Ayurveda gives high importance to both preventive and curative aspects of health. We all are familiar with the definition of health according to the World Health Organization.
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Ayurveda has been adhering to this definition for more than 5000 years now. According to the Ayurvedic scholar Sushruta, the definition of health is as follows.
“sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriyaaha
Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyate”
Ayurveda And Health
It means one is in perfect health when the three doshas ( Vata, Pitta and Kapha), digestive fire ( digestion, assimilation and metabolism), all the body tissues and components (dhatus), and all the excretory functions (the physiological functions of urination and defecation) are in perfect order with a pleasantly disposed and contented mind, senses, and spirit.
In order to maintain perfect health, Ayurveda scholars have explained in detail about dinacharya (daily regimen), rtucharya (seasonal regimen), achara rasayana (code of conduct) and others.
One of these concepts for preventive health mentioned in medieval Ayurveda textbooks is ‘ratricharya‘ or night regimen.
Let us look at what the classic Ayurvedic medical texts have mentioned about ratricharya.
Ratricharya In Ayurveda
The popular Ayurveda textbook Bhavaprakasha has mentioned certain actions that have to be contraindicated during the evening hours.
Here, evening time to be more precise is sandhya kala which is said to be the joining /junction period between the end of the day and beginning of the night time, a concept similar to ritu sandhi.
- Aaharam/Intake of food – The food taken at this time will not be digested and can end up in the formation of ama dosha.
- Maithunam/Sexual Intercourse – Sexual intercourse at this time of the day is said to cause fetal abnormalities
- Nidra/Sleep – Sleep at evening (not night) can result in poverty, loss of wealth and loss of intelligence as per classics.
- Sampaatam/Reading – This can result in ayu hani or bad effects to life.
- Adhwa gamana/Walking long distances – It is said to cause fear and anxiety of darkness.
The concepts mentioned here would be more relevant in the ancient times since there was no source of power or light at night and the only source of light was moonlight.
Exposing yourself to moonlight is beneficial according to Ayurveda.
Benefits of Moonbathing
- Cold and soothing effect on the body
- Pacifies thirst
- Enhances vigor
- Pacifies aggravated Pitta
- Cures burning sensation
Ayurvedic Dinner Guidelines
- The ideal time for consuming dinner is during the initial 3 hours of night (first prahara).
- Dinner should be less in quantity when compared to lunch.
- The food should be light, conductive & wholesome and easily digestible.
- Triphala mixed with honey/ghee at night is said to enhance vision
- Washing Hands
- Gargling with water or oil (tila thaila)
- Touching eyes with moist fingers before bedtime to soothe and reduce eye stress.
- Intake of medicated Smoke (dhoomapana) to pacify any aggravated Kapha
- Triphala mixed with honey/ghee at night is said to enhance vision
Sleep And Ratricharya
Sleep (nidra) is one of the main pillars of good health in Ayurveda and is as important as diet in sustaining a quality healthspan.
Ayurveda cautions that poor sleep patterns can be debilitating as it triggers age-associated pathological conditions that can hasten the aging process.
Research studies indicate that insufficient sleep can disrupt circadian rhythms that result in negative health outcomes, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment.
Poor sleep quality not only disrupts the circadian rhythms but also triggers metabolic diseases including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. 1
Ayurveda advises to sleep in the left lateral position and Sushruta advises walking 100 steps after dinner before sleeping.
Sleep hygiene is defined as a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations intended to promote healthy sleep and was originally developed for use in the treatment of mild to moderate insomnia.
During the sleep hygiene education, patients learn about healthy sleep habits and are encouraged to follow a set of recommendations to improve their sleep (e.g., avoid caffeine, exercise regularly, eliminate noise from the sleeping environment, maintain a regular sleep schedule).5
Although research has demonstrated links between individual sleep hygiene components and subsequent sleep, evidence for the efficacy of sleep hygiene education as a treatment for insomnia has been limited and inconclusive.
Research Studies On The Benefits Of Following Night Regimen (Ratricharya)
We all know about the importance of maintaining consistent bedtimes for children.
Children with optimal bedtime routines have been found to perform better in tests of executive function, working memory, inhibition, attention, and cognitive flexibility.
- Institution of a consistent nightly bedtime routine improves sleep in infants and toddlers with mild to moderate sleep problems.
- Such a routine appears to be highly efficacious; it can be easily adopted by practicing pediatricians and other pediatric providers as a routine recommendation for both prevention and treatment of sleep problems in young children.
- Primary care practitioners play an instrumental role in helping families institute positive sleep practices and improving sleep in infants and toddlers.3
- Among the common problems related to aging is sleep quality; over half of older adults suffer from symptoms of insomnia.
- Age-related changes in circadian sleep/wake regulation constitute a major underlying factor. Constant and organized lifestyle may moderate the effects of circadian rhythm changes on sleep.
- Preliminary findings have linked daily regularity to sleep quality among healthy adults and in patients with Parkinson disease.4
Ayurvedic concepts of daily routines have had major implications for health research and helped establish a growing field of science called chronobiology.
Scientists are only now beginning to understand the importance of routines, biological clocks and circadian rhythms and their role in aging, well-being, and morbidity.
Researchers studying chronobiology have noticed that increased longevity and improved health can be achieved by time-bound routines.
Furthermore, disturbances in the circadian rhythm can trigger fatigue, disorientation, insomnia and increased susceptibility to cancer.2
Summarizing, a peaceful evening devoid of any contraindicated activities, a wholesome and nourishing dinner followed by a walk, brushing and cleansing the body and herbs like triphala, ashwagandha and others along with a good night’s sleep ensures your ratricharya is complete.
Consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before trying any of the guidelines, routines, and herbs mentioned in this article.
- Rao R. V. (2018). Ayurveda and the science of aging. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 9(3), 225–232. doi:10.1016/j.jaim.2017.10.002
- Froy O. Circadian rhythms, aging, and life span in mammals. Physiology. 2011;26:225–235.
- Mindell, J. A., Telofski, L. S., Wiegand, B., & Kurtz, E. S. (2009). A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep, 32(5), 599–606. doi:10.1093/sleep/32.5.599
- Zisberg, A., Gur-Yaish, N., & Shochat, T. (2010). Contribution of routine to sleep quality in community elderly. Sleep, 33(4), 509–514. doi:10.1093/sleep/33.4.509
- Zarcone VP. Sleep hygiene. In: Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC, editors. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 3rd ed. WB Saunders; Philadelphia, PA: 2000. pp. 657–61.