Improving Self-Awareness And Growth Through ‘Conscious Sleep’

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To sleep is to put our bodies to rest. Every night, they need a good chunk of hours to recover from all the stress we put them through during the day, so we close our eyes and let our minds drift away while our physical selves recoup.

What if there was a form of sleep that, while still letting your body rest, didn’t let your mind fall fully into an unconscious state while doing so? This phenomenon is called conscious sleep, a state that both scientists and meditation experts find fascinating.

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A Resting Mind

When we think about sleeping, we generally consider it a state during which our subconscious mind is brought forward. Abstract dreamscapes are conjured up from the worries, hopes, and thoughts that lay dormant in the backs of our minds during waking hours, our conscious mind totally at rest as we navigate these latent thoughts.

Someone asleep on their couch, covered in a blue blanket.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

What if there was a way to master our sleeping state, to make it so we could still engage our conscious mind while asleep? Experts say that not only is ‘conscious sleep’ a real thing, but anyone can achieve it with enough practice.

The Basics

First, let’s go over conscious sleep in more detail and figure out what it really is. Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., describes conscious sleep as “the ability to be aware of the self, but not of our body or surroundings, during different stages of sleep.”

A greyscale image of a woman laying in bed, a pillow on top of her head.
A woman sleeping on her bed
A woman sleeping on her bed

Research has largely focused on this state of sleeping in reference to REM sleep and lucid dreaming, both of which either pass through or utilize the concept of conscious sleep.

That doesn’t mean those are the only two places in which conscious sleep is attainable, though.

Meditation Connection

Teitelbaum explains that some meditation practices use conscious sleep as a means of teaching a form of self-awareness that’s detached from one’s body and surroundings, focusing solely on the mind during deep, non-dreaming sleep.

Someone seen from the chest down meditating, legs folded and hands on their knees.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas once teamed up with yoga expert Swāmī Rāma to explore this concept together. How could someone simultaneously be in a deep sleep while also being perfectly aware of their mind and surroundings?

Two Sides, Same Coin

Rāma’s perspective was that conscious sleep is less ‘sleep’ as we know it in a traditional sense and more a form of deep meditation. Conscious sleep and the steps taken to achieve it can help teach people how to enter and maintain their meditative state, tuning out the world around them.

A woman asleep atop a book at a table, someone covering her shoulders with a blanket.
Pexels / Min An
Pexels / Min An

With the promise of better self-awareness and an isolated meditative state, maybe you’re interested in learning about how one could attain a mystical-seeming state of conscious sleep. Next, we’ll look at the recorded advice about how to get there.

Real Focus

The metaphysical advice is to get into meditation if you haven’t already!

A woman, pictured chest up, with her hands together in meditation, eyes closed.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

You don’t have to become an expert, either. Understanding the basics and the purpose behind meditation should be enough to set you on the path to conscious sleep.

Another yoga master, Jagadish Vasudev, says that the key to achieving conscious sleep is to “distance yourself from your physical nature.” That may sound a bit daunting to those new to the practice, but you’ll find that once it clicks for you, the separation of mind and body will become much easier.

The How-To

There are two areas in which you’ll need to improve if you want to achieve conscious sleep: the physical and the metaphysical.

Someone holding up a glass of wine.
Pexels / Elina Sazonova
Pexels / Elina Sazonova

For the physical, Virginia Blackwell, M.D., instructs that one must have healthy sleep hygiene if they want to reach conscious sleep. Healthy sleep hygiene can include things such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, partaking in stress-relieving activities (taking a bath, doing yoga, doing a skincare routine), and turning off your electronic devices before laying down.

Readying Yourself

Once you have a good grasp on both ends, you can use them to your advantage.

Two women laying in the grass on some mats, hands on their torsos, meditating.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

With your practice in meditation and your healthy nighttime habits, you’re now lying down comfy and cozy in your bed. The first steps toward conscious sleep are similar to the first steps in a meditative session: declutter your mind and rid yourself of scattered thoughts. With no mental blockages, your mind is free to wander upwards towards a higher plane of awareness, and is better able to differentiate between your physical and mental self.

Staying In Control

Once it’s wandered high enough and that separation between the mind and body has sunk in, you’ll find yourself falling now into a deep rest in your body.

A woman floating in dark water.
Pexels / Roy Reyna
Pexels / Roy Reyna

As yet another yoga instructor, Beth Shaw, told mbghealth, “Within this relaxed mental state, you will find you are more in control over your thoughts, allowing them to pass as you focus on your breath until you drift off into a non-REM conscious state of sleep. It is in this state of sleep where we can become one with our inner selves.”

What’s The Point?

This all sounds lovely, but what exactly are the benefits of conscious sleeping? What can we gain from losing awareness of our physical selves for a while?

A trio of women meditating together in the park.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Admittedly, there’s still research that needs to be done regarding any physical health benefits, but the ways it can promote emotional growth are known. Teitelbaum believes it to be greatly beneficial, saying, “[Conscious sleep] can dramatically expand our awareness and help us to not take things too seriously in life.”

Long And Short

Vasudev believes that conscious sleep helps people grow into their best selves. “When we are awake, we are conscious, but our energies are involved and engaged in many things. We have to sit up, we have to speak, we have to do some work, we have to do something else,” He wrote on his website. “But if I sleep consciously, my energies are completely consolidated, and I am still conscious—that means I am at my peak performance level.”

Someone holding up a small twig with leaves.
Pexels / Victor Santos
Pexels / Victor Santos

It’s also worth noting that even the most experienced practitioners might never achieve a full night’s worth of conscious sleep, as remaining that in tune with your mind is extremely difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying though! If this state of peace interests you, even a nap’s worth can help you grow and learn!

Finding Yourself

Conscious sleeping is an art, one that even sleep-dedicated researchers and meditation experts may never fully grasp, but its existence is still beyond fascinating. A state of ‘sleep’ that leaves us aware, meaning our bodies may rest while our minds grow, sounds like such a wonderful experience to have! Not to mention that having the discipline needed to achieve it would give you some bragging rights.

A woman laying in bed upon pink sheets and blankets.
Envato Elements
Envato Elements

Of course, this isn’t the only means of self-improvement out there, nor is it the only form of meditation. If the idea sounds alluring to you, it’s worth an attempt to see if it works, but there’s no need to stress yourself out if it doesn’t suit your life. As nice as conscious sleep sounds, you should pursue the means of growth and development that work for you, not anyone else.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]