Like many questions about meditation, there is no exact “textbook” answer. The question of whether you should meditate when you are tired is a typical no-right-or-wrong-answer question. When you are make a valid argument whether your answer is “yes” or “no”. I am going to share with what I do and my argument for it. Like Ray Dalio, a successful investor and entrepreneur has mentioned in his book, listening to someone’s argument is not about wanting to be prove yourself or the other person wrong. It’s to get a different perspective so you can triangulate the answers to find out what is the closest to the truth. So, this blog post has my sharing and see if it contradicts your belief or not.
I Value Sleep More Than Exercise and Meditation
I know someone who absolutely like to work out. He is definitely in good shape physically and one thing he has told me about his point of view on exercise and rest that I don’t agree with. He told me that he think doing a one-hour workout a day is essentially and he would do that even if he has to give up one-hour of sleep. Since he is a busy guy, it is not unusual for him to sleep for 4 hours only and then go to the gym and work out for one hour. That got me thinking. Shouldn’t you get a 5-hour sleep and do exercise in a busy day like that? His answer is “no” while my answer is a clear “yes”. In my point of view, every to-do list item has a priority attached to it. “Sleeping”, “eating”, and “going to the washroom” are not in the to-do list because they have the highest priority by default. While doing exercise and meditation are important, they can’t be more important than having enough sleep or just having more sleep in general.
So, Do I Meditate When I am Tired?
No, I don’t meditate when I am tired. By “tired”, I mean I am tired enough to fall asleep any second, or something close to that. I simply go to bed if I am that tired. What’s the point of not sleeping when your body gives you the signal that it desperately needs some rest.
It Seems that Monks Require Less Sleep
You may argue that monks or other people that spend a long time on meditation each day requires less sleep. While I belief that’s true, let’s look at things objectively and see how that doesn’t mean that meditation is the right thing to do when you are tired. What is actually going on with monks is that they spend hours on meditation so their mind are generally more clear and efficient. That means that it will make them waste less energy when they have to make decisions throughout the day. Second, let’s assume that a monk spend two hours on meditation and that means that there are two hours in the day that they are not doing heavy work. Let’s compare that with those of you that spend the same two hours on intense company meetings that involves a lot of intense thinking like coming up with solutions to difficult problems. It is natural that the monk has a less intense and less tiring day. So, it is more likely that the two hours of meditation allows the monk to have a less tiring day instead of the other way around, which it the misbelief that meditation makes the monk less tired.
What Happen If I Meditate When I Tired Anyway?
You may already have an answer in your mind, but you may be still curious about what happens to me if I meditate when I am tired anyway. Sometimes, I simply fall asleep after a minute or so. Sometimes, as I do my usual mantra meditation, I would fall into the half-asleep state that I am supposed to get into during meditation, but I still eventually fall asleep after going back and forth between mantra reading and half-sleeping for say 3 to 4 times. In other words, it is just a matter of time when I would fall asleep, sometimes with a minute and sometimes within a few minutes.
Does Meditation Hurt You If You Do It When You are Exhausted?
I would guess that it doesn’t hurt to meditate when you are exhausted. I just think that you can’t do it to achieve anything if you force yourself to do it under such a poor body condition. So, don’t worry about it if you didn’t realize yourself being tired and happen to fall asleep during meditation. It is rare to make meditation an activity that can hurt you. The only thing that I can think of is that when I meditate longer than 45 minutes in one session, I may get a headache. I guess that people with better training like monks would have no problem meditating for hours, but that’s certainly not the case for me.
How to Avoid Meditation When Tired & Still Meditate Regularly?
It may sound a little too simple explain my two ways to avoid meditating when tired and still get my daily meditation, but I will share with you my two cents anyway. The first method may sound silly but it is a very good reminder for myself. This method is to avoid having an overly-busy day. There are often times when we overestimate what we can do in one day while we underestimate what we can do in a month. So, I basically try to do a lot of work but not too much. If I have to work overtime, I simply see if I can play around with my upcoming schedule and do the extra work the day after. Method two, simply meditate in the morning. While some people like to meditate twice a day, one AM and one PM, I simply stick to my morning meditation only routine most of the time. I find it more practical and effectively enough.
In conclusion, just go to bed when you are tired. Try to do one meditation section in the morning and you may simply want to avoid an overly-busy day anyway.