10 Tips Help to Train Your Body To Sleep Less and Still Feel Restful
Questioner: Namaskaram Sadhguru, I wanted to ask you about sleep. I know you have talked about it a lot, but I wanted to see if we can get a little bit deeper into it. You mentioned that there were some really simple things that one can do to drastically reduce their sleep quota. Even when I do all my practices, I still feel like I need a lot more sleep than most people do.
Sadhguru: You want me to go deeper into sleep!
Questioner: Well, the science of it, yes.
Sadhguru: We must understand what sleep is. Sleep means servicing time for the body. That means this is a time when the body gets rid of impurities. It is a maintenance and repair time for the damage that happens to the body because of daily living – on the cellular level, on the energy level, and in many different ways.
How much maintenance downtime you need simply depends on how much repair there is to be done. In the course of living, how much damage do you cause to yourself – that is the question. The damage will be maximum if there is too much friction in you. If your system is very well-aligned and well-lubricated, there is least amount of friction and the downtime of maintenance will naturally come down.
Tips to Reduce Sleep Quota
#1 Eating Fresh Food
Sadhguru: What are the things that you can do to bring down your sleep? The first thing is, eat fresh food. In the Yogic culture, the simple understanding is that if you cook something, you must consume it within a maximum of ninety minutes. After that, inertia will start setting in. If you eat food with high inertia, the body becomes lethargic. It will need long periods of sleep because the body needs to spend a lot of energy to counter that inertia. That means your maintenance downtime increases because the fuel that you are putting into the system is low-grade.
If food is cooked, in a way you have killed it. It is not live. Suppose you are dead and we keep your body for three days, it will rot. That is so for every life. Whether it is vegetable matter or animal flesh or many other things, the moment you take the life out of it by cooking, it begins to rot.
There is nothing wrong with rotting because that is another form of life. Rotting means some other life has started making this into their food. There is a whole host of life which may be microscopic – you cannot see them but they are all having a party. If you eat that food and join the party that the bacteria and whatever else are having, you will be in trouble. Trouble need not necessarily mean you are immediately going to get some ailment because not all of them are capable of infecting you with something. It is just that your energy goes down, so it causes inertia in the body.
Think about when you go into a superstore and buy stuff. A whole lot of things there have been there for over a month. Then you bring it and keep it in your refrigerator for another month and have a bite whenever you feel like it. The doctors are prescribing that you must sleep for eight hours, otherwise you will not be physically and mentally healthy because even they are eating the same food!
#2 Eating Simple
The nature of a human being is such that while every other creature adapts to the situations it is placed in, a human being is able to create the situations that he wants. That is what makes us distinct. If you have any sort of concern for yourself, you have to be conscious about what goes into your system.
If you eat that kind of food which has the least amount of complex memory in it, it will become part of your system within two to four hours of consumption. That kind of food will lower the sleep quota considerably. But in today’s world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to eat good quality food because the food that you get is mostly kilograms of commerce, not really fuel for the body. Any number of people – people who lived in Western countries, where they have been eating this kind of food – have told me that when they come to the Isha Yoga Center, after two-three months they start wondering, “Why am I not sleeping enough?” They believe that they must be sleeping eight hours. But our standard is four hours. We are not just managing with four hours, we are flourishing very well.
If there is too much chemical content and synthetic stuff, the body is not designed to digest that. Even if one percent of the food that you consume is synthetic in nature, either in the form of fertilizers, chemicals or preservatives, the entire digestive system becomes a struggle.
A huge amount of antacids are consumed in the United States. That means what you are putting into the tummy is not suitable, for your tummy at least. Heartburn is not because you are in love. Heartburn means your entire esophagus is burning up with acids or for a variety of reasons. Even if there is less than one percent of synthetic stuff in the food that you eat, your ability to absorb that into the system drops drastically, which also increases your sleep quota in a huge way. Because the body is in struggle, so naturally it wants you to hibernate.
#3 How Much to Eat
How keenly you manage your energies is what decides your alertness. To meditate, alertness should be not just of the mind but of your very energy. To assist this, for people on the Yogic path, it is said that you should eat only twenty-four mouthfuls, and you must chew every mouthful at least twenty-four times. This will ensure that food is pre-digested in your mouth before it goes in, and it will not cause dullness.
If you do this during your evening meal, you will easily wake up at three-thirty in the morning. In the Yogic system, this period is called the Brahma Muhurtam. It is an ideal time to do Yogic practices because there is an extra support from nature at that time for your sadhana.
#4 Don’t Sleep Right After You Eat
There are quite a few people who are in such a mental state that unless they load themselves with food and make the body dull, they cannot fall asleep. If you are in a condition where you cannot sleep unless you have a full stomach, you need to address this issue. This is not about sleep, this is a certain mental state.
I would say 80% of the food that you eat will go waste if you fall asleep within two hours of eating. You must give sufficient time for digestion to happen before you sleep.
#5 The Right Position For Sleep
When the body is positioned horizontally, you can immediately make out that your pulse rate drops. The body makes this adjustment because if blood is pumped with the same force, too much will go into your head, causing damage. The blood vessels which go upward are a finer arrangement compared to those going down. As they go up into the brain, they become almost hair-like, to a point that they cannot take an extra drop.
When you sleep, if you place your head towards the north and stay that way for 5 to 6 hours, the magnetic pull of the Earth will cause pressure on your brain because iron is an important ingredient in your blood. It is not that if you sleep this way you will fall dead. But if you do this every day, you are asking for trouble. If you are beyond a certain age and your blood vessels are weak, it can result in hemorrhages and paralytic strokes. If your system is sturdy, you may not sleep very well because there is more circulation in the brain than there should be.
If you are in the northern hemisphere, East is the best direction to keep your head when you sleep. Northeast is okay. West is alright. South, if you must. North, no. In the southern hemisphere, don’t put your head to the south.
#6 Don’t Forcefully Deny Yourself Sleep
How much sleep your body needs depends on the level of physical activity you perform. There is no need to fix the quantum of either food or sleep. When your activity levels are low, you eat less. When they are high, you may eat more. The same goes for sleep. The moment the body is well rested it will get up, whether at 3 AM or 8 AM. Your body should not wake up to an alarm bell. Once it feels sufficiently rested, it must come awake.
If you forcefully deny sleep to the body, your physical and mental capabilities and whatever else you have will drop. You should never do that. You must give the body how much sleep it needs.
But if the body is somehow trying to use the bed as a grave, it won’t want to come out. Someone will have to raise you from the dead! It depends on how you are handling your life. If you are in a mental state where you want to avoid life, you will naturally tend to eat and sleep more.
#7 Maintaining a Joyful State
Sleep means hibernation, temporary death, downtime for servicing, repairing. If you keep your body in such a way that there is very little damage during the day, you will see the downtime for servicing will naturally come down. This can be done by eating the right food and by keeping your mind in a joyful state. If you keep yourself joyful, if there is no friction in your body, no friction in your energy system because of the alignment that you have achieved, and no friction in your mind and emotion, your sleep quota will just drop.
#8 Don’t Battle With Life
The body needs rest, not sleep. In most people’s experience, sleep is the deepest form of restfulness they know, so they talk about sleep. But essentially, the body is not asking for sleep, it is looking for restfulness. Your mornings would be pretty bad if your nights were not restful. So it is not sleep but restfulness that makes the difference.
If you keep your body relaxed throughout the day, if your work, exercise and every other activity is a form of relaxation for you, your sleep quota will go down naturally. The problem is that people have been taught to do everything hard – in tension. I see people walking very tense in the park. This sort of exercise will bring more harm than wellbeing. Don’t go at everything like it is a war. Whether you are walking, jogging or exercising, why don’t you do it easily, joyfully?
Don’t battle with life. Keeping yourself fit and well is not a battle. Play a game, swim, walk, whatever you like. You will only have a problem if all you want to do is eat cheesecake! Otherwise there is no problem about being relaxed with any activity.
#9 Yogic Practices – Shambhavi Mahamudra
If you bring certain Yogic practices such as the Shambhavi Mahamudra into your life, one of the first changes you will see is in your pulse rate. For example, someone who has just gone through the Inner Engineering program and started Shambhavi, if he checks his pulse before and after dinner and records it, and then practices Shambhavi twice a day for six weeks and checks his pulse again, it would have come down by eight to fifteen counts. If one really sinks deep into restfulness in Shambhavi, the pulse rate will go down further.
With 12 to 18 months of practice, you can bring your pulse rate down to around fifty or sixty in a restful state. If this happens, your sleep quota will go down dramatically because the body is generally restful through the day. Whatever activity you may be doing, it remains restful, so it will not demand more sleep.
#10 Shoonya Meditation
There is a certain meditation we teach which is called Shoonya. This is taught in a program that we conduct only in the Isha centers in southern India and the United States. We do not teach it elsewhere because it needs a certain atmosphere, training and other processes. Shoonya can bring your sleep quota down dramatically. It is just a fifteen-minute meditation but you will see, if you settle down into this meditation process properly, your metabolism will drop up to twenty-four percent. Twenty-four percent is the deepest drop you can have in conscious states of meditation. If you go beyond that, you will not be conscious in the usual sense. To be able to be relaxed to a point and then to come out consciously, you cannot go beyond twenty-four percent.
You will find this fifteen minutes of meditation is equal to two to three hours of sleep in terms of restfulness. Because there are such drastic physiological changes in the body, especially on the level of your blood chemistry, phenomenal things will change – which is why it needs to be taught in very controlled, focused conditions.