Table of Contents
Cover Page
Copyright Page
About the Author
Other books by Deepak Chopra
Restful Sleep
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Deepak Chopra is the bestselling author of twenty-four books, including Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Path to Love. He is the Director of Educational Programmes at The Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California.
Other books by Deepak Chopra
Creating Health
Return of the Rishi
Quantum Healing
Perfect Health
Unconditional Life
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind
Perfect Weight
Journey into Healing
Creating Affluence
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
The Return of Merlin
Boundless Energy
Perfect Digestion
The Way of the Wizard
Overcoming Addictions
Raid on the Inarticulate
The Path to Love
The Seven Spiritual Laws
for Parents
The Love Poems of Rumi
(edited by Deepak Chopra; translated by
Deepak Chopra and Fereydoun Kia)
Healing the Heart
Everyday Immortality
The Lords of the Light
On the Shores of Eternity
How to Know God


the complete mind-body
programme for overcoming

Deepak Chopra



Sleep, like good health in general, is something most people take for granted. As long as it’s coming easily, there’s just no reason to give it much thought. But for millions of people, a good night’s sleep isn’t easily come by—and as you’ll learn throughout this book, the reasons for that are more far-reaching and more complex than you might suspect.
Is insomnia more prevalent in our society today, as millions of us lie awake at night, worrying, mentally balancing our checkbooks, replaying arguments and misunderstandings until there’s finally nothing left to do but get up and watch television?
At present this is certainly a nation of troubled sleepers. Based on the number of prescriptions written for sleeping pills and the volume of commercially produced sleep aids, insomnia may be our most widespread health problem. Virtually everyone has experienced insomnia occasionally, and currently one out of every three adults experience periodic trouble with sleeping. Each year, at least 10 million Americans consult physicians about their sleep, and about half of them receive prescriptions for sleeping pills. A survey by the National Institutes of Health conducted in the 1970s revealed that 17 percent of the total population was bothered greatly by insomnia, and among older people the percentage was even higher, with one out of every four people over the age of 60 reporting serious sleep difficulties. And when sleep difficulties arise, the basic human function that we may have once taken for granted is transformed into a labyrinth of anxiety.
Chances are good that right now you’re surrounded by sleepy people. They’re everywhere, many of them driving cars or operating sensitive equipment. They seem unable to get a good night’s sleep; or, even if they do, they’re convinced that they don’t, so the effect is the same, at least psychologically. Many of these people are elderly, but a significant percentage is young. There’s a perception that older people need less sleep—that insomnia among the elderly is to be taken for granted—but that’s only because older people’s sleeplessness is so widespread, not because it’s a natural condition. Similarly, college students might seem a relatively carefree group who simply choose to stay up late. But in fact the biological need for sleep is greater between the ages of 17 and 25 than at any time since infancy. So, if young people are sleep-deprived, it’s likely due to social or academic pressures.
Both young adults and the elderly consume significant amounts of alcohol. When a chronically sleepless person takes a drink, the effect is multiplied, so that a single beer can be as debilitating as a six-pack, according to sleep researchers.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced insomnia at one time or another, and I’ve had a number of patients who were serious problem sleepers. I’m glad to report that I also don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced major benefits from the techniques presented in this book. Some of these ideas are derived from Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India; others are the result of Western scientific research. Most significant, you can expect improvement right away, even if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years.
Before we begin to learn these techniques, I’d like to suggest an insight that was given to me by a woman who had been deeply troubled by chronic insomnia. I think it will be very useful, not only for its practical specifics but because it suggests one of the fundamental ideas that runs through this book: That is, what happens to you at night when you try to sleep cannot be understood except in terms of what you do during the day, when you’re awake.
For years my patient had lain awake trying to sleep. Then, very late one night, she had an important realization about the source of her insomnia: There were things left undone in her waking life that made her, unconsciously, uncomfortable with going to sleep. There were active, positive things that she wanted to do, and until she did them she simply wasn’t ready to sleep. These unsatisfied aspirations—such as traveling, writing, or getting back in touch with old friends—weren’t things she could simply jump out of bed and take care of on the night she had this realization. Rather, they required a long-term reorienting of her life. Once she began that process, her sleep improved because her waking life had improved. The goal of this book is to help you do both those things in your life.
Sleep is a distinct state of mind and body in which the body is deeply at rest, the metabolism is lowered, and the mind becomes unconscious to the outside world. This last phrase must be examined carefully, for we all know that the sleeping mind does not become unconscious entirely; instead, it shifts the direction of consciousness from, say, a chair beside your bed to another chair inside your dream. In fact, in terms of its biological functions, the brain is really “working harder” during the dreaming period of sleep than it is during the day. Moreover, within that reoriented but not completely “resting” state, there are further gradations that vary from one individual to another and from one part of the sleep cycle to another. Just as some people seem more awake than others during the day, so some people are “more asleep” during the night.
However, with respect to good sleep, the elusive goal for which so many are striving, I think there are some general statements that can help us to recognize the phenomenon, if not exactly to define it:
These are some subjective characteristics of sleep from the sleeper’s point of view. It’s also useful, here at the outset, to look at the more detached observations about sleep that have emerged from clinical studies.
When researchers study human physiological characteristics over a twenty-four-hour period, including measurements of the brain waves known as electroencephalography, or EEG, they find that four distinct states of consciousness, or psychophysiology, emerge. These are:
During each twenty-four-hour period, these four states tend to alternate within each individual according to certain regular progressions or rhythms.
Problems with sleep crop up at different points in the daily sequence. Some people have difficulty in falling asleep. Others awaken during the night, sometimes frequently, and have trouble falling asleep again. Still others awaken in the early hours, at about 3:00 or 4:00 A.M., and cannot fall back to sleep. Of course, a combination of these different sleep problems can occur.
Why do we fall asleep in the first place? What’s the purpose of sleep? This is a mystery of very long standing. Aristotle proposed that the purpose of sleep was to help the body digest food—although eating a big meal before getting into bed is one of the worst things you can do for your rest. Today sleep is a closely studied biological phenomenon, but scientists are still not in agreement about some of its most fundamental aspects. Some have even proposed that sleep has no purely biological function but is simply a coping mechanism left over from pre-historic times, designed to force the primitive human organism to seek safe shelter during the dangerous period of darkness. This adaptive behavior would have the additional benefit of preserving caloric energy that would otherwise have been expended during the cold hours of the night. According to this theory, every night of sleep is like a mini-hibernation.
In my view, the purpose of sleep is to allow the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. The deep rest provided during sleep allows the body to recover from fatigue and stress and enlivens the body’s own self-repair and homeostatic, or balancing, mechanisms. Dreaming seems to be a further elaboration of this process of purifying and cleansing stress and tension from the nervous system. Studies on sleep and dream deprivation support these theories.
It’s common knowledge that being deprived of a good night’s sleep leads to a diminished sense of well-being the next day. We don’t feel that we can function at our peak, and we feel more vulnerable to the effects of stress, both mental and physical. In actual fact, however, one sleepless night has virtually no measurable effect on our ability to carry out normal responsibilities the following day, and this has been demonstrated in dozens of studies. In 1964, as part of an experiment for a high school science fair, a California student stayed awake for eleven days and was still able to function reasonably well on the last day. At the conclusion of the experiment he slept for fifteen hours and suffered no short-term or long-term ill effects.
Nevertheless, the perception of fatigue and impaired ability is there, so it is important that we learn how to gain the most deep and refreshing rest from our sleep. This will bring maximum vitality and rejuvenation to both mind and body.
To accomplish restful sleep, we need to understand more about the nature of the mind and the body, the connection between them, and the cycles of nature that are so intimately related to our sleep patterns. At this point I would like to introduce you to the concept of the quantum mechanical body/mind, and its connection to the most basic tenents of Ayurveda, the ancient tradition of Indian medicine on which this book is based.
One of the most basic premises of Ayurveda is that the body is a projection of one’s consciousness.
Consciousness is another one of those fundamental biological occurrences that is easier to recognize than to define. I think of consciousness as a field of awareness, a field of intelligence. Intelligence alone is nothing more than fields of self-referring information. Let me explain. When a system has a feedback loop that allows it to influence its own expression—as the thermostat of a home heating system can influence the furnace down in the basement—then it acquires a new property. That property is information that is self-correcting. Biological systems have the ability to influence their own expression from moment to moment. Although we cannot call a heating system intelligent, because it is based on a mechanical feedback loop, a heating system with a thermostat provides a model for how the body’s intelligence or awareness operates.
Your body is a field of living information, with feedback loops constantly in place. And this living information is also what we can call a field of infinite correlation, which means it can do an infinite number of things all at the same time and coordinate those activities with each other. A human body can kill germs and play a piano and digest food and eliminate toxins and think a philosophy and make a baby all at the same time.
That’s only the beginning. The human body doesn’t exist in isolation, but part of a larger field of living information that we call Earth. And Earth is then a part of the still larger field of information that comprises the universe. Nature is a continuum in which we cannot separate the human body from the cosmic body, although we are conditioned by our perceptions to do so every day.
We perceive our physical selves as tangible objects only because of the limits of our viewpoint. The seemingly irrefutable reality of the body is, if not exactly an illusion, at least a very limited version of what’s really happening.
In truth, the body is constantly remaking itself—literally creating and destroying itself—in every second of its existence. The human body completely renews itself amazingly often: 98 percent of all the cells that make up the human body are new in one year. Every year your physical body is completely different from the one that you had a year ago. It’s completely renewed, completely changed at the cellular level.
All this means that today’s physical body is quite different from yesterday’s—because every six weeks you make a new liver, every month you make a new layer of skin, every five days you make a new stomach lining, and even your skeleton is renewed every three months. So the fact is that the human body is like a river that’s constantly flowing, constantly in process itself in every second of its existence.
Just as every river must have a source, this river of molecules or atoms is actually a result of vibrations in a field of energy. The energy fields become the molecules of the body. For example, if you look at the atom, the basic unit of matter, you’ll see that it is made up of several elementary particles that are whizzing around at incredible speeds through huge, empty spaces. These particles appear to emerge from a field that is completely void: they appear, they rebound, they collide, and then they seem to disappear back into the void. They’re there for just a moment. And when we freeze them in a moment of attention, then they give us the appearance of matter, but in fact they are simply fluctuations of energy and information.
Both matter and energy are expressions of a deeper reality. This deeper reality is a field that contains all possible states of matter, information, and energy in the form of pure potentiality. In other words, they are unmanifest. They are only there as possibilities, which have yet to differentiate and ultimately express themselves in any measurable form. So behind the mask of your physical body is a quantum mechanical body. This derives from an underlying source that orchestrates, in a very orderly fashion, the fluctuations of energy and information that formally manifest themselves as your physical body.
When you begin to think of the body in this way, the idea that it’s a fixed, immutable object seems not only wrong but extremely limiting. Then, the quantum mechanical body emerges as consisting of patterns of intelligence, fields of information, living information that we call intelligence.
Although we think of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and desires as being nonmaterial and the body as being material, both are expressions of the same field of intelligence. A wave of energy, when it is caught in a moment of attention, appears as a particle. But it is a wave at the same time. And the wave is just a fluctuation in the larger field, also at the same time. So whether we see a certain event in the body as a material event, as a mental event, or as just a fluctuation in the field, it’s just a matter of our own perspective.
It’s important to look closely at all this because these ideas are the foundation on which the modern Ayurvedic approach to health is built—including the sleep-related techniques you’ll learn in this book. Einstein (who usually slept about ten hours a night) once said that instead of being a model for actual space/time events, a field is the continuum of possible information states. It’s an environment that contains within itself all possible events, as a function of time.
In other words, a field is not a space/time event by itself; a field is a continuum of all possible energy and information states that can then manifest themselves as space/time events. And what do we call these events? We call them tables and chairs, or rocks and trees. We call them matter, and that includes the physical body. But in fact that too is just a matter of perspective. All these events are part of a continuum.
Recent scientific research has confirmed that mental events are physical events at the same time—because every one of your thoughts activates a messenger molecule in your brain, where it is instantly, automatically transformed into biological information. It’s not that a mental event of the thought causes the physical event of the molecule; rather, the mental event and the physical event are exactly the same thing. The thought is the molecule and the molecule is the thought. It isn’t that one becomes the other or that one influences the other—the two are exactly the same event viewed from different perspectives.
So we should stop looking at the human body as a body and a mind, or as a mind inside a body, and view it instead as a body/mind. Furthermore, we should acknowledge the fact that the mind is not located only in the brain. Consciousness is the distinctive expression of the mind, and behavior that expresses consciousness is actually present throughout the body, in each and every cell.