Ayurveda and a Good Night Sleep

Ayurveda and a Good Night Sleep

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Sukha: Understanding the Key to Well-Being

Sukha is a term that encompasses feelings of pleasure, happiness, and overall well-being. The definition of sukha can vary from person to person, and it's influenced by numerous factors. One crucial element contributing to sukha is sleep or nidra. In today's fast-paced world, driven by global time schedules, many people suffer from sleep deprivation, which negatively affects both the quantity and quality of their sleep. This, in turn, leads to several health issues.

According to Acharya Sushruta, the founder of Ayurveda, sleep plays a significant role in influencing our pleasure, physical strength, sharp intellect, memory, and vitality. To lead a fulfilling life, it's essential to regulate both the quantity and quality of your sleep.

How Does Sleep Occur?

In Ayurveda, sleep is explained as the mind becoming exhausted due to continuous work, stress, and fear. As night falls, sleshma (the inner layers of the nose and other cavities with mucus) covers the manovaha srotas (the channels that carry the mind and emotions), preventing the mind from performing its routine functions beyond a certain point. This partial, full, or involuntary loss of coordination between the senses and external stimuli results in sleep.

Several factors can lead to sleep, such as an increase in tamas caused by depression, loneliness, or negative emotions (tamobhava). It can also be triggered by an aggravation of kapha dosha due to excessive consumption of heavy or oily foods and drinks (sleshma samudbhava), exhaustion from travel, work, or job dissatisfaction (manah sarira srama sambhava), or an electrolyte imbalance resulting from chronic illness in vital organs (vyadhyanuvartini). Sleep can also occur due to external factors that cause a loss of consciousness (agantuki). Lastly, there is natural sleep experienced at night (ratri svabhava).

Phases of Sleep

Ayurveda divides the night hours into three phases, with one of the three doshas predominating over the others during each phase.

  • The first part of the night (9 pm to midnight) is dominated by kapha dosha, and this phase induces better-quality sleep. Therefore, it's advisable to go to bed during this part of the night when earth and water elements predominate. During these hours, initial digestion occurs in the body, and both the body and mind are relaxed.

  • If sleep is delayed beyond midnight when pitta becomes dominant, it can lead to uncomfortable sleep, potential headaches, and long-term issues like premature greying of hair and skin problems.

  • It's essential to avoid using technical gadgets before bedtime, as they can stimulate the mind and hinder sleep, particularly when vata dosha is dominant instead of kapha dosha, which promotes sleep.

Fire and water elements are dominant during the phase between midnight and 3.30 AM, facilitating digestion and regulating body metabolism. Finally, between 3.30 and 6 AM, vata dosha dominates, nutrients from digestion are distributed throughout the body, supplying energy, and the mind becomes increasingly active.

Gunas and Sleep

While dullness or tamas is the cause of nidra (sleep), the clarity and lightness of sattva cause bodhatvam or awakening. Sattva is the prime quality of the mind, and individuals with higher levels of sattva tend to be more enlightened, knowledgeable, and active.

Rajas contributes to alertness, while tamas leads to drowsiness, laziness, and, in some cases, excessive sleep. Balance in rajas and tamas is crucial for the proper functioning of the mind and body, while an imbalance can lead to illness, and in severe cases, a profound tamas imbalance can result in a life-threatening coma.

Regulating the Gunas

To naturally induce sleep at night and reduce tamas-induced sleep, various practices can help increase sattva and control tamas. These include pranayama, meditation, surrounding oneself with spiritually inclined individuals, cultivating positive thoughts, and maintaining control over the sense organs. Limiting screen time on smartphones and television, avoiding loud music and negative news before bedtime, and refraining from consuming heavy, fried foods can all contribute to better sleep.

It's also advisable to use the bed solely for sleeping, avoiding activities like eating or reading in bed. Cultivating a non-complaining attitude and minimizing criticism of situations can promote restful sleep.

In conclusion, two key factors for achieving good sleep are mindful dietary choices and mental control. Sleep is considered a natural urge in Ayurveda, and suppressing it can lead to various discomforts. Remember that nothing compares to the pleasure of a good night's sleep, which plays a pivotal role in your overall well-being.

Dr. Janardhan Hebba

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