Ayurvedic Perspective of Nidra

Good Night, Bonne nuit, Gute Nacht, Subha Ratri we do wish our near and dear ones a good night sleep but do we really know the importance of sleep? Every one of us might have gone through sleepless nights once or a while or have stayed awake all night for a movie or for studies. Do we know we have broken the rules of natural detoxification of our body?

In Ayurveda Nidra or Sleep is one of the 3 sub pillars of the body, which is necessary for the life sustenance as well as to maintain the natural equilibrium of doshas as per one’s body constitution or Prakruti. As Dalai Lama has quoted Sleep is the best meditation. Ayurveda also agrees that sleep at the right time and for right duration is necessary for the growth and well being of body as well as mind. A good night sleep makes our mind and senses more clear and helps in better cognition. Once your body and sense experience fatigue due to exertion , Kapha obstructs the body channels and towards nightfall the Tamo guna in our body increases which paves way to sleep. The aspects of happiness, nourishment, strength, virility, knowledge and longevity of life are attained by timely sound sleep while improper sleep leads to sorrow, emaciation, weakness, impotence, ignorance and early aging. Sleep is a best elixir anabolic event which is a time to rebuild and reconstruct the body.

Researchers have proved that the growth hormone secretion reaches the highest during night sleep and also your brain remains awake during the sleep and it does biological maintenance to prepare your system for the next day with increased energy and productivity. So skimping on the shut eye will only cause drowsiness.

Ayurvedic approach to Nidra / Sleep

Duration of sleep

Different individuals require different duration of sleep as per their body constitution, health status and age factor. For example people who are predominantly Kapha constitution requires only 6-7 hrs sleep during night, pitta person -7-8 hrs sleep and Vata person 8-9 hrs sleep. As per age factor newborns upto 1 yr age – 18 hrs sleep 1-3 yrs – 12-15 hrs sleep 3-5 yrs – 11-13 hours sleep 5-12 yrs 9-11 hours Adolescent 9-10 hrs & Adults 6 – 9 hrs depending on body constitution. 8-9 hrs sleep is required during pregnancy.

Timing of sleep

As per Ayurveda ; day can be classified into 3 sections viz  Vata ,pitta and Kapha predominance from 4 hrs consecutive gap with the sunset and sunrise for instance if the sunset and sunrise is at 6pm and 6am simultaneously 6 am – 10 am which is the 1st part of the day and 6pm -10pm which is the 1st part of the night will have predominance in Kapha and from 10 am -2pm and 10 pm -2am are the mid part of day and night respectively and has the predominance of pitta and from 2pm – 6pm and 2 am -6am which is the last part of night and day respectively has the predominance of Vata.

Keeping awake during night will increase dryness in body thereby vitiating Vata. Sleeping during daytime causes abhisyanditvam / clogging of body channels and snigdhatvam / unctuousness which inturn vitiates the Kapha & Pitta.
Most of us tend to sleep after our lunch, which is hazardous. If you sleep after lunch it will create Kapha predominance that works against your digestive fire causing indigestion and mal absorption and eventually, deposition of toxins or Ama in the body and even promote obesity.

It is advisable for the people who work on night shifts, to have a light breakfast followed by sleep, for half the duration they are supposed to sleep during night. Once they get up they can have their main meal and can engage in daily routine.

During summers one can sleep during daytime since the night is shorter. For all other seasons day sleep is contraindicated.
People who are exhausted by long time speech, travel, intoxication, physical exertion, anger, grief, aged, children, weak due to diseases can sleep during day time but before lunch. Day sleep is indicated during pregnancy and post partum (till 45 days after labor). If at all anyone wants to sleep during daytime it is better to sleep before lunch than to sleep after lunch.

Tips for Good Night’s Sleep

Try to go to bed at least 15 min – 30 min before sleeping time, for instance 10.30 pm- 11pm will be the best time to go to bed. Try to have dinner 2 -3 hrs prior bedtime and try to do a 30 min mild walk after dinner. Avoid sleeping immediately after dinner, which will cause indigestion.
Avoid using laptop, television or mobiles phones and caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, green tea) during bedtime. People with sleep disorders are strongly recommended not to use any of these after dinner.

Try to listen to instrumental music like flute or read peaceful or happy passages before going to bed for a sound sleep.
Avoid doing Trataka or meditation at bedtime, which will make you more alert.
Have a cup (250 ml) of warm milk at bedtime to promote good sleep.
You may develop a habit of doing Abhyangam or external application of oil for whole body daily before shower to promote good sleep.

Marma Abhyangam, Shirodhara, Shiroabhyangam etc help in good sleep. Stay physically active throughout the day and do 1 hr walk, sports, dance etc during day to have a good sleep during night.

Like Leonardo da Vinci has said “A well- spent day brings happy sleep”. Likewise good sleep is inevitable for a good day too.

This article is written by Vaidya Parvathy Rajeev, Consultant Physician & Head of Research Division at Chakrapani Ayurveda

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