Etani Pancakarmani Sandhyayam

Etani Pancakarmani Sandhyayam Varjayed Budhah |
 Aharam Maithunam Nidram SampaTham Gatimdhwani ||

 Bhojananjayate Vyardhirmaithunadgarbhavaikratih, Nidraya Nihswata Pathayurhanirgaterbhayam |
Pradosha Pashcimau Yamau Veda bhyasena Taunayet ||

Prahardwayam Shayano Brahmbhuyaya Kalpate |
Ratrau Ca Bhojanam Kuryatprathamapraharantare|
Kincidunam Samashniyad Durjaram Tatra Varjayet ||

Meaning: Wise men and women avoid the following five activities during the first of the four phases of night eating, sleeping, general reading or studying, sexual activities, and roving away from the house. Eating in this phase causes health disorders or diseases, sleep makes one dull and eventually leads to failure or poverty, conceiving in this period results in defective foetus, general reading (or studying) reduces vitality (due to unnatural mental fatigue along with other factors), roving around in the dark is risky and it also disturbs one's disciplined schedule. As far as possible, one should have dinner before sunset or early in the first phase of ratricharya (The period, say about an hour after sunset to and hour before sunrise is called ratri, which is divided into four phases of equal duration). The food should be light and easily digestible; the quantity eaten should be less than what one eats in the morning/afternoon. One should sleep in a relaxed state of mind and body during the second and the third phases of ratricharya. The first phase of ratricharya since evening should be used for prayers and study of or contemplating on vedic literature, spiritual books etc.

The last phase (i.e. the period about 2-3 hours before sunrise till about an hour after) should also be used for this purpose along with worship, meditation and yoga . The guidelines given by the rishis in the above shlokas are scientific from the viewpoint of mental and physical health . For example, taking light dinner before sunset or in the first phase of night is found to be ideal for health y metabolism. It gives sufficient time to the GI tract to distribute the processed food in the various organs of the body. Jainism prescribes the discipline of not eating anything after sunset. Unfortunately the routine adopted by most of us in modern times is unscientific with respect to our natural metabolic system. We sleep late after watching tele vision till 11 or 12 in the night; eat whatever we like as and when we feel like. Get up late; often take breakfast at the time, which according to Ayurveda , is supposed to be the time for lunch. The result is obvious. We hardly enjoy good health and vitality, which nature wants to endow us with.
As we had discussed earlier in this series, the sandhikalas (junctions between evening and night and that between night and morning, say around sunset and sunrise time) are crucial for physical, mental as well as spiritual health . Eating or sleeping at these time periods is strictly prohibited in our scriptures. The rishis, the scientist-sages of yore had advised specific sadhana practices and prayer-meditations during these junctures. The linkage between solar radiations and our biological clocks has also been found to be very distinct during these periods of time in some modern laboratory experiments. Even if we could sit calmly and do a deep breathing pranayama exercise during these time intervals, our physical fatigue and mental stress and tensions would disappear. Practicing meditation (especially on the soothing brilliance of the rising or setting sun) at these junctures bestows added advantage of gradual sharpening of intellect and also deepening of spiritual aspirations. Sound, dreamless sleep for six hours during the second and third phases of night is sufficient for relaxing, and rejuvenating our mind -body system.
Yognidra:  Few hours of yoga nidra are found to have marvelous effects. It is a pity that we have chosen the other extreme. What we watch on the tele vision in the name of entertainment or enjoy through other audio-visual mediums these days is saturated with obscenity and violence, which perversely affect our mind and emotions. Yognidra is impossible in such circumstances. In fact many of us hardly get sound sleep because of the wrong ratricharya we have adopted. No doubt, we should have some time for health y entertainment but it should be chosen wisely and discriminately. Ayurvedic experts always advise that there should be a minimum of three hours gap between the dinner time and the time to go to bed. One must drink substantial amount of water after one hour's interval during this period. This helps proper digestion of the meal, good sleep at night and natural cleansing of the bowls after getting up in the morning. Consuming hot drinks (including tea or coffee), especially in the evening or night, is harmful to health , as it disturbs sleep and eventually the mental and bodily health . One does not feel fresh in the morning if one has not slept well in the night. Morning-fatigue, drowsiness and general dullness upset one's work efficiency. The savants of Ayurveda advise that one should wash the feet (using cold water in summer and warm in the winter) before going to bed. Those still having problems with sleep should massage the soles with ghee (clarified butter) prepared from cow's milk or with mustered or other prescribed herbal oil. This also minimizes the chances of catching cold or cough.