The Healing Power Of Nidra

Words: Dr Vihar Rajendra BIDWAI & Dr Pranay GANDHI

A host of rapid changes in peoples’ lifestyle, in recent years, has led to several new disorders — they are collectively called ‘lifestyle disorders.’ Hypertension [high blood pressure] is a well-known risk factor of the cardiovascular system that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also places a major burden on society and the economy.

In terms of lifestyle, recent epidemiological studies suggest a minimum sleep duration ought to be obtained to maintaining health. Research suggests that short sleep duration is related to the growing prevalence of hypertension. Sleep deprivation significantly increases blood pressure in control and hypertension groups. Similarly, research suggests that appropriate sleep duration can help to lower the prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular-related mortality, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. If sleep duration is too short, or too long, cardiovascular disease-related mortality increases. Obtaining the proper amount of sleep may, therefore, help prevent, or treat, hypertension.

Ayurveda describes the importance of sleep, or nidra, in lifestyle disorders. Ayurveda, the first systematic science ever evolved, emphasises on physical and mental fitness with prevention and preservation of health in a comprehensive manner.

This ancient science developed from the extra-sensory logic of our great seers; it is crowned with undoubted knowledge, which remains unchallenged till date.

Prevention Best 

Prevention is better than cure” is the basic concept of Ayurveda. ‘Curing’ a diseased person and redefining their healthy status is the primary goal of a physician. Ayurveda primarily aims at preventing the person from getting diseased by maintaining a balanced tridosha, viz, vata, pitta, and kapha, in their body. This idea of prevention was explained for the first time in Ayurveda; it is the basic concept for a healthy society.

Ayurveda suggests balance in the functions of doshas, dhatu and mala as well as agni and ojas, throughout a day; hence, a daily routine should be planned. Each and every individual who wishes to maintain a healthy body and mind should follow this concept called dinacharya. “Early to bed and early to arise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” This Benjamin Franklin gem has great significance. Ayurveda recommends the auspicious time, Brahma-muhurta, for waking up from sleep. Brahmamuhurta vaishishtyam is, likewise, the best time for meditation.

Ayurveda believes in just doing it. It focuses on a daily regimen that helps avoid lifestyle disorders, albeit today’s lifestyle does not quite permit adhering to it.

Ritucharya is a well-known fact. It suggests that different atmospheric changes affect all livings things and is detrimental. Ritucharya helps to achieve maximum benefits from the good qualities of the atmosphere and protection from its bad effects.

Ayurveda prescribes certain rules, in regard to diet and sleep [nidra]; they are called seasonal regimens, or Richaryacharya. Trayopstambha is the key to health and disease; it does not correspond to the application of drugs, chemicals, or special therapies, but in the prime factors on which our life and vitality is based. The three most important fundamentals in Ayurveda are food, sleep and sexual energy [ahara, nidra and brahmacharya].

Three Pillars

Our life will be happy with increasing body strength, colour, complexion and growth. In Ayurveda, dinacharya is mentioned by the Acharyas.

According to Ayurveda, one should wake up at Brahmya muhurta.

Sleep is just as important a phenomenon in our life — a part of normal physiology to provide rest and relaxation to the body, mind and senses which get tired and exhausted because of our daily schedules. This, in Charaka Samhita, is included as trayopstambha to give prime importance to the three pillars of life — strength, complexion and compactness of the individual body.

Suśruta said that nidra is a state of human body when sense organs disconnect from the grasp of their objects. According to Vaghbhatta, nidra is caused by increased tamma guna and also influenced by it. This is why nidra will occur at night-time.

According to Charaka Samhita, nidra, when taken properly in terms of quality and quantity, gives sukha, pushty, balata, gyana and jivitam. On the other hand, abnormal sleep in terms of quality and quantity is inadequate. When it is excessive, or irregular, it will exert exactly the opposite effect — dukkha, karshyam, abalam, agyanam, and ajivitam.

Stressful life is also a cause that ‘pushes’ youngsters to get addicted to alcohol, smoking, drug abuse etc. Because of this, stress-induced diseases, like hypertension and diabetes also expand in their intensity. The result — our lifespan is, therefore, decreasing day-by-day. 

The Ayurvedic Concept 

Importance of nidra. Nidra, or sleep, is an important pillar of life. It is a physiological state of rest for the body, mind, senses and motor organs. When the mind is exhausted and the exhausted sense organs detract from their object, we sleep. A person spends 1/3rd of their life in sleep. So, it is important that one gets sound sleep at night. According to Charaka Samhita, a kapha pradhana prakruti person will have more nidra; a vatapradhana prakruti person will have less nidra; and, nidra will be madhyam in pitta pradhana prakriti.

Natural sleep in adults. One feels sleepy during the night because of the calm and quiet environment conditions and increase of tamma guna. During day, bright light, and various noise-stimulating effects keep a person awake and alert; similarly, the sattava quality predominates and, hence, the person remains active.

  • Quality of adequate sleep [Samyak nidra]. Due to proper and adequate sleep, body tissues and doshas remain in a balanced state of health, physically and mentally. Charaka states that happiness and sorrow, obesity and emaciation, strength and weakness, virility and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death are all dependant on adequate and inadequate sleep.
  • Oversleep leads to obesity and diabetes due to increased kapha dosha.
  • Anidra. Inadequate sleep leads to increased vata dosha with wasting of tissues, emaciation, and insomnia.

Effects Of Insomnia 

  • Body ache
  • Indigestion
  • Giddiness
  • Drowsiness.

Improper sleep causes mental as well as systemic diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, congenital heart disease. Due to stressful lifestyle and improper sleep, the risk of hypertension increases manifold.

Obesity. Repeated disruption of the circadian system, pineal hormone melatonin suppression by exposure to light at night causes sleep loss with impairment of the immune system and metabolic changes favouring obesity.

Diabetes mellitus. Improper sleep causes diabetes mellitus.

CHD. Stressful lifestyle causes coronary heart disease [CHD]. They are smoking, alcohol, and psychological disturbances, among others.

Modern Perspective 

Our ancients lived and followed a different lifestyle. They were less occupied and there was less strain, but in today’s hectic and materialistic culture, a person rarely gets the time to think of their own health, or fitness. Many people think that a daily healthy lifestyle is not possible to follow.

The lifestyle of Indian villagers is more natural than people living in urban areas. They sleep early and get up in early, but urban life is artificial. Due to the person’s activities, occupation and recreation, people go to bed late and also get up late after sunrise. Night duty causes disturbance in sleep. People who work at night are more prone to symptoms of loss of sleep. This is reason why Ayurveda prescribes us not to work in night and not sleep during day-time.

The human body has its own internal biological clock that regulates our twenty-four hours’ sleep-wake cycles. This is also known as the circadian rhythm. Light is the primary source that influences the circadian rhythm. When the sun comes up in the morning, the brain tells the body to wake up. At night, when there is less light, so our brain triggers the release of melatonin. This makes us sleepy. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, the person may feel disoriented and sleepy and this may cause disorders like insomnia. The aetiological [causative] factors of insomnia provided in Ayurveda include faulty dietary consumption and stress too.

During sleep, the sympathetic activity decreases, while the parasympathetic activity increases, at times — this leads to a fall in blood pressure levels, pulse rate, BMR [by 10-20 per cent], muscle tone, skin vessel pliability, and increased activity of the gastrointestinal tract, at times. Disorders caused by improper sleep are agnimandhya, ajirna, amlapitta, headache, and constipation. It also affects the nervous system causing insomnia, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, memory problems, mood disturbances, anxiety, and depression. 

Conclusion

Ideal nidra plays an important role in combating lifestyle disorders and to leading a healthy life.

Dr VIHAR RAJENDRA BIDWAI, BAMS, is Assistant Professor, Department of Shalya Tantra, GMS Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya, Pusad, Yavatmal. Dr PRANAY GANDHI, MD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, GMC, Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India. This article [The Significance of Ideal Nidra in Lifestyle Disorder: The Ayurvedic Concept] was first published in International Journal of Scientific Research, Vol 5, Issue 4; 308-309, April 2016, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License 4.0.

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