To Nap or Not to Nap? Ayurveda Has the Answer

To nap or not to nap? That is the question. And Ayurveda has lots to say about it.

To begin by stating the obvious, sleep is a crucial part of our life. The quantity and quality of our Zs make a significant impact on our overall energy level and mood. In Ayurveda, the three pillars prescribed to achieve and maintain health are sleep, diet, and energy management. When all three of these pillars are in balance, living is easy. According to the classical Ayurvedic text Astanga Hrdayam, “Happiness and unhappiness, nourishment (good physique) and emaciation, strength and debility, sexual prowess and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death—all are dependent on sleep.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on getting a good night’s rest!

But what if sleep eludes you one night, or you’re simply exhausted? Should you surrender to the call of a scandalous daytime rest? Well, as the answer is to everything in Ayurveda, it depends. More from the ancient texts: “Sleep indulged at the improper time, in excess or not at all, destroys happiness (health) and is like another kalaratri (goddess of death).” Yikes!

In general, Ayurveda does not advise sleeping during the day. Should you feel some afternoon fatigue, perhaps put your legs up the wall or do 20 minutes of yoga nidra. Even a walk in the afternoon sun can help banish sluggishness by thwarting the release of melatonin, the sleepy hormone.

However, if you are going to indulge in an afternoon siesta, do it on an empty stomach, and do it in summer. When the nights are shorter and the temps are higher, vata dosha (the ethereal aspects of ourselves) becomes aggravated and the body begins to dry out. Sleeping during the day is thought to increase kapha dosha, or the earth and water elements, in the body, thereby hydrating and lubricating the tissues—a perfect antidote to the heat of summer. 

During other seasons, when the water and earth elements are more prevalent (think late winter and spring), sleeping during the day will increase kapha in ways that are not ideal. You might wake up in a puddle of drool—cold, puffy, drowsy, and craving cupcakes.

Bottom line? If you’re feeling sluggish during the dog days of summer, Ayurveda gives you permission to take a nap. The rest of the year? Get outside and let nature give you a burst of energy.

Lauren Gernady is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, a 500-hour Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurvedic (KSA), and a former intern and Academic Coordinator of KSA.

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