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How much sleep, on average, does an Orthodox monk get?


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#1 Jake A.

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 09:49 PM

Monks follow a very busy schedule of prayer and work, I was wondering how much sleep do you think an Orthodox monk gets, and if their prayer and work schedule is so strict, how can many of them have time to write books, like Seraphim Rose?


Thanks.

#2 Kusanagi

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 11:10 PM

15 minutes according to a monk from Mt Athos said. Or not at all according to a fr i know here who has met such a monk on Mt Athos. He hasnt slept for 2-3 years now.

#3 Ryan

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:44 AM

Monks follow a very busy schedule of prayer and work, I was wondering how much sleep do you think an Orthodox monk gets, and if their prayer and work schedule is so strict, how can many of them have time to write books, like Seraphim Rose?


Thanks.


I think it really depends on the monastery and the rules there. I have heard of some monks getting about 2-3 hours each night, and other monks with a more 'normal' schedule.

#4 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 03:19 AM

At Athos they go to bed around 9:00pm and get up at midnight for their prayer rule for an hour then go back to bed for an hour or two then get up at about 2:00am for services that last until after daylight. Some then take another nap or stay up until early afternoon and then if they need to take another nap they do.

You can read the lives of the saints and see some slept standing up or little at all on just on a stool. One Holy Father quoted just recently on the forum said a monk only needs 1 hour of sleep a night. To me this is extreme in the extreme.

Of course each monk is distinct and separate and under the guidance of their igumen. They all have separate talents and needs. It is up to them with their spiritual father to strike a balance. They, as we, are to mortify our bodies and passions. Little sleep and little food with the help of prayer fights off the demons. They take to heart the scripture of the being awake for the bridegroom as he cometh at midnight; like we are reading during the services this week. We read the parable of the 10 virgins tonight. 5 were wise and had thier fill of oil, 5 were foolish and did not keep their lamps full of oil. What is this oil if not Good Works. The bridegroom came for them at midnight. Some were ready, others were locked out of the marriage hall.

Paul

On a personal note, I go to bed around midnight every night and I have been waking up every morning around 4:30am. Wide awake and it takes me several minutes to go back to sleep. I am setting up another icon corner in my bedroom so when this happens, I can emulate the Athonite monks and get up, say a few prayers and try to go back to sleep for 2 more hours. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't, but I find it intersting I wake up almost exactly the same time every morning.

#5 Alice

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 03:46 AM

Sleep is regenerating and God created man to sleep on average eight hours for optimum health and mental clarity. I don't see why non monastics would need to modify that?

#6 Jake A.

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 03:59 AM

You can read the lives of the saints and see some slept standing up or little at all on just on a stool. One Holy Father quoted just recently on the forum said a monk only needs 1 hour of sleep a night. To me this is extreme in the extreme.
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I agree, but on the other hand, I think if you are a novice, the rules are a little less strict, as you continue in your ascetic lifestyle you advance as you go - I am not sure on this, but hope that this is so.

#7 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 04:04 AM

I would love to get 8 full hours uninterrupted sleep a day. It'll never happen. I can't remember the last time I actually got to "sleep in". I don't purposfully wake myself up at 4:30am. I just wake up. As long as I am up, I might as well make it productive. Besides, I have read medically we only need 6 hours restful sleep with 8 being the optimum.

I wear a CPAP so depending on how much I toss and turn, I roll over onto it waking myself up multiple times a night; not to mention the dogs barking at every little sound outside. And I am not the only human in my house that snores. (Don't tell her I said that).

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 04:07 AM

I agree, but on the other hand, I think if you are a novice, the rules are a little less strict, as you continue in your ascetic lifestyle you advance as you go - I am not sure on this, but hope that this is so.


I agree, these are examples of the extreme lifestyle. Your question was not about novices though. I think this is the norm...

Of course each monk is distinct and separate and under the guidance of their igumen. They all have separate talents and needs. It is up to them with their spiritual father to strike a balance.



#9 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 01:53 PM

Monks follow a very busy schedule of prayer and work, I was wondering how much sleep do you think an Orthodox monk gets, and if their prayer and work schedule is so strict, how can many of them have time to write books, like Seraphim Rose?
Thanks.


Each monk may be assigned different work. At St. Anthony's monastery in AZ, there is a monk that tends the vineyards and makes wine, there is one that runs the bookstore, and one that spends all of his time setting Byzantine chant in English and putting it online. So, writing books and running a publishing company was probably a good bit of the daily work that Fr. Seraphim did. Abbot Gerasim of St. Herman's was actually at my church a few weeks ago talking about what they do there, but I didn't get to hear it. My wife did, maybe I'll ask her more specifics.

The typical daily schedule at the Elder Ephraim monasteries in the U.S. have two rest periods. One in the evening after Compline, from maybe between 7and 8 until midnight. Then prayer and reading until 3am when the morning services happen. After the liturgy and breakfast there is another rest period, say from 7:30-11am. Then they start their work, sometimes with lunch in between. They work until dinner and evening services.

So, there is the possibility of 5-8 hours of "rest" a day. Feasts and such had different schedules of course.

Sbdn. Anthony

Edited by Anthony Stokes, 16 April 2009 - 01:56 PM.
spelling errors


#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 03:14 PM

My own personal opinion is that a spiritually healthy body needs only 4 hours per night and the rest is harmful. Do I practice that? Not yet!

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 07:03 PM

Reality is defined in the official Pooh dictionary as that bothersome period between naps.

Herman the Pooh

#12 Kseniya M.

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 08:40 PM

When I had small children, Sleep Was The Most Important Thing In The World. I can't even imagine getting so little sleep and being able to cope with my boisterous boys, much less anything else. I'd become a shrieking harpy.

(Actually, I occasionally have periods of unexplained insomnia. I become completely unable to cope with anything unexpected, and if pressed, I do actually shriek. Yes, me, the shy shrinking violet, shrieking.)

-Kseniya

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 08:57 PM

When I had small children, Sleep Was The Most Important Thing In The World. I can't even imagine getting so little sleep and being able to cope with my boisterous boys, much less anything else. I'd become a shrieking harpy.

(Actually, I occasionally have periods of unexplained insomnia. I become completely unable to cope with anything unexpected, and if pressed, I do actually shriek. Yes, me, the shy shrinking violet, shrieking.)

-Kseniya


A huge difference between a monastery and a modern home however is the continuous noise & energy level of the latter. This is an incredible challenge. When I meet my younger parents I see them as martyric. As a monk priest the greatest challenge I face is from my cat when she's charging around the house! Pretty minor stuff but I still don't like it.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 10:33 PM

It's already been mentioned that there is considerable difference between monasteries, and practices of individual monks. Some monks don't sleep at all - others get a "normal" eight hours of sleep a night. And there's everything in between. I suspect the ones that seem to sleep very little are engaging in what is known as microsleep, and aren't even aware of it themselves.

What I would like to mention is a warning: cutting back on sleep is an incredibly powerful asceticism. In fact, it's so powerful, it should not be done unless one is under the *close* supervision of a spiritual father or elder who is experienced in this particular type of asceticism!

Rocket fuel is extremely powerful, and when used correctly, it can do stuff like put a man on the moon and bring him back again. Used incorrectly... well, you get my point.

Sleep deprivation can produce all sorts of psychological phenonmena that can easily be taken for "spiritual progress" by someone who is inexperienced. Feeling tired and sleepy is not the only symptom of sleep deprivation. One can have feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, deleria, a host of memory problems, and the list goes on.

It's just that, unless one is guided directly and closely by an experienced guide in this sort of thing, the sin of prelest is almost guaranteed to come of it. A few notable exceptions are people like St John of Shanghai and San Francisco - but they are the exceptions, not the rule!

Now, I know that most of you were not planning on imitating this in your lives, but there are some impressionable people out there who might want to try. My advice is DON'T! Unless you are a monastic, in a monastic community, under an experienced elder and surrounded by people who can help you if they see any warning signs. Sleep deprivation is dangerous.

Those of us who are, basically, on their own in this, should keep getting (or trying to get, in the case of parents of youngsters) a regular healthy sleep.

If God grants you this as a spiritual gift and it comes naturally to you (as in, you don't ever feel tired anymore, and are suffering no ill effects), then that's a different matter.

#15 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 01:29 AM

This bares repeating. Many monks over the centuries have died and many others have fallen into prelest.

Even simple vegetarianism or the ordinary fasting followed in your tradition shouldn't be started without the consultation of a medical professional and a discussion with your spiritual father.

While there are many health benefits from the fasts of the Church, they are not "safe" by any means (that is, they cannot be done without mindfulness and planning).

One more time, before you commit to any such thing think of all those who ran out into the desert, of them only a few have survived to tell us the spiritual wisdom they gained.

#16 Kseniya M.

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 01:34 AM

If God grants you this as a spiritual gift and it comes naturally to you (as in, you don't ever feel tired anymore, and are suffering no ill effects), then that's a different matter.


The men in my husband's family seem to need less and less sleep as they get older, and this seems to be true of my husband as well. If I should pre-decease him while he's still strong enough, I could see him going the monastic route and not sleeping very much. It would be very like him.

(I, on the other hand, still need plenty of sleep, even though our boys are now grown and the pandemonium level in the house has dropped to close to zero.)

-Kseniya

#17 Robin Elizabeth

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 04:47 PM

It's the norm for humans to need less sleep as they age.

Also, my understanding is that often monasteries with stricter schedules (lots of manual labor, the midnight office, short sleep periods, etc) are reluctant to take on older people as novices for the reason that it is much harder for them to adjust to the routine then it is for someone younger.

Of the monasteries I've visited (all of which are in the "slavic" tradition), none of them did the midnight office, or have short sleep periods. That doesn't mean that all the monastics sleep a full 8 hrs, since I know some of them don't. Just that they are not required to sleep in stages - they have all night if they need it.

#18 D. W. Dickens

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 06:55 PM

If you do a Google search for "myth old people sleep less" or other similar terms you'll find this is a myth. In fact, they might not be able to sleep as much or their sleep might not be as effective or they might nap more appearing to sleep less at night, but in fact they need just as much sleep as younger people.

However, it is true that very young children and teenagers need massive amounts of sleep. This is one of the main difficulties with adolescence in American culture as teenagers are both tempted by their peers to have fun and pressured by adults to over-achieve in a way that comes through sacrificing adequate sleep.

#19 Robin Elizabeth

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 03:49 AM

According to a controlled study done by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the National Institutes of Health, seniors need 1 1/2 hours less sleep then younger people.

#20 Peter S.

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 01:01 PM

He who sleeps does not sin. ;)




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