Sleep For Good Health - by Arti Gaur
Out of the three supports of life and good health talked about, sleep occupies second place. Sleep is the state of complete rest. When we talk about sleep in relation to health, we refer to that state in which all the organs of the body including mind, which becomes tired by work, are in a completely relaxed state.
Sleep is very essential for brain and is even considered a tonic for the brain. Charak Samitha says only when one has dissociated from the objects of senses and motor organs can one get into the state to of sleep. And this is the most natural means of rest. Charak has even compared the state of sleep to pleasure, peace, and happiness when he said "Nidrayatam Sukham", which indicate that only when body and mind are disease free and at peace, the pleasures of life can be experienced. This state of mind and body cannot be achieved without giving them adequate amount of rest.
Sleep and rest play a major role in development of child, healthy infants sleep peacefully for long hours and their development happens at rapid pace. Disturbed sleep is indicative of sickness. Sleep also provides natural immunity to the one suffering from any disease. That is why rest is recommended to the ailing.
It was also observed during the European war that sleep increases muscular tissues of the body and as a result is effective in healing wounds. Ayurved recommends diet which includes considerable amount of fat and excessive sleep for lean and thin individuals.
Ayurved describes seven kinds of sleep -
- Tamasik sleep: excessive sleep due to lethargy
- Sleshma samudbhawa: due to aggravated kapha
- Manas shramjanya: due to tired mind
- Shareer sharmjanya: due to tired mind (hard labour)
- Aagantuki sleep: indicative of disease
- Vyaadhyanuvartini: sleep because of weakness due to disease
- Ratri Swabhav or natural night sleep: also called Bhoot Dhatri i.e. that sleep which protects the health of the individual.
Natural sleep causes the following changes in the body. The heart beats slow down as a result blood pressure reduces to some extent. Breathing is slow as result the metabolic activity of the body is reduced and body achieves as state of relaxation and is in harmony with nature. Nature is balance and the division between day and night provides the right environment for the being to tune in with this balance. Days are meant for work and night for sleep or rest. According to ayurved sleep is related to tamas, so is night. Therefore restoration of one's energy is done at night.
Sleep in adequate amount nourishes the body. What is adequate for one may not be for the other. The amount of sleep required by an individual depends on the mental and physical labour he or she is doing. Generally eight hours of sleep is sufficient for people who do average physical and mental work. For brain workers or older people six hours is enough. Growing children and people who do more physical labour need more sleep.
Those suffering from insomnia or sleep disorders need to look into their lifestyle, dietary habits and identify the cause of their problem. 'Unnatural mode of living' is the primary causative factor of insomnia or sleeping disorders. Ayurvedic texts describe the following causes for insomnia.
Fear or timidity, anxiety, fury, smoking, excessive physical work or exercises, blood letting, anaemia, fasting, purgation, under nourishment, unsuitable bedding and polluted environment, old age, any physical or mental disease causing provocation of vayu, sleeping during the day (except for those who have dominating pitt, kids, ailing, and people into physical labour.
To induce natural sleep your daily routine should be made simple and regular including time for sleep, awakening, bathing , working, etc. meals should be taken between 11/2 -2 hours before going to bed. Mind should be kept free and unoccupied. Massaging the soles of the feet induces sleep. Some amount of mental work is important for good sleep. Complete Relaxation of every part of the body is the most effective way to induce sleep.