Sleeping is not the same as sleeping, it depends on how you sleep, where and when. In Daoist doctrines, it also matters in what mental and physical condition you sleep. While you can sleep at the same place and time; under different physical and mental conditions, the effect of sleeping varies.
What is Sleep?
Sleep for Daoists is a moment of regeneration, a time to let go, not thinking anything and go back to your inner self – your origin. Hearing your heartbeat and breath can help relax fast and helps to let go of unnecessary thoughts. Our mind and body gets tired and giving it the right amount of rest is very important – but I guess all of you know that.
When Should I Sleep?
Daoists wake up and sleep with the sun. When the sun rises on the horizon its time to wake up and when the sun goes down its time to go to sleep. This time changes naturally during the seasons when the sun rises earlier or later. We react biologically with the colors of the sky and sun; artificial light is poison for our biorhythm. Watching the sun and the sky change colors during morning and evening is a natural process and helps to regulate mind and body.
Resting midday after lunch is also considered as very important to regenerate energy for the second part of the day. The first half of the day has a different energy (we feel different, the smell is different and many other overall feelings) as the second half of the day. Biologically there are many changes inside, while the morning is best used for Qi Gong practice, the second half of the day is best for relaxing and meditative Taiji practice. This is not a general rule, but basically, all that is powerful and takes a lot of concentration is best to do in the morning rather than in the evening. Routine practice is best in the afternoon.
How to Sleep Effectively:
The Daoist idea of efficiently sleeping is to sleep when you need it. When people move less and always sit around there is not much of circular blood system activity, but still the brain gets tired, this sleep will become very unbalanced and will not have much of a regenerative effect. The body can only regenerate what is tired and only reach what is not blocked by muscle cramps, closed joints or hard fascia.
Qi Gong practice in the morning is vital to get the body and mind going on all levels of awareness. The energy and blood channels become open and easy to reach for our internal circular system. One of the best choices of Qi Gong is the traditional Daoist Wu Xing Qi Gong (Five Animal Qi Gong) which stretches your whole body very slowly under a high amount of tension while keeping the mental focus solely on the correct breathing.