Yet another question asked frequently by patients, mostly by busy people living a 24×7 life. Today we dissect its physiology and pathology from the Ayurvedic as well as modern perspectives.
The Modern view
Modern science does not recommend napping on a full stomach, for two reasons –
1. All the internal organs in the abdomen (except a few) are effectively just hung up in the abdominal cavity, packed inside a ‘sac’ called peritoneum. When you sleep in a back down position, these organs (most importantly, the stomach) fall back to put pressure on the diaphragm, your principle respiratory muscle, which can lead to breathing difficulty.
2. Body’s metabolism slows down during sleep, meaning that digestion too slows down, and a full meal may not get digested properly if you sleep immediately after.
Ayurveda does not label after-meal naps as bad or good outrightly. According to Ayurveda, napping after meals is described as a ‘Santarpan’ (anabolic/tissue building) habit in nature. It specially increases Kapha (‘Water’ bio-element) and Meda (Fatty/adipose tissue) in the body.
So in case you are looking to lose weight or suffer from diseases caused by excessive Santarpan/Kapha (for example, diabetes, gout, common cold, most skin diseases etc.) , you ought to beware of napping after meals;
if you are aiming for exactly the opposite (gaining weight/increasing deficient Kapha) a sound nap after a meal is just the thing for you. This also applies to those who are very ill, debiliated, old, infants, pregnant/lactating women or hard laborers, as all these groups need extensive tissue formation/repair processes to be carried out in their body.
“But then, what about the slowed digestion and posture-induced breath difficulty?”
If you have been reading this blog since some time now, you probably know already, that Ayurveda recommends always taking only a meal that fulfills only two-thirds, or at most three-fourths of your stomach’s capacity (read more in our previous article here).
That explains why a person following Ayurvedic lifestyle faces less of these two troubles. Yet, Ayurveda goes even further to minimize the postural and metabolic effects of sleeping, and prescribes something called ‘Vamkukshi‘.
Putting very simply, Vamkukshi means sleeping in a left leaning position. This is considered the most proper sleeping position after meal.
The stomach, being more curved on its left edge, has more available surface area on left side for absorption of nutrients and holding back eaten food. When you sleep leaning left, it hauls all the food in your stomach towards its left side (which now becomes the down direction) by gravitation, improving digestion as well as diverting the load away from the diaphragm. Thus, both the digestive and postural problems caused by sleeping with a full stomach are taken care of.
So that is all about when and when-not-to sleep after meals, and the right sleeping position for after-meal naps. Don’t forget to read our previous article
for more on improving the daily diet regimen. Questions and comments are welcome in the comments box below, or on the about page for general queries.
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About the Author –
Dr. Harshad Rajandekar practises Ayurvedic and modern medicine at Nasik city (MH) in India. He is also a collector of rare herbs, and takes keen interest in ethnopharmacological studies.
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