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Relationship between Tamas and Sleep: Tamobhava Nidra

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By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Tamas causes sleep. This sleep can be normal, a disease or even a sign of unconsciousness. Ayurveda explains Tamobhava Nidra as a type of sleep which is caused by increase in tamas quality of mind. It is one among the six types of sleeps explained by Master Charaka in Sutra Sthana Section, Ashtau Ninditiya Adhyaayah (Chapter 21, verses 58 and 59).
Tamo = tamas quality, Bhava = caused by
Read – Mind – Qualities, Functions, Doshas As Per Ayurveda

Qualities, Doshas of mind

Sattva is the prime quality of mind. More the Satva a person has, more enlightened and knowledgeable and active he will be.
Rajas and Tamas are the Doshas of min. It means, when in balance, Rajas and Tamas help the mind and body to function properly. When they are imbalanced, they cause diseases.
Increase in tamas quality means decrease in sattva and rajas qualities. While rajas quality contributes towards alertness, the tamas quality contributes towards drowsiness, laziness, depression and extreme sleep, that too when it is out of proportions.
Read – Manasika Doshas – Satva, Rajas, Tamas As Per Ayurveda

Tamas and sleep

Tamas can be likened to darkness. When the mind and senses are enveloped and dominated by increased tamas quality the person will feel as if he has entered a deep core of darkness or as if darkness is enveloping him.
The sleep caused due to excess Tamas is not of a healthy type. Here, the person has become lazy, ignorant, does not have a purpose in life, does not set targets and thus, surrenders himself to inaction and darkness of sleep.

‘Tendency to sleep’ is one of the qualities of Tamasa ahankara – an egoistic mindset. So when tamas dominates, the person will have a natural tendency to sleep.

Tamas link according to Acharya Vagbhata

Master Vagbhata tells that nidra, vis-à-vis sleep is

  • Tamo mula – caused by increased tamo quality
  • Tamo mayee – sleep is full of tamo quality

He also tells – ‘probably due to predominance of tamo guna one sleeps at night’. From this we can also understand that it is natural that the tamo guna is predominant at night and hence one naturally sleeps at night. This is physiological.

When the same tamo guna increases beyond its normal limits it still causes sleep, which is probably pathological in nature and is difficult to recover from that state. This is pathological or life threatening.
‘When the sanjnavaha srotas – channels transporting consciousness – nervous system is enveloped by tamas quality one will get into tamasik sleep. At the time of one’s end-time he or she will not wake up from this type of sleep’. When tamo guna predominates one will sleep through day and night. When this condition stays for long, one can be considered close to death.
Read – Manovaha Srotas Description, Vitiation Symptoms, Treatment

Levels of Tamas

If the nervous system is afflicted by tamo guna to a severe level one doesn’t wake up from this sleep as already said. This might be considered as a state of deep coma. This is dangerous and life threatening.
Healthy tamas helps to have a good quality of sleep, which is physiological and normal.
Increased Tamas makes the person to sleep excessively, which can lead to diseases of body and mind.
Read – Dizziness: Causes, Symptoms, Ayurvedic Remedies, Treatment

Murcha, Unconsciousness

Murcha means fainting or loss of consciousness. Its variants moha and sanyasa explain different spectrums and presentation of abnormal consciousness. While explaining the pathogenesis of murcha it is said that ‘when the sanjnavaha nadis i.e. nerves or channels of consciousness are afflicted by severely aggravated doshas, the person will find himself enveloped by extreme darkness which blocks his capability of discriminating between pleasure and pain, reality and otherwise. Though this has nothing to do with tamobhava nidra, I have taken this reference to contextually highlight the point that when extreme darkness prevails (like we are locked in a pitch dark room) or when extreme tamo guna is prevailing the person will fail to discriminate between pleasure and pain, reality and otherwise.

Even in tamobhava nidra the situation of the person is similar. While the person can be brought back to consciousness in murcha, it might not be possible in tamobhava nidra since the impact of tamas is severe and the person has not just lost the consciousness temporarily but has gone into deep unconscious stage i.e. deep sleep from which it is difficult to come back to senses.

How to reduce the excess Tamas?

Exercise, Yoga Pranayama
Meditation
Read books that bring positive mindset
Meet spiritual people
Control sense organs –
Eyes – avoid smartphones, binge-watching TV shows
Ears – Stop listening to very loud music and negative news about the world
Nose and mouth – Avoid excess eating, try to avoid non vegetarian foods and deeply fried foods
Skin – Do not live within darkness. Go for a run in the early morning, avoid excessive use of bed for everything. For eg: reading on the bed, eating on the bed etc.
Trying all measures to reduce sleep and lethargy.
Read: I Feel Lazy – How To Get Rid Of Laziness And Procrastination?
Tongue – Avoid abusive language, avoid blaming others, avoid complaining. Instead, look for solutions, look for ways to improve yourself.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Skype

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