Vagbhata’s Ashtanga Hridayam states that lack of sleep can induce feelings of delusion, heaviness of the head and the eyes, lassitude, excessive yawning and squeezing pain all over the body. Therefore, along with other suggestions, Ayurveda says that one should go to bed by 10 P.M. as this marks the onset of the Pitta Kala. Bhramari Pranayama can also be done.
According to Ayurveda there are three Upastambhas or pillars of health. These are:
- Aahar or food
- Nidra or sleep
- Brahmacharya or sex
You might wonder, how can sleep be one of the main pillars of health? In today’s busy lifestyles, the one thing people have the least amount of time for is sleep. There are so many other things to accomplish that we never really give this pillar of health too much thought.
However, Vagbhata’s Ashtanga Hridayam (one of the classical texts of Ayurveda) states that lack of sleep is one of the causes of disease. It can induce feelings of delusion, heaviness of the head and the eyes, lassitude, excessive yawning and squeezing pain all over the body. Charak, one of the great rishis, or sages, of Ayurveda, states that natural sleep at night is like Bhutaadhaatri, meaning it nourishes us like a mother. A good sleep leads to happiness, strength, virility, knowledge and vitality! Habits like excessive sleep, untimely sleep, sleeping during the daytime (except during the summer), sleeping at sunrise or sunset, sleeping right after eating and not sleeping the required amount reduce life span and diminish happiness.
Following are Ayurveda’s recommendations on sleep
1. Go To Bed By 10 PM
10 P.M. marks the onset of the Pitta Kala. In other words, if one stays awake past 10 P.M., Pitta, the fiery dosha, stimulates the mind and it becomes difficult to go to sleep. Ayurveda also recommends waking up during brahma muhuruta (48 minutes before sunrise) as that is when the universe is soaked in Sattva, the quality of balance, peace and harmony.
2. Light Massage
Massage the top of the head, the inner part of the ears and the soles of the feet with warm sesame oil just before going to bed. This aids in sleeping because it helps to calm Vata, the dosha most often associated with insomnia.
Bhramari Pranayama is extremely helpful in calming the mind which is essential for a good sleep.
4. Early Dinner
Avoid eating late dinners as the body is then busy digesting the meal that you just ate and this leads to disturbed sleep. You also wake up feeling heavy and not fresh. Ideally one should finish dinner around 6 P.M.
5. Warm Milk
Have a warm cup of spiced milk at least three hours after dinner and no later than a half hour before going to bed. It is an excellent snack before going to bed or even as a complete meal in itself. Some of the ingredients that go into making spiced milk help promote sleep.
From my personal experience I can wholeheartedly say that these practices work wonders on the mind and the body. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was working until midnight to finish some of my pending tasks. This continued for a few days and I started feeling very fatigued and my eyes were completely dried out. As a student of Ayurveda, I had to ask myself why did this situation arise in the first place. After analyzing my actions, I went back to going to sleep by 10 P.M. and within three to four days, the symptoms of fatigue and dryness in my system diminished. The habit of staying up late drains the body of its vital energy and we are left feeling spaced out. Instead if we try to inculcate good sleeping habits, we will have much more energy to complete our tasks and bring good space back into our life.