According to Lama Surya Das, novice monks traditionally meditate 23 hours a day, with one hour for sleep. I met another American lama who said the same thing. How is this even possible? Even if the monk goes into deep meditation, is one hour of sleep enough? And these were novices.

I have wondered about this for years, and can't seem to find anything about it on the web. I often meditate when tired, because of chronic insomnia, and I often wonder what the relationship between sleep and meditation is. Does anyone know anything about this practice?

Sorry if this is not specific enough, but I don't know anything else about this practice, but I find it extremely intriguing.

2 Answers 2


One can get by on little to no sleep when one mediates a lot but it requires a lot of learning and jhana.

If one had a good novice and a good teacher, under perfect conditions, then i think it is maybe possible to train some person in this way.

However in practise when one gets to little to no sleep stages then one will often skip a night altogether or find oneself too restless to sleep at a particular time.

Even Buddha's novices didn't do this and monks were advised to sleep in the 2nd watch of the night.

Therefore i don't think one can find a place where novices sleep only an hour a day lest they are forced to do it.

Forcing one is abuse and isn't even useful for meditation. I imagine many places are abusive.


You're assuming they are meditating and not actually sleeping for some of those 23 hours. ;-)

When we do a sesshin, we'll sit somewhere in the area of 16 hours a day. Let me tell you, even with 5 hours of scheduled sleep, as a novice you'll end up dozing off on the cushion for at least an hour if not more. Another four hours or so will be spent in a half sleep state. You get your rest, one way or the other. The body takes what it needs. And of course, do this long enough and you even start to get pretty good at sleeping sitting up!

But a funny thing happens after about three days of this. Even beginners start to feel energized and need less sleep overall. People who have been practicing for, say, ten years or more stop needing sleep altogether. In fact, you are so energized, sleep just doesn't come.

Don't get me wrong, 23 hours sounds a bit excessive, but it's not so far outside the realm of possibility as it might sound - even for a motivated beginner.

  • I remember Lama Surya Das said something similar--sometimes he would stretch out in his cell and nap for a while. Very interesting about not needing sleep. Can't imagine!
    – mckinzie25
    May 6, 2021 at 17:15
  • 1
    @mckinzie25 - the energy that is poured into self-driven motivations is astonishing. That's why humans sleep so long; it's tiresome trying to keep up with the persistent demands of egotism. When you reach a particular part of practice, this becomes abundantly clear... more energy is freed and sleeping time is reduced. Energy is available to you on-tap.
    – user17652
    May 7, 2021 at 5:38
  • Also, if you are sitting on your duff for 15+ hours a day, you aren't exactly exerting a ton of energy either. So there's that.
    – user21064
    May 7, 2021 at 11:16

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