7
$\begingroup$

In Monasteries and other spiritual contexts, there seems to be a "rule" that sleep is wasted time, and so the usual daily schedule only allows for about 4-5 hours of sleep. This might be enough for an 80-year-old, but anyone else will probably be sleep-deprived and not very functional, let alone be able to make any spiritual progress.

I asked about whether adults can get by with less sleep, and got no answers. Does anyone know why spiritual scenarios seem to try to reduce sleep hours? One thought is that people think it is associated with laziness, indolence, lethargy, unproductive time, idleness, sloth, etc. But no one tries to reduce food intake, or use of the toilet, so why is sleep the big bad guy?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Be more specific. What spiritual context? Define spiritual progress. A lot of monks do reduce food intake, search about asceticism. Think about this: If you remove every comfort from your life and yet is capable of finding inner peace, man... you are really free! And that's the non-attachment philosophy. Also, if you want to develop your mental endurance, staying awake, with cold and hungry is a pretty good exercise. Nobody goes to a monastery to live like a king it is the opposite. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Feb 3 '16 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Daniel Not sure if I will add more detail to the question. The idea is more of the intent of reducing sleep in some circumstances, not what the circumstances are. Is the intent to help people? Challenge them? Enforce discipline? Take them out of their usual rut? I am not sure that mental endurance can be built up like exercising a muscle. I know that it can be reduced through overwork and not enough rest. Spiritual Progress means developing in the direction taught by the tradition that one is following. Again, the details are not the point of this question. $\endgroup$ – user9634 Feb 5 '16 at 3:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you are treating the correlation as causality. The "spiritual people" have so many other factors in their life that are different from the "regular people". Some of them, namely, the average age, daily routine, diet, level of stress and many others, have serious impact on the sleep habits. $\endgroup$ – NovemberSierra Feb 7 '16 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @EmptyBrain Most of the "regular people" do not sleep enough or properly either. Nearly every person I have ever slept near has slept poorly due to simple dehydration. If we are too dumb as animals to drink enough water, then spiritual progress seems out of reach, no matter what practices we follow. Spiritual life can be stressful also. I don't see that reducing sleep ought to be the first thing that people take on. $\endgroup$ – user9634 Feb 8 '16 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ My experience is that as someone attains inner peace, sleep becomes really only for the body to rest. For most people, sleep is a time to release stresses and strains through dreams, but as you go deep, there just isn't that much stress to recover from. Because of that and quality diet, what sleep you do get isn't tossy and turny, but very deep and of good quality. It's not really a question of deprivation, just reduced need. Also I think the lifestyle there is far less stimulus-driven and physically tiring than most people's in the modern world. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – Sanjay Mar 8 '18 at 6:59
3
$\begingroup$

There's a difference between spiritual people and students trying to learn something. Sleep deprivation is an effective tool of breaking old learned routines - you just cant remember them too well when sleep deprived (Source). Once you learned what you need, sleep deprivation becomes very disruptive.

An example given is performing a novel task, like reciting the months of a calendar year backwards(December - November - October...). Old ingrained pattern of (January-February-March...) gets in the way, and people who are sleep deprived are apparently doing better on a this task than control subjects, because the old pattern is not remembered as well. (Same source)

There are a number of "programs" and "cults" like Landmark Forum, which attempt to teach/brainwash/indoctrinate you into learning some new outlook on life in a very short period of time. It has been proposed that sleep deprivation is a very big part of this "reprogramming".

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suppose drunkenness would work too. I read that people with a hangover drive worse than drunk people. Also, people who are sleep-deprived drive worse. Yes, those old routines of safe driving get interrupted, in favor of the novelty of Oh Crap!!!! Screech! There is also the old joke: "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car." $\endgroup$ – user9634 Mar 9 '16 at 2:20
0
$\begingroup$

Let's consider what happens when we sleep. Our body specially brain gets relaxed, you will see change in brain waves. During sleeping less cycles per second waves occur than awaken times. Blood circulation increases, your brain gets repaired from everyday workings. Now some spiritual activities may elevate these situations inside your brain, specially meditation. Almost all spiritual people meditate, one way or another. Research shows deep meditation for half an hour works like 2 hours of sleeping! What monks of course do.

$\endgroup$

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci. Could you add your sources? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Feb 7 '16 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I have been told that meditation is more restful than sleep. Perhaps, with certain types and levels of meditation, however I still found that I needed a lot of sleep, at least 8 hours daily to feel normal. It might have been my health situation or the stress I was under. These both made deep, restorative meditation essentially impossible for me. So I was stuck. I think that the rules need to fit the situation of the person trying to follow them, not the reverse. With good sleep and less stress, most likely my meditation would have improved. $\endgroup$ – user9634 Feb 8 '16 at 2:10

protected by AliceD Mar 9 '18 at 8:49

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?