To nap or not to nap? That is the question. Sleep is a crucial part of our life. The quantity and quality of our zzz’s makes a significant impact on our overall energy level and mood. In Ayurveda, there are three pillars prescribed to achieve and maintain health, they are: sleep, diet and energy management. When all three of these pillars are in balance, living is easy. According to the classical Ayurvedic text Aṣṭāñga Hṛdayam, “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 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 day time rest? Well, as the answer is to everything in Ayurveda, “it depends”. “Sleep indulged at the improper time, in excess or not at all, destroys happiness (health) and is like another kālarātri (goddess of death).” Yikes!
In general, it is not advised to sleep during the day. Sure, 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 is said to beat sluggishness by thwarting the release of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. However, Ayurveda says summer is prime time for indulging in an afternoon siesta, just do it on an empty stomach. It is said that as summer approaches, and the nights become shorter, vata dosha (the ethereal aspects of ourselves) becomes aggravated. As the temperature climbs, the body naturally begins to dry out. Sleeping during the day is thought to increase kapha dosha, or the earth & water elements, in the body thereby hydrating and lubricating the tissues, making it a perfect antidote to balance the heat of summer. Take note, during other seasons when the water and earth element are more prevalent (think late winter and spring) sleeping during the day will increase kapha in ways that are not ideal – meaning you may 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? Perhaps take a sense break or get outside and let nature give you a burst of energy.