Be it Ayurveda or modern science, experts constantly stress the need for a good night’s sleep for the healthy functioning of our mind and body. This is because lack of sleep can significantly impact your well-being and put you at risk of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues, among others. Apart from ensuring that you are sleeping an adequate number of hours, you must also pay special attention to the direction you are sleeping in, says Ayurveda.
Highlighting the importance Ayurveda places on sleep, Dr Arun Gopinath, Senior Medical Officer, Kerala Ayurveda said, “Farmers often leave their fields fallow, allowing the soil to regenerate and recoup its lost fertility. Sleep works in a similar manner – it is the period when we renew and revive our senses for a fresh start and a productive day. Sleep or nidra is highly vital in Ayurveda – so much that it is included in the three pillars of life or the Traya Upasthambhas along with food or Ahara and sexual conduct or Brahmacharya.”
He added that Acharya Charaka – one of the principal contributors to the ancient system of Ayurveda – hailed sleep as ‘Bhutadhathri‘, “indicating that restful sleep nourishes our body like a mother, or dhatri nourishes her child.”
However, despite its many benefits, many people struggle to get restful sleep. While we often blame lifestyle factors for it, little attention is paid to the direction we sleep in, which could have a significant impact on the quality of our sleep, and also our health. “Interestingly, Anandakanda, an Ayurvedic text, mentions the directions in which one should sleep to enjoy a deep, restful sleep,” Dr Gopinath said.
The best direction to sleep
According to Ayurvedic expert Dr Dixa Bhavsar Savaliya, one should sleep with their head facing south as it is considered the direction of deep, heavy sleep. “As South is negatively charged and your head is positively charged, there is a harmonious attraction between your head and the direction. Instead of energy being pulled out if you sleep with your head to the north, energy is drawn into your body promoting health, happiness and prosperity. That means you should sleep like a log with your head facing south,” she explained.
Agreeing, Dr Gopinath said: “In mythology, it is believed to be the direction of Lord Yama, meaning you will enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep and longevity or deerghayu in this direction.”
A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, stated that hat those who were instructed to sleep with their head in the south direction for 12 weeks had the lowest systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and serum cortisol.
Worst direction to sleep
Is there a worst direction to sleep, too? Just like the south is considered to be the best direction to sleep in, Ayurvedic experts suggested avoiding facing north while sleeping. This is because “sleeping towards the north makes the positive pole of earth coincide with the positive pole of our body, which repels each other. You will, thus, have nightmares and disturbed sleep,” Dr Gopinath explained.
Dr Dixa added that, in this direction, you won’t get a restful night’s sleep and are likely to wake up exhausted from the unconscious war that’s been going on all night long. “This magnetism is understood, Ayurvedically, to affect blood circulation, stress and cause disturbance of the mind,” she said.
What about east and west?
Now that it is established that sleeping with your head towards south and north are the best and worst positions, respectively, let’s delve deeper into the remaining two directions and their effect on your sleep and, in turn, health.
East: This sleeping direction is considered beneficial for students as it is believed to be a memory enhancer. “As the sun rises in the east, this direction signifies rejuvenation and positive energy characterised by intellect and creativity,” Dr Gopinath said.
Dr Dixa added that this direction helps improve concentration, and promotes meditative sleep and very good health.
West: Sleeping west, on other hand, is linked to an unsettled night’s sleep. “Vastu Shastra says that this is the direction of striving which could give you unsettling dreams and not a very restful night’s sleep,” she explained.
Additionally, sleeping with your head towards the west can lead to emotional distress, Dr Gopinath mentioned. “It increases Rajas or restlessness, and you may suffer from nightmares. But it also makes a person success-driven, so it is for those who want to succeed in life and are not bothered about their sleep quality,” he added.
(Next in the series: Can lack of sleep affect heart health, and vice versa?)