“I fell asleep.” I said once, after a meditation session. In that moment, I felt sad because it seemed to me that I had missed my practice.

“If you fell asleep it means that your body needed it.” The teacher replied. He explained to me that when we are particularly tired or stressed, meditation can easily transition into sleep.

After the lesson, I felt regenerated, like I usually feel after meditation. For the first time, I realized the importance of sleep in our practical and spiritual life. It happened to all of us to wake up grumpy because of a bad night, but we are usually willing to sacrifice sleep for activities that we consider more important. Yes, it can be a good choice if we have a tight deadline, but we will pay the consequences the day after. If we don’t sleep well, our body and mind can’t function properly and this behavior impacts our social and professional performance.

Clinical sleep researcher Rafael Pelayo told the Wall Street Journal that we sleep in roughly 90-minute cycles, shifting from deep sleep to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The latter occurs more in the second half of the night (closer to daybreak), so if we go to bed super-late, we get more REM sleep, and less of the restorative deep sleep that keeps us productive and alert. This means that we have to find a balance between the two phases, making sure we experience both every night.

Sleep and meditation have one thing in common: they both require us to abandon our thoughts. In order to fall asleep, we have to shift our priorities and concentrate on the present. If we have a thought stuck in our mind, we probably won’t be able to fall in the hands of Morpheus. That thought stays with us, like a fly that we know is in the bedroom, but we weren’t able to kill. If that is the case, there are ways to stop thinking about the fly. Look for a distraction. Read a book, or watch your favorite tv series. Do you want to know my secret? An episode of “Friends” works well. It makes me laugh and relax.

We can consider sleeping like a form of meditation. It’s a practice and it takes time to get it right, but recognizing the importance of sleep is the first step towards a healthier life.

Originally published at medium.com