According to Ayurveda, there are three Upastambhas or pillars of health. They 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.
The following are Ayurveda’s recommendations on sleep:
1. Go To Bed By 10pm
10pm. marks the onset of the Pitta Kala. In other words, if one stays awake past 10pm, 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 6pm.
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 10pm, 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.
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.