One of the most common questions the beginner (and intermediate) meditator has is: what is the best time of day to meditate?
The time of the day selected for meditation is not essential, but it does make a difference.
This article answers this question from all possible angles.
The Pragmatic Answer
I have never come across any scientific study on the effects of meditating at different times of the day—so I will answer you from my experience as a meditation teacher, and as someone who has meditated regularly for nearly two decades.
For you to get the most benefit from your meditation, ideally you want to practice when you feel rested and alert. So this means not right after a heavy meal, or when you are sleepy or physically exhausted.
Apart from that, the most important thing—especially for beginner and intermediate meditators—is simply keeping the daily habit.
So the practical answer is: the best time to meditate is the one that best fits your schedule. In other words, it’s when you are most likely to do it, consistently. And that depends on your lifestyle and routine.
Having said that, let’s dive into the specific advantages and disadvantages of different times of the day.
Different Times of the Day
Meditating early in the morning—right after a trip to the bathroom, and before breakfast—is the time recommended by most teachers.
- Creates a buffer against the stress of your day
- It’s easier to keep the daily habit, and make sure you don’t skip, since you do it before the busy-ness of the day kicks in
- It sets up a better mood and tone for the rest of your day
- The benefits of the practice are more easily carried over to daily life
- You naturally feel more well-rested, which leads to a better meditation
- There are fewer distractions going on in your mind, and less noise around you
- You may need to wake up a bit earlier than usual
- Some people find that they are still a bit sleepy, and it’s hard to focus
If you struggle with self-discipline for building a meditation habit, read this article.
Meditating at noon, before lunch, is an increasingly popular option for busy professionals who can’t make time in the morning, and need a break in the middle of a stressful day
- Gives you a natural break in your day, allowing you to decompress and get ready for the challenges of the rest of your day
- For most of us, noon is a time when we are fully awake and alert, but not yet tired, which is the ideal state to be in for meditation
- It may be hard to find a good place to meditate, where you can sit without being interrupted, and without feeling weird
- Depending on the nature of your work, lunchtime may be hectic and inconsistent; you may need to shorten it some days, or you might be interrupted with an urgent call/task
Keeping a meaningful meditation practice at night is challenging, but may be the preferred time for those who are not morning people.
- Great way to recover from the stress of the day
- Creates a nice break between work time and personal time
- There is less time pressure involved
- Helps you to relax at the end of your day and have better sleep
- You may feel too tired to meditate
- Your mind may be less alert and rested, which leads to sleepy sessions
- It may be hard to meditate every day—some nights you will feel exhausted after a long workday, or may have social or family activities to participate in
- If you need to skip, you cannot “leave it for later”; you’ve missed it
If your goal with meditation is mainly to get better sleep, then meditating right before bedtime can be a good idea. I recommend the practice of Yoga Nidra for this.
On the other hand, if you meditate mostly for other purposes, then it’s better to practice earlier on in the evening—ideally before dinner—so you are more alert. If at any time you struggle with sleepiness during meditation, see this answer.
Regardless of what is your chosen time for a formal meditation practice, I highly recommend that you also practice a couple of “mini-meditations” during the day.
These are informal meditation practices done anytime, anywhere, and in any bodily position. They usually last one to three minutes, and can be done with eyes open or closed.
You could use mindfulness reminder tools for that, or simply take a couple of minutes to pause whenever you feel stressed out or emotionally triggered.
What the Spiritual Books Say
In most contemplative traditions and ancient meditation manuals, the ideal time for meditation is said to be the two hours before sunrise. In the Hindu tradition, this time is highly regarded as auspicious for meditation, and is known as Brahmamuhurta.
The spiritual explanation given to this recommendation is that at this time there is a predominance of calmness and purity (sattva) in the atmosphere, and that “the energy more easily flows through the central channel (sushumna)”.
The Yogis, for example, feel very strongly about this. In the words of Swami Sivananda (one of the fathers of modern Yoga, and an early inspiration in my own path):
O Man! It is Brahmamuhurta now!
Do not snore. Do not roll in the bed.
Throw away the blanket.
Get up, start your meditation vigorously, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the Inner Self.
— Swami Sivananda
A more naturalistic explanation for this unearthly recommendation would be the following.
- Exposure to darkness and sunlight activates the pineal gland, which secretes hormones such as melatonin, responsible for the regulation of our circadian rhythm and all our other hormones.
- In the absence of light (at night), melatonin production is at its highest.
- The release of melatonin is associated with relaxation, turning inward, and experiences of subconscious states of mind (similar to those of meditation).
- Therefore at the end of the night, before the day begins, there is this window of time when we are fully rested, but can still meditate under the influence of the calming and mind-altering effects of melatonin.
For some, that may be a much more acceptable explanation.
A second favorite time for meditation for the ancient masters is the sunset. And, for the hardcore traditional meditators following some “special practices”, the ideal time is 2 am, after a few hours of sleep. 😳🤯
For Sadhuguru, a well-known modern Yogi, the best time to meditate is 3 am, or 3:30 am.
The Best Time to Meditate (Conclusion)
In conclusion, here is my general answer on this topic.
The best time to meditate is early morning, after visiting the bathroom and before breakfast.
If that is not possible for you for whatever reason, then meditate at whatever time fits your schedule. Choose a time that will be more likely for you to follow and keep as a daily habit.
If you choose to meditate in the evening, do so before dinner, otherwise you will likely struggle with sleepiness during your practice.
And no matter what time you choose, include some mini-meditations during your day, and keep your daily habit. That is one of the Three Pillars of Meditation, and it’s the foundation of your practice.
Finally, consider also the timing in relation to physical exercise. Light exercise can raise your energy and make your mind more alert for meditation (which is good). But heavy physical exercise or manual work can be exhausting, making meditation right after it more challenging.
What time do you meditate, and why? Please share it in the comments.