Q: 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!
Q: 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. 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. Then, the downtime of maintenance will naturally come down.
#1 Eating Fresh Food
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, to counter that inertia, the body needs to spend a lot of energy. Because of that, you get switched off. That means your maintenance downtime increases because the fuel that you are putting into the system is not of high quality. You are putting low-grade fuel.
If food is cooked, that means in a way you have killed it – it is not live. Right now, if you stay alive for the next three days, you will not rot, isn’t it? But suppose you are dead. If 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. When you disrupt a very vigorous party, you will always be in a bit of a trouble.
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 going to get some ailment immediately 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 Quality of Food
Another thing is the quality of food that gets into you. It is becoming increasingly difficult to eat good quality food on this planet because the food that you are getting is only kilograms of commerce, not really fuel for the body. Someone makes something because if they sell that much, they make that much money. Business is on, but that is about it. Nutrition means they will add this, that, and something else. No, that is not the way the human system works. There are certain aspects of nature that this system can easily absorb, and certain aspects that this cannot absorb.
#3 Eating Simply
One thing is to eat foods which are less complicated. If you eat that kind of food which has the least amount of complex memory in it, it will become part of your system very quickly –within two to four hours of consumption. That kind of food will lower the sleep quota considerably. Any number of people – people who lived in the United States or Western countries, where they have been eating kilograms of commerce – have told me that when they come to the ashram, after two-three months they start wondering, “Why am I not sleeping enough,” because they believe that they must be sleeping eight hours. But here, 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 or something. 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 anything synthetic 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, naturally it wants you to hibernate.
#4 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, sleep quota will just drop.
#5 Becoming Needless
The alignment of the body and the lubrication of joy in you – love, joy, devotion, call it what you want, but if something pleasant is happening within you every moment of your life, then your sleep will come down dramatically. If you can be here in a way that you are needless – that means you have no needs, you can simply sit here, no need to do anything, no need to say anything, no need to possess anything, you are simply here – if you become needless, you also become sleepless, believe me.
Editor’s Note: Taste of Well-Being, packed with recipes from the Isha Yoga Centre kitchen, is a book that will help you discover the potential that lies within you and the joy you can derive from the simple act of eating. Interwoven throughout the book are Sadhguru’s insights into digestion, nourishment, classification of foods and more. Download now.