Sleep & Ayurveda

It’s free, we all do it, and most of us have no idea about the benefits and risks of proper or improper sleep.

About 2 months ago, my wife said to me “no one ever regrets a good night’s sleep”. Being of the ayurvedic bent, I totally agreed with her.

A recent news article reporting on risks to health of inappropriate sleep – either too much or too little, caught my eye recently: The – Lack of sleep “linked to early death” – in the BBC news, says that research shows how too little, or too much sleep is linked to ill health and longevity:

Not too little sleep, yet not too much, the experts’ advice. Getting less than six hours sleep a night can lead to an early grave, UK and Italian researchers have warned. They said people regularly having such little sleep were 12% more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who got an “ideal” six to eight hours.

They also found an association between sleeping for more than nine hours and early death, although that much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health.

So I though I would do a quick blog on the ayurvedic viewpoint of sleep. One thing lead to another, and I wrote a 10 page booklet! Here’s an except:

Let’s look at what the ayurvedic texts have to say about sleep…

Ahara (food), sayana (sleep) and abrahmacarya (non-celibacy) properly indulged, support the body constantly just like the house (is supported) by the pillars. [AH.SS.CH VII. 52]

According to ayurveda, our health depends on three pillars, the traya upasthambha:

  • Correct diet
  • Correct sleep
  • Correct sexual conduct

When any of these three supports are not adapted to our unique constitution, our age, season and so on, the doshas become disturbed and illness results. Much has been written about diet in the popular ayurvedic texts, whereas little has been written about sleep and sexual conduct. In this e-book, I have chosen to focus on sleep.

To set the scene, here are some quotes from the classical ayurvedic texts about the role of sleep, the link between sleep, wither too little or too much, on our health:

Happiness and unhappiness, nourishment and emaciation, strength and debility, virility and sterility, knowledge and ignorance, life and death—all are dependent on proper or improper sleep. [AH.SS.CH VII.54, CS.SS.CH XXI.39]

Sleeping at the proper time produces normalcy of the tissues, absence of lassitude, nourishment, good colour, complexion, strength, enthusiasm, and strong digestive power. BP.SS.CH V

Sleep indulged at improper time, in excess or not at all, destroys happiness (health) and life like a goddess of death. [AH.SS.CH VII. 54]

Like proper diet, proper sleep is also essential for the maintenance of the body. Corpulence and emaciation are specially conditioned by proper or improper sleep and diet. [CS.SS.CH XXI.51]

Like the night of destructions, untimely and excessive sleep and prolonged vigil take away both happiness and longevity. The same sleep, if properly enjoyed brings about happiness and longevity. [CS.SS.CH XXI.39-40]

Wow! Did you ever think how important sleep could be for your health? It’s a shame that modern man has taken so long to reach similar conclusions. I imagine that modern sleep research could gain some tips by reading this document.

I’m not a scientist, but I do keep up to date with the health news and I’ve noticed that there is a continual trickle of stories linking sleep to various health issues. It seems a shame that despite all the benefits of modern society, we are neglecting at least two of the most important health supports of correct diet and sleep habits.

Our whole society and way of life is becoming more and more pro-stimulation and pro-convenience. The trend is clear; people are typically sleeping less, while others are sleeping at inappropriate times, and in some cases, sleeping too much.

One reason for our sleepless culture is globalisation. As opposing continents are required to do business and communicate, people are required to stay up late or get up early. This wreaks havoc with our internal body clocks, deranging our vata dosha in the most fundamental way. This is bad news since vata dosha controls the other two doshas, pitta and kapha. It is the master life principle and it is being neglected and assaulted through poor sleep habits.

Access the whole e-book here: Knowledge of Sleep (Nidana Vijnana) by Alex Duncan v1

Cheers, Alex.

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One thought on “Sleep & Ayurveda

  1. Pingback: Ayurveda on Sexuality – Part 1 – Alex's Ayurveda & Life Blog

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