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


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#41 Eric Peterson

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 04:38 AM

St. John Chrysostom had a very positive word to say about sleep, but I can't find it. That's the problem with random quotes from the Fathers, you can't always find them when you need them.

I don't find that the Fathers view sleep in absolute terms. How they talked about it would depend on what else they were saying, as well as their audience. There are some people, for example, that sleep out of laziness. But there are others that sleep because the genuinely need sleep.

The quote from St. John I was looking for, if I recall correctly, referred to the necessity of sleep and its good benefits. While St. John was an ascetic, he was also one who through asceticism damaged his health, and I'm sure he did not lose the awareness of this.

#42 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 06:04 AM

This is indeed a worthy discussion and one which can at times literally astonish.

Fr. Sophrony was a strong adherent to all monastic asceticisim. Indeed by our Lord's tender mercy I was granted an especial insight due to my years as his cell assistant (1976 until May of 1981)

First (for the time being) we must absolutely keep this within the scope of monasticism: that is; stricley under the direction and blessing of one's duhonvik, starez, abba, gerondas. Woe unto anyone who follows the devil and embraces self-will. This is a certain descent into hell.

I remember Fr. Soprhony relating words concerning this topic which he attributed to Staretz Silouan: That with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments of the Church and assiduous asceticsim of a person sleep may be reduced (without any harm) to four hours out of twenty-four. Beyond this was the action solely of the Holy Spirit.

Living so close, for instance to Staretz Iustin (Pirov) of Petru Voda allowed me to witness foty-five minutes sleep out of twenty-four hours, followed by a full days' activity - and this in his late eighties.

Blessed absence of sleep, allows more time for Prayer!

By the Intercession of the Theotokos may I arise from slumber!

#43 Jake A.

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 05:21 PM

Thank you to everyone's replies, they are all very helpful, I am learning a lot from this site that I didn't know before. That goes to show you that internet is good for something positive after all.

#44 Ryan

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 02:41 AM

There are plenty of "prayers before sleep" which ask that sleep be undisturbed by unseemly thoughts and "phantasies". There are some monastic communities where sleep is kept to a minimum, as others have mentioned. But sleep being inherently "evil"? That's a bit rough.


My Jordanville prayer book has a prayer before going to bed which asks that we be kept from "all dreams and dark pleasures". Is this a bad translation or are dreams really considered uniformly bad? I notice the 1986 edition has "temptations" instead of "dreams."

#45 Owen

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 04:50 AM

The ancient Fathers seem to have regarded dreams as idola--visions of unreal things, to which we ought not to pay attention. Most dreams do, in fact, seem in retrospect to be trivial in nature, or else to be far more about self than about God or other holy things; it's no wonder the Fathers had a negative opinion of them.

#46 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 02:04 PM

My Jordanville prayer book has a prayer before going to bed which asks that we be kept from "all dreams and dark pleasures". Is this a bad translation or are dreams really considered uniformly bad? I notice the 1986 edition has "temptations" instead of "dreams."


The word in Slavonic- мечтания- refers to dreaming rather than temptations.

But perhaps in the version where it has 'temptations' this was an effort to give a spiritual interpretation to the word rather than a straight translation.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#47 Mary

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 12:04 AM

My Jordanville prayer book has a prayer before going to bed which asks that we be kept from "all dreams and dark pleasures". Is this a bad translation or are dreams really considered uniformly bad? I notice the 1986 edition has "temptations" instead of "dreams."


I love this prayer - as "all dreams and dark pleasures".

Can't answer your question about dreams in general. But I can tell you about my dreams - they were always so vivid - I could remember incredible details, even entire conversations. I've entertained my friends with my dreams because of how deeply they imprinted themselves in my mind. While most of my dreams were like funny stories, there were also those that were incredibly dark and would fill me with terror. Once awake, these dreams could so easily feed my thoughts, which in turn could easily turn into temptations. In a way, they were like the seeds for my temptations.

The most peaceful sleep I have, is when I dream of nothing at all. That's when I feel like my mind is at complete rest. I haven't had any troublesome dreams for a while now, their details are fuzzy and I quickly forget them when I wake up. But some weeks ago, I had a scary dream that I couldn't wake myself up from, until I started to say the Jesus prayer. I don't know if I prayed in my dream or if I prayed for real. Either ways, it was ever and ever so hard to say the first one, and once I got the first prayer out, the thing that seemed to be choking me got weaker.

Anyway - if you haven't had troubling dreams, then you are blessed. Some of us need to pray for protection from dreams. =)

In Christ,
Mary.

#48 Ryan

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 12:36 AM

I'm just trying to understand how one reconciles this attitude with the dreams that saints often have, which are illuminating. Almost every day when I read lives of the saints I come across a saint who has been enlightened by God through a dream. I suppose the undesirable dreams are implied to arise from the passions and demonic temptations, whereas when we pray "enlighten for me the eyes of my heart with understanding, lest I sleep unto death" this could include visions from God and his saints.

#49 Mary

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 01:14 AM

I'm just trying to understand how one reconciles this attitude with the dreams that saints often have, which are illuminating. Almost every day when I read lives of the saints I come across a saint who has been enlightened by God through a dream. I suppose the undesirable dreams are implied to arise from the passions and demonic temptations, whereas when we pray "enlighten for me the eyes of my heart with understanding, lest I sleep unto death" this could include visions from God and his saints.


From what I've understood, we shouldn't seek dreams and visions, because they can very easily deceive us.

#50 Paul Cowan

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 01:14 AM

Ryan,

Yes, but think of how few saints have actually had a vision versus the number of monks throughout time times 365 days in a year. Not the norm I am sure to have a Godly visitation.

Paul

#51 Father David Moser

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 03:03 AM

Almost every day when I read lives of the saints I come across a saint who has been enlightened by God through a dream.


Hagiography is a distillation of the important events int he lives the saints. We only read of the spiritually significant events of their lives, not those daily struggles against which they labored day in and day out. Thus all the dreams of the saints that we read of in their lives are the one that are important in their lives - all the others we never know about. Our lives touch the lives of the saints (hopefully) on those high points.

Fr David Moser

#52 Michael Stickles

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 07:17 PM

My Jordanville prayer book has a prayer before going to bed which asks that we be kept from "all dreams and dark pleasures". Is this a bad translation or are dreams really considered uniformly bad? I notice the 1986 edition has "temptations" instead of "dreams."


Given the full text of the prayer (with "dreams" re-substituted for "temptations"):

O Lord our God, in Whom we believe and Whose Name we invoke above every name, grant us preparing for sleep relaxation of soul and body, and keep us from all dreams and dark pleasures. Stop the rushing of passions, and quench the burning of bodily tensions. Grant us to live chastely in word and act, that we may live a life of heroic virtue and not fall away from Thy promised blessings. For Thou art blessed for ever. Amen.


My guess would be that it's less a reference to dreams as evil in themselves, and more a recognition that they often reflect the disturbances going on within us, especially the passions (as an example, St. Basil the Great once mentioned dreams coming from over-eating). I know that when I'm struggling with various passions, I often see them reflected in my dreams. The rare times when I don't have dreams tend to correspond to the rare times when I'm not having major struggles with passions.

I like this prayer - it starts from a simple request for calm in the present moment, and incrementally expands outwards to eternity:

  • grant us ... relaxation of soul and body (stilling whatever disturbances/passions we may be currently suffering)
  • keep us from all dreams and dark pleasures (that those disturbances/passions might not influence us in our sleep, and especially - the "dark pleasures" bit - that we not embrace them)
  • Stop the rushing of passions (not just now, but that this stilling of passions might become a more permanent part of my life)
  • quench the burning of bodily tensions (moving beyond passions to even the disturbances that can produce and "fuel" them)
  • Grant us to live chastely in word and act (replacing the passions with the presence of virtue as our lifestyle)
  • that we may live a life of heroic virtue (becoming more and more active in virtue, even to "super-normal" levels)
  • and not fall away from Thy promised blessings (attaining salvation in the life to come)
In Christ,
Michael

#53 AnthonyKana

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 11:18 AM

How do the Monks cope without the 6-8 hour sleep cycle which a normal individual receives, I personally i'm an ex-insomniac I would get every night 2 hours sleep this lead me to some very serious mental issues depression, anxiety, paranoia and mild hallucinations. How do we know that the "demons" which attack the monks are not hallucinations and they are actual spiritual demonic beings who attack them and converse with them?. Sorry do not mean to offend anyone just curious.

Thanks

#54 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 03:32 PM

How do the Monks cope without the 6-8 hour sleep cycle which a normal individual receives

Grace of the Holy Spirit.

I know that when I was in the Navy, when underway I was often lucky to get 8 hours of sleep a WEEK. Combat training entails sleep deprivation as well, it is amazing how little sleep one can survive on, not that I would recommend it for the average non-combat engaged individual.

Regardless, monks have resources that we "in the world" do not. First, not all monasteries follow the same discipline and some monks probably get more sleep than others. Second if they are not operating heavy machinery they can "get by" operating at a "reduced efficiency". Second, studies have shown a life of contemplation and prayer can compensate to a degree a lack of actual REM sleep.

Discernment by a wise and experienced elder may certainly be necessary to tell the difference between demonic attack and the effects of sleep deprivation. I don't pretend to be one.

#55 Panayiotis Steele

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:24 PM

Second, studies have shown a life of contemplation and prayer can compensate to a degree a lack of actual REM sleep.


Really? That's interesting. Do you know where to find these studies off the top of your head?

#56 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 12:15 AM

Try Google. This is one I found rather quickly: Bi-Phasic Sleep

#57 Michael Paul Hughes

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 03:31 AM

Greetings,

I have been very hungry for knowledge in the scriptures and prayer lately as I prepare myself for baptism when the Lord wills. I bought the OSB and have treasured the commentary of the Holy Fathers. There are some times that I desire to read the sciptures and pray so much that I will brew some tea late at night or coffee, and stay up through the hours of the night seeking to know the One who is calling me to baptism. Within these night vigils, I enjoy praying the Jesus Prayer and seeking the spirit of the Fear of the Lord.

I see these vigils as a form of fasting in preparation for baptism and feel that the Lord honors that I desire to know Him enough to lose sleep. I even feel that He calls me to these vigils. I know that this is not the best for my body, but what is worse than this is the sinful passions of lust which I am striving to overcome. I also feel that I am tasting a foretaste of the ascetic life which I desire to obtain once I am baptized, Lord willing. I have been most interested in the Monastic life, reading about Saint Antony and his willful striving to overcome the flesh much like Saint Paul's battle against the flesh in which he had sleepless nights, whether willfully or because of circumstances.

While I am not comparing myself to these Saints, as I am a terrible sinner, I do desire to follow their paths as they followed Christ.

I also wonder what the Orthodox view is for those who are not yet baptized acting with disciplines of The Faith. I know the Holy Scriptures stated that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised and, I believe, baptism is a form of circumcision of the heart. So I would like to know if I have God's blessing for abstaining from much pleasures of the world and from much sleep.

Thank you so much.
Michael Paul

#58 Father David Moser

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 03:59 AM

I see these vigils as a form of fasting in preparation for baptism ... I also feel that I am tasting a foretaste of the ascetic life which I desire to obtain once I am baptized, Lord willing. ... So I would like to know if I have God's blessing for abstaining from much pleasures of the world and from much sleep.


If you are preparing for baptism, then that means you are already receiving instruction from the priest who will be your spiritual father. Do what he tells you.

Fr David

#59 Teofil Munteanu

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 02:16 AM

From what I know, an average monk gets 2-3 hours of sleep per night. It really does vary, depending on what type of monastery you are a part of. For instance, Athonite monasteries are the strictest, and encourage monks to not sleep at all. If you're ever interested on reading about a life of a schema-monk, be sure to check out the life of Saint Theophilios, the Fool for Christ's sake (he was Russian). In this particular book, it mentions an instance of when Saint Theophilios was about to fall asleep, and he placed a sharp, wooden piece underneath his back so whenever he comfortably lay down he would feel pain in his back. Saint John Maximovitch, for instance, slept in an armchair, after thumbing prayer beads and praying the Jesus Prayer. It really does vary based on your life, and ability to do things.  






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