At least once in a lifetime we all might have been asked by somebody, a very common question – “Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” If you wake up with a grumpy or gloomy mood, is there any logic to accuse any side of the bed? According to some polysomnography (the study of sleep) reports, the logic behind this is explained as follows:
‘The left side of the brain is dominant for logical thought processing. So if you wake up on your left side you may focus on more logical thoughts and actions. Instead, the right side of the brain being more dominant in controlling the emotions and imaginations, when you wake up on your right side there is a chance to get caught up by volatile emotions which makes you uncomfortable or unhappy.’
Is there anything else that deals with how sleep affects your mood or energy? How does sleep affect the emotional stability of a person? Is there any relation between sleep and stress? Let’s find out.
A brief review over the history of sleep studies or theories
Putting aside the Ayurvedic literature, the first modern scientific theory about sleep dates back to 500 to 400 BCE. A Greek doctor and philosopher Alcmaeon of Croton put forth a theory that sleep occurs as a result of blood on the surface of the body withdrawing into the interior. Later Aristotle (384-322 BCE) has postulated the theory of sleep and dreams. He considered sleep as a natural state of living organisms. In his theory he defines sleep as an affection of the sensitive part of the soul and the absence of motion imposed on it. It is a state of powerlessness due to excess of waking, while waking state is the ‘release of sensation’ from a state of potency. In his treatise named ‘De Somno’ he mentioned sleep as a state in which all organs become unable to work naturally and goes to rest state (potential sensation) after a stage of continuous exertion (actual sensation). Later modern scientific researches on physiology of sleep and patterns of sleep occurred in the second half of 20th century.
Sleep as per Ayurvedic perspective
Detailed description about sleep is found in many Ayurvedic literature. A philosophical description of the origin of sleep as time immemorial and its innate connection with ‘tamoguṇa’ is described. So sleep occurs naturally at night when there is predominance of tamoguṇa. It indicates the existence of an endogenous sleep - wake rhythm (Circadian rhythm). Vāgbhata, author of the Ayurvedic textbook ‘Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayam’, described that due to accumulation of kapha doṣa the micro channels (srotas) get blocked. And when mano-vaha-srotas gets occluded with kapha doṣa, the sense organs get restricted to connect to objects of worldly interests (viṣaya) eventually leads to natural shut down for all sense organs and sleep occurs. At the same time mind continues to pervade on the pre-stored thoughts and it may manifest as dreams. That means mind acts subconsciously at the time of sleep. As per the textbook ‘Suśruta Saṃhitā’, sleep occurs when ‘hṛdaya’ -the seat of cetana (liveliness) gets covered by tamas. One of the most prominent textbooks in Ayurveda, ‘Caraka Saṃhitā’ says that when mind gets exhausted after repeated activities, sense organs cease to perceive their objects and the person goes to natural state of sleep. Different phases of sleep and different causes of occurrence of sleep and sleep disorders are also explained in Ayurvedic literature.
A healthy sleep can provide sukha (happiness), puṣṭi (nourishment), bala (strength), vṛṣata (potency), jñāna (knowledge or wisdom) and jīvita (longevity). Chronic sleep deprivation may even lead to death. Inadequate and improper sleep causes duḥkha (depression or illnesses), kārśya (emaciation), abala (Weekness), klībata (impotency), ajñāna (ignorance) and even maraṇa (death). Caraka Saṃhitā considers sleep, diet and celibacy as the trayopastambhā (the three sub-pillars) of life. These three sub-pillars must be well protected for maintaining health of the body, mind and spirit.
Sleep and stress
There is interrelation between sleep and stress. Stress is a major causative factor for sleep deprivation. In a distressed state, a person’s mind has a tendency to indulge in negative thoughts and this leads the sense organs to forcefully awaken without going to a natural resting state, this will lead to the state of sleeplessness or insomnia. This creates a vicious circle between sleep and stress, as chronic sleep deprivation leads to a state of anxiety, depression, irritability etc.
Ayurveda considers a living body as a union of satva (mind), ātma (soul) and śarīra (body). Any kind of ill health affecting the body eventually passes on to mind and this affects a person’s spiritual wellbeing also. The major divisions of sleep (nidra) described in Ayurvedic literatures are- svābhāvika (naturally occurring) and asvābhāvika nidra (unnaturally occurring). Further, among unnatural sleep, six types have been explained. Among that, mana-sareera srama sambhava nidra is said to be ‘caused due to mental and physical exertion’. So, stress has a major role in causing sleep disorders. Certain occupation related sleep disorders must be considered seriously. Especially in persons having rotating work shifts. It causes repetitive Circadian shifts and may cause difficulty to adapt for a sound sleep and this leads to irritability, depression, anxiety and mood fluctuations. Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to cardiovascular disorders and metabolic disorders also.
In the current era technology rules the mankind. Especially a great majority of the world is addicted knowingly or unknowingly to mobile phones or other electronic media. How does it affect sleep? When we are exposed to bright light at night it leads to the suppression of the hormone Melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure which helps for a normal Circadian rhythm. The use of electronic gadget at bedtime eventually stimulates your mind at a time when it needs relaxation.
Sleep definitely has a major role in stabilizing a person’s emotional quotient. Quality sleep for at least seven hours a day is required for a healthy mind and body. Quality sleep is an uninterrupted sleep over a period of approximately seven to nine hours per night. In this fast life people are under different stress situations, may be related to occupation, or relationships issues, financial issues or over use of electronic media. It has a major role in creating distress indirectly. Maintaining mental and spiritual health is a major concern in the field of public health as stress is an unavoidable situation everyone must go through in everyday routine. So to tackle the situation without causing harm to our well being is our own responsibility. It is advisable to calm the mind especially at bed time and stop using electronic media at least one hour prior to sleep. Meditation helps to control the thoughts and mind to attain peacefulness. Indulging in good thoughts while going to sleep will help you to wake up with a rejuvenated energy and spirit irrespective of the side of bed on which you wake up.