“Happiness and unhappiness, nourishment and emaciation, strength and debility, sexual prowess and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death—all are dependent on sleep.” – Ashtanga Hrydayam – verse 53, Sutra Staana
Sleep (nidra) is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda along with Brahmacharya (lifestyle), and Ahara (nutrition). Good quality sleep during the optimum time and of optimum duration is essential to maintaining sound health.
What is healthy sleep? According to Ayurveda, healthy sleep is one that occurs during the proper time, for a proper duration, and most importantly that one feels rested, refreshed, clear and with balanced energy upon waking. Sleep has primarily two stages: deep sleep and sleep with dreams. Deep sleep is needed for the body to feel refreshed and nourished. Dreams are also important for the processing of impressions and memory and for the subconscious mind to express itself. Dreams may also give us insight into what is going on, emotionally, and spiritually which is usually under the surface of our conscious mind, but it is in deep sleep that we truly let go. Deep sleep has been likened to the state of samadhi in which the subject and object are merged into one, except for in deep sleep there is a lack of consciousness of this state.