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Sleep Medicine in Ancient and Traditional India

  • V. Mohan KumarEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

In ancient India, as in other countries, people had shown great interest in understanding sleep and interpreting dreams. One can always find the emphasis being laid on deep sleep in ancient Indian literature. The Vedas, written about 2000 or more years before Christ are the chief sources of knowledge about sleep medicine in ancient India. These religious texts contain anatomical, physiological, psychological, pathological, and therapeutic views, which had found their reflection in the traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda. Though the entire wisdom about Ayurveda may not be available to us now, a good account of it is contained in Samhitas (encyclopedias) written by Charaka and Sushruta in 1000 BC. In Ayurveda, sleep is classified into seven types on the basis of its causative factors. In addition to several medications, Ayurveda does recognize prayer as one form of treatment, where the goddess of sleep Nidra devi is invoked to get sleep.

The second century writings in India like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali provide the most interesting information regarding the functioning of the brain, consciousness, and sleep. According to Yogic concept, consciousness is an expression of God and it is within every human being. It is claimed that consciousness, through various intermediary states gives rise to the five elements (Panchabhutas). These elements, under the influence of the three gunas (or energies), bring into existence the universe and all its constituents including man himself. Depending on the permutations and combinations of the influence of these three energies, man goes into the states of sleep, dreaming, and waking. Though many of the statements regarding Yoga and its effect on sleep need confirmation, a systematic research in this field would be rewarding.

Keywords

Veda Ayurveda Samhita Yoga Panchabhuta Guna Consciousness Patanjali Charaka and Sushruta 

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.8A, Heera Gate ApartmentsThiruvananthapuramIndia
  2. 2.Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & TechnologyThiruvananthapuramIndia

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