Invitation To Health: 35 ►Sleep, Sleeplessness And Excessivesleep

Published: 22.04.2017

Problem is of sleeplessness and excessive sleep

Health and sādhanāfrom both these points of view it is necessary to think on sleep. Just as food is necessary for us in the same way, sleep is also very important for us. What should be the quantity of food, this is a question. What should be the quantity of sleep, this also is a question. One brother said, "I do not get sleep. Sleeplessness is a problem." One sister said, "I get too much of sleep. When I sit for reading, I get sleep. When I sit for sāmayika (a vow for attainment of equanimity avoiding all sinful acts), I get sleep. When I meditate, I get sleep." Excess of sleep is also a problem. Sleeplessness is a problem and excess of sleep is also a problem. How to escape from both these situations?

One question is what is sleep? According to Āyurvijñāna in the body poison gets accumulated, there is tiredness; sleep is for ejaculating that poison. According to Ayurveda, "Nidrāślemā----tamo bhāvah " (Sleep arises due to mucous and tamas). There are two causes of sleep. —one is physical and the other is mental. Physical cause is ślemā(mucous) and kapha (expectoration) and mental cause is tamogua' If tamogua increases, there is excess of sleep. If mucous increases, there is excess of sleep.

Causes of sleeplessness

Question is what is the cause of sleeplessness? According to Suśruta, a famous work of Ayurveda, there are five causesof sleeplessness.

    1. Vāyu prakopa (Excessive wrath of vāyu which is a component of body that is gaseous)
    2. Pitta prakopa (Excessive wrath of bile)
    3. Manastāpa (neuroticism or mental heat)
    4. Dhātukaya(diminution of bodily metals)
    5. Avighāta (blow)

When vāyu and pitta are in proper proportion, there is no distortion or deformation. When their quantity increases then deformation takes place. The wrath of vāyu and pitta and dhātukaya are physical causes. Manastāpa and avighāta are mental causes. If there is mental worry, there will be no sleep. When worry comes up in mind again and again, sleep is gone. Many people say that due to tension sleep went away. Some people have constant mental tension, they do not get sleep. One reason is mental agony.

One reason of sleeplessness is diminution of bodily metals. Many metallic elements of body get diminished and situation of sleeplessness develops. Fifth cause is avighāta. There is some such blow that sleep is not there.

Sattvagua: tamogua

The great sage Caraka has pointed out other reasons also. One such reason is increase of sattvaguna. If there are good feelings, good sādhanāand good thoughts then also there is no sleep. One Prekṣādhyānīreported that when the duration of his meditation prolonged his sleep decreased. He thought it might be some disease. But it is not a disease. As the degree of meditation increases sleep will decrease. Its reason is increase in sattvagua. The cause of sleep is tamogua and the cause of awakened-ness is sattvagua. The task of sattvagua is to awake, and the task of tamogua is to take to sleep. When sattvagua increases then the situation of sleeplessness comes and when tamogua increases then more sleep comes. The decrease in sleep due to increase of vāyu, pitta and kapha can be regarded as diseases. But decrease in sleep due to increase in sattvaguna cannot be said to be disease. It is a development. It means that the need of sleep has decreased. If in any person there is decrease in sleep due to increase of sattvaguna there is no difficulty.

Sleeplessness: another reason

One reason of sleeplessness is fear. Because of fear, also there is sleeplessness.

Due to anger, also there is sleeplessness.

One reason of sleeplessness is fasting. Because of fasting also there is sleeplessness. Those who find fasting difficult they keep on thinking when day will rise and with what eatable pāraṇā(breakfast) is to be done. These thoughts come and there is no sleep. Situation of sleeplessness develops.

Sleep is necessary for body and for sādhanā. If a person does not get sleep in time and he starts meditating then concentration will be less, and there will be more of sleep. For sādhanāsleep is necessary so that there is no obstruction in sādhanā. Sleep is necessary for body so that body becomes light. One type of sleep is that by which body becomes very light. One type of sleep is that by which after awakening body becomes heavy. It is called vaikārikī nidrā(sleep due to distortion).

Question related to sleep

Question is that is there no remedy in the field of sādhanāfor removal of sleeplessness and excessive sleep. In the field of medicine, many remedies for them are suggested. If there is sleeplessness, then with what medicine it is to be mitigated? If there is excessive sleep then with what medicine it is to be overcome? In the field of medicine (Allopathic) there is description of a medicine. Those who suffer from sleeplessness they take sleeping pills but it is very little heard that one who has excessive sleep takes medicine. But in the ancient works of Ayurveda there is a lot of description as to what medicine is to be taken for excessive sleep. The question in the context of sādhanāis, is there any means in the sphere of sādhanāthat there is escape from both sleeplessness and excessive sleep? Every person takes sleep. It is a continuous process. The question of sleep is very complex. Some questions related to body are very complex. The question of food is also like that. Eating, drinking, sleeping, basic instincts, sex feeling, impulses all these are big questions for us. These questions have so many dimensions that without understanding the total situation desired fruits cannot be obtained.

When to sleep: how much to sleep

Question is when to sleep at night? In Ayurveda, there is generally no provision for sleep during day time. From the point of view of health, it is said that only in summer there can be sleeping in day time. To sleep in day time in rainy or winter season is to invite disease. Sleeping during day is not conducive to health. One who sleeps in day time suffers from wrath of vāyu and kapha. It is a regulation in our sangha(organization) that one who is above sixteen and below fifty years of age cannot generally sleep during day time. If one has to take sleep then it should be by just sitting or by resting by the side of a wall and never by lying down. In Ayurveda, also such a provision is there that one can sleep while sitting but should not lay down. There are many people who sleep in the afternoon taking meals and do not get up before three hours. This excess of rest also is a cause of many diseases. Whether excess of labour causes disease or not is a questionable thing but excess of rest is certainly a cause of diseases.

The question of sleep during night is also there. To sleep early in the night and to get up early, that is, to sleep around nine or ten and to get up around four o'clock (Brahma muhūrta) is regarded as good for health. Those who are heart-patient, they are these days suggested to sleep early and to get up early. In the early morning the period at four or five o'clock is very much useful for health and happiness. At that time the radiation in the galaxy is very much useful for human being. Early sleep and early rise is very much beneficial. When to sleep in night and when to get up, there has to be discrimination of this. Some people are engrossed in sleep during day time and sleep in night as well. It cannot be regarded as proper. Sleeping also has a limit. To know this limit is very much necessary for sādhanāand for health. If there is too much of sleep or too less of sleep then what is the remedy?

Sleeplessness: practices of sādhanā

Kāyotsarga (a meditative practice) is not used for sleeplessness but it is very important for the disease of sleeplessness. But the problem is that the kāyotsarga is to be practiced with wakefulness but the person undertaking it goes to sleep. Kāyotsarga is a means to get rid of sleeplessness.

One means of getting rid of sleeplessness is to read, to study continuously and regularly (svādhyāya). Start reading and revising; while reading, sleep will be induced. Many people do like this. They go to bed, read book, and while reading go to sleep.

Another means to get rid of sleeplessness is counting while lying down. Count in reverse starting from hundred. Before reaching one from hundred sleep will be induced.

Yoganidrāalso is a means of getting rid of sleeplessness. How yoganidrāis undertaken? First some āsana-vyāyāma (physical exercise in yogic posture) is done. In the beginning Bhujañgāsana, Ardhamatsyedrāsana etc. are done and sleeplessness is averted.

Two types of sleep

Two more types of sleep are pointed out. One is manaśrama samhhava (caused by mental labour) and the other śarīra śrama sambhava (caused by physical labour). The sleep induced by mental labour is called manah śrama samhhava. The sleep induced by bodily labour is called -śarīraśrama sambhava. Āsana is bodily labour, svādhyāya (regular reading) or reverse counting is mental labour. By these also sleep is induced.

These are all practical methods of sādhanāfor removal of the diseases of sleeplessness.

Getting sleep by taking pills is very bad. By practices of Prekṣādhyāna, many people have given up taking pills. A camp was going on in Ahmedabad. In it there was one sister suffering from the disease of sleeplessness. For sleep she was daily taking twenty-thirty pills. By the practices of svādhyāya, āsana and kāyotsarga she gave up taking pills on third day. On fourth day, she slept at nine o'clock without taking pills and got up at four o'clock. By practice many things can be given up. One can escape from many unnecessary medicines, but human being does not want to come to practices of sādhanāand prefers to go to doctor. Shelter of medicine is more liked by him. Once some individual attends a 'sādhanācamp' his outlook changes, and his thinking also changes.

Problem of excessive sleep: practices of sādhanā

The question of excessive sleep is not less complex. What is to be done when there is excessive sleep? If those practices are undertaken by which ślemāand tamogua can be reduced, then excessive sleep can be controlled.  For example, one type of pranayama is Bhastrikā(a variety of breathing exercise). By this sleep can be controlled. If it is practiced for a longer while, then heat is so much increased that perhaps for some time no sleep will come. However, by this practice slowly there can be complete control over sleep and an individual acquires the condition of healthy sleep.

Kalahariprāṇāyama is also another practice. It reduces kapha, and changes the condition of excessive sleep.

One practice is nādiśohana (purification of blood vessels and nerves). If it is practiced daily, then excessive sleep can be controlled.

These are some practices by which sleep can be reduced. A person who uses buffalo milk or curd will have more sleep. So, a person who suffers from excess of sleep should keep away from buffalo milk and curd. Caraka has pointed out that one does not get sleep should be given buffalo milk. That is why from the point of view of taste people prefer buffalo milk, but from the point of view of health they prefer cow milk. In Uttarādhyayana there is a story. One person was to be induced to dream. Question was how to get him dream? A means was suggested. Give him buffalo's milk in the evening and he will experience dream.

Practice should be done under the guidance of guru

The things which increase kapha also increase sleep. One who escapes from those things remains free from the disease of excess of sleep. There are some asanas, which save from excessive sleep. Mayūrāsana, though difficult and hard, but it reduces sleep. By concentrating on taijasakendra (center of light) there is reduction in sleep. Concentration on taijasa in navel, concentration on red colour in darśanakendra (center of vision) all these controls excess sleep. But in this context one thing should be remembered that so long as these are not completely understood they are not to be undertaken by reading books. Because if in summer concentration is put on green or red-yellow colours then heat will increase so much that head will be damaged. If on taijasakendra morning sun or fire is concentrated and not on the higher center, then fickleness of mind becomes terrible. Therefore, it is beneficial that entire thing is understood from a guru and only thereafter practice is to be undertaken.

To pay attention to sleep is necessary from the point of view of health and also of sādhanā. If a person escapes from both excessive sleep and sleeplessness and enters into normal, natural and healthy sleep then mind can be happy and brain will be light. Moreover, he can develop a lot in sādhanā.

Title: Invitation To Health
Author: Acharya Mahaprajna
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
HN4U Digital Edition: Ratna & Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Anger
  3. Asanas
  4. Ayurveda
  5. Body
  6. Brahma
  7. Brain
  8. Caraka
  9. Center of Vision
  10. Concentration
  11. Equanimity
  12. Fasting
  13. Fear
  14. Guru
  15. Kāyotsarga
  16. Manah
  17. Meditation
  18. Nidrā
  19. Pranayama
  20. Pāraṇā
  21. Sambhava
  22. Sangha
  23. Sattvaguṇa
  24. Svādhyāya
  25. Sādhanā
  26. Tamas
  27. Uttarādhyayana
  28. Āsana
  29. āsana
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