Q. A night life is not uncommon today. Why then are we told to sleep early and wake up early?
Why can’t we just follow ‘our’ body clock? What’s wrong in working all night and rest in the day?
A. It may be something happening very commonly today. We tend to party hard till late night or we are chatting over the internet, going for late-night drives, movies, overtime-work, night-shifts etc. But, what is popular is not always right. And what is right is not always popular! Once in a while if one has a very late night it is fine but it should not become one’s life-style. Let us look at the impact of such a life from various viewpoints:
Biological Standpoint: They may seem to have adjusted their biological clock against nature. They are, however, facing sleep disorders, young-age heart disease, depression and family discord, according to doctors and several industry surveys. Human body’s natural circadian rhythms tell that the concerned person should not be working when he or she should take sleep. The body gets heated up when one keeps awake and it results in cold, acidity, fever, decreased immunity etc.
Many of our hormones and enzymes keep fluctuating during different times of the day. Take for example; cortisol concentration changes daily. Cortisol is the most potent glucocorticoid produced by the human adrenal. This peaks during the morning hours when glucose is needed for activity and reaches its low point late in the evening. So the chances of heart attacks are very high in the morning time, especially when it is preceded by stressful working nights. These natural cycles of the body get totally disturbed when we try to reverse the biological clock.
There is no “our-own” body clock. There is one human biological clock that the body follows with negligible differences based on individual lifestyles, habits, climatic conditions and physiological conditions.
People get used to drinking, for example. They may justify saying that “What’s the harm? It suits my body. I feel comfortable and fresh when I drink. I don’t even get drunk!” But the kidney gradually rots away in time no matter how used-to one gets and how fresh one feels after alcohol consumption! Same way, disturbing the body clock may appear harmless externally in some cases. Yet, the impact it has on the body and mind cannot be denied.
Pranic Standpoint: Our digestive system is tuned as per the movement of the sun. Hence it works best between sunrise and sunset. Prana is life-energy. It is the vital-force that is the fuel for every thought we think and action we perform. Conservation of pranic energy is very important for great achievements. Much more time and pranic energy is spent when we eat late night and keep awake till odd hours. The body’s digestive enzymes are secreted in minimal quantities at night. The food which is consumed late may not get digested well because the body is on sleep mode. Late nights and late dinners are one of the main reasons why most people in the advertising industry and most party DJs are said to suffer gastro-intestinal diseases. Especially late dinners are responsible for the extra weight that one puts on.
Psychological standpoint: Research also shows that those who are awake during the night on a regular basis, tend to face a gradual drop in creativity, alertness and productivity compared to those who sleep in the nights. It is also observed that memory functions best when one has rested enough and one is not struggling to keep awake. It also takes much more time to grasp a concept. According to certain modern theories, some of us are ‘parrots’ – those who can study and work in the day and some are ‘owls’ – who can study and work in the night. Going by these theories we tend to stay up till late and work or study in groups or chat on the internet etc. Yet it is a fact that there is a heavy price to pay for being ‘owls’ because nature has not created us that way. It’s our mindset, peer-pressure that makes us think in terms of ‘parrots’ and ‘owls’.
Light is symbolic of freshness, brightness, brilliance, knowledge. Darkness is symbolic of ignorance, gloominess, dullness and inertia. Try living in a closed room for long. One feels claustrophobic and wants to come out into the open. Hence the mind is influenced by light and there is a new enthusiasm and dynamism. Darkness invokes laziness, lethargy, dullness, fear etc.
Spiritual Standpoint: The entire universe is a play of 3 gunas or moods - Sattva-Guna (Peace & Clarity), Rajo-guna (dynamism & activity) and Tamo-Guna (Inertia & Ignorance). These three gunas influence the content of a thing as well as its qualities. They also influence the thinking. Morning time is the time of sattva-guna and the entire nature is filled with positivity, peace and spiritual influence of the medi-tation by great masters. Nature is conducive for study, contemplation, meditation, deeper thinking, reflection, creativity etc. Hence 4am to sunrise is considered as ‘brahma-muhurta’ or auspicious time to contemplate on the Supreme Truth – Brahman. At the dawn and as the sun-rises there is tremendous activity and rajo-guna takes over throughout the day. As the sunsets in the evening, tamo-guna takes over slowly and one feels tired, sleepy, dull after a hard day’s work. As the night proceeds more and more tamas is prevalant in the environ-ment. Though we may have slept in the day and may appear to be fresh in the night, since the environment is pre-dominently tamasic it will have an impact on the mind and one will struggle. On the contrary if one tries to harmonize oneself with the gunas in nature and envi-ronment around oneself it will become easier for the mind to focus and one will see the increase in efficiency.
Considering the above wherever possible, one has to make a conscious and intelligent choice of taking care of the body as per its requirements, tune up with nature and work with it rather than against it. If this is not done, sooner or later there will be a break-down and one will be forced to come back to the natural rythm of the body. Where it is impossible to make the choice, one must ensure that one is aware of the consequences and take the remedial measures in anticipation and come back to the natural routine as soon as possible.