and concluded that it takes two hours of meditation to replace one hour of sleep.
Meditation vs Sleep
The reason for the confusion between meditation and sleep lies in the assumption that they are both equal. Sleep occurs in different stages of light and deep sleep. Sleep is characterized by delta waves. During sleep our bodies relax and the minds switched to 'auto pilot'. This restful state is required to restore damaged cells and tissue.
Meditation produces theta waves in the frontal area highlighting deep relaxation. Alpha waves appear on the posterior part of the brain and signifies wakeful rest. There is hardly any delta waves during meditation.
Despite leaving your mind rested, meditation and sleep are two different forms of relaxation. So you might feel refreshed after a period of meditation, but it is not a substitute for sleep.
Meditation can improve your sleep
Sleep and meditation compliment each other. When you sleep well, it helps to meditate better. And meditation enhances the sleeping experience in more than one way. During meditation the serotonin levels in your body goes up. Low serotonin levels are linked to insomnia and depression. Those who meditate regularly sleep better. Meditation increases the REM sleep. Meditation can also be used just prior to sleep at night. It can calm your body, so you can quickly fall asleep and attain deep sleep. Meditation during the day can help you get through your work with less tension.
Share your own experiences on the effects of meditation on sleep.