Release your worries

A dynamic world, changing lifestyles, irregular eating habits, anxiety, depletion, depression, chronic illnesses – whatever it be, has an impact on our holistic life. The four most important sources of energy that keep us up and moving through the day are food, sleep, breath and a calm, happy state of mind.

Despite years of research and advances in medicine, it has been evident that natural healing happens only through what we do for one-third of our lives – sleeping! It underlines the importance of good rest. Ayurveda states that the main function of sleep is to enhance the ojas or energy that acts as the primary coordinator between our mind and body and provides for a healthy and fulfilling life.

Such is the power of the human mind. The memories and impressions that are stored in it need to be rewired in such a way that it doesn’t bother us in the present. Focus sharpens the mind, while relaxation expands it. Meditation is that element which puts us in touch with that deep peace, free of all past impressions.

Both sleep and meditation refresh us, but meditation can free us from past impressions too!

-Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

How much sleep is too much?

There is no one answer to the amount of sleep that a person needs.

While it is said that an average adult needs about 7-8 hours of sleep to rejuvenate oneself for the next day, the quality and duration of sleep depend on the constitution of one’s body. When the body is high on tamas, it asks for more hours of rest; rajas cause an increase in activity and lack of sleep and makes one tired. But, when sattva reigns, fatigue is almost nil, and the body is in a well-awakened state, refreshed for the most part of the day.

However, sleep cycles vary depending on one’s age and health condition.

For example, newborns sleep for about 17-18 hours with 9 hours a day in REM sleep, while an average adult spends less than 2 hours in REM, a stage when brain activity is high. The deeper the sleep, the more peaceful the state of mind.

Chronic illnesses, anxieties or sleep disorders such as insomnia (a hyperarousal of brain activity) have a huge impact on the body’s metabolic rates, optimal health and well-being and hence need to be addressed with utmost importance.

Effects of sleep deprivation on the body

  • Mood changes

    Sleep deprivation can make one moody and emotional and if chronic, it may lead to anxiety or depression.

  • Weakened immunity

    Too little sleep can weaken the body’s defence mechanisms against germs that cause the common cold, flu etc.

  • Affects thinking and concentration

    Concentration, memory, creativity and problem-solving may be affected when the brain cells get tired due to lack of sleep.

  • Risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac problems

    Lack of sleep affects the body’s release of insulin, a blood sugar-lowering hormone. People who don’t get enough sleep are at risk of being diabetic. Insufficient sleep can also lead to a rise in blood pressure and may cause heart disease.

  • Weight gain

    When deprived of sleep, the chemicals that signal to your brain may be subject to imbalance and eventually cause weight gain.

    Each of these effects can be alleviated through our ancient yogic practices.

    Charaka Samhita, a Sanskrit text on Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) underscores the importance of proper sleep.

Consciousness & sleep

The state of our consciousness also has a deep impact on our holistic health.

Studies assert that there is conscious experience in sleep only when we dream. A little bit of practice can help alter the states of our consciousness as needed between jagruti (waking state), swapna (dreaming state) and sushupti (deep sleep state, devoid of thoughts). Meditation helps tap into it and brings a significant difference to our lifestyle, also improving productivity and cognitive performance.

Nature compels you to go into silence unconsciously and that is sleep. This gives you energy. When you choose to be silent consciously, that is meditation. It gives you more energy and can help open doors to subtler dimensions.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Meditation for sound sleep: some interesting techniques

The golden rule for meditation is to be in the present moment. And in that present moment, you tell yourself that you want nothing; you do not want to do anything for those few minutes, and you are a ‘nobody’. That brings you in touch with a deep, profound silence, which is the most essential for relaxation.

1. Breath awareness

A good way to begin is with a simple awareness of our breath. Our mind, which is as busy as a bee throughout the day, settles with a few rounds of pranayama or conscious rhythmic breathing. Take time to gently observe the flow of breath as you inhale and exhale. Observe the effect on your mind and emotions. Learn to let go and be in the space that you create with the breath.

It has a powerful effect on all bodily functions. It relaxes the mind, releases tension and slows down the thought process, giving a pacifying and harmonizing effect and inducing sleep.

Some effective techniques of pranayama include Bhramari and Nadi Shodhan. The most powerful breathing technique is Sudarshan KriyaTM, which calms and rejuvenates every cell of your body.

2. Guided meditations

Guided meditations are an easy solution. There is a wide range available, covering a range of topics. No matter what subject grabs your interest, meditations can expand your horizons and relieve your nervous system. It helps connect you to the core of your being, where there is nothing but a profound, deep silence.

Meditation with Gurudev

3. Yoga Nidra: body scan meditation 

Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) can help bridge the gap between the wakeful mind and sleep. This is a simple process where you gently take your attention to various parts of the body and bring relaxation in a systematic way using the breath. This process is very nourishing and calming and can be practised for a good night’s sleep.

Know more about Meditation for Sleep

Explore the Best directions to Sleep

4. Mantra meditation

Rhythmic chants or mantra meditation is another effective way for peaceful sleep. Our body is 72 per cent water, and the vibrations that it carries have an impact on our mind and wellbeing. It is important we ensure positive vibrations are reflected on it through a positive state of mind, positive words and expressions. Vedic mantras and chants carry powerful vibrations and have the potential to alter our states of consciousness.

Gently invoking these mantras calms the system and helps us meditate effortlessly. 

The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to make sure you get adequate sleep and a healthy lifestyle, reduce gadget/ screen time and follow the practices suggested here. You can learn much more in the Art of Living Workshop to Get Rid of Anxiety & Sleep Disorder.