The ancients practiced Taoism and maintained their health during the day, while also paying attention to the quality of their sleep. In the early Song Dynasty, a well-known Taoist named Chen Bo advocated for the importance of restorative sleep. As he often slept for a few days at a time, people called him the sleeping immortal, and his sleep regimen was well regarded.
The following introduces the sleep regimens of Chen Bo and other ancients.
First of all, when it is time to sleep, you must calm your mind. Before bedtime, don’t do activities that will induce mind activities, such as listening to an exciting program, reading a thought-provoking article, watching videos, talking excessively, dwelling on conflicts, or doing vigorous exercise. It is essential to relax before sleeping.
The four ancient sleep positions
1. Xiyi position
Lie on your left side with the left arm bent. Place the palm of your left hand under the left side of your face, and stretch the thumb and index finger open to place the left ear in between the two digits. This serves to ventilate the ear. Keep the head and spine upright, and the tongue on top of the palate. Bend your left leg to reach your abdomen, and lie on the bed naturally with your right leg straight and placed on top of your left leg. Put the palm of your right hand on your belly button.
2. Auspicious position
Lie on your right side, with your right hand under the right side of your cheek, and the left hand on the left leg. Press both feet together. The legs are bent and the whole body is arched.
3. Supine position
Open your hands and feet and lie on your back. Your head should be comfortable. Put your hands vertically between your legs, or cross your hands on the lower part of the abdomen to relax naturally.
4. Huanyang position
Sleep on your back with the thumbs flexed and held with the remaining four fingers as if a newborn baby is making a fist. Extend both arms and legs out to a neutral position. Close your eyes and look inside, the tongue is on top of the palate; relax your mind.
The Xiyi position involves lying on your left side with a straight back, while the Auspicious position involves lying on your right side with a slightly curved body. In these positions, the posture of the body is like a bow and relaxes the joints of the back, legs, and muscles. The ancients believed this way of sleeping is the most stable and comfortable.
Both the Supine and Huanyang positions involve lying flat on your back. Your body will be straight, so the muscles are somewhat tighter when compared to sleeping on your side. Nevertheless, all four of these traditional sleeping positions can help you sleep peacefully.
Sleeping with a superior pillow calms the mind
The type of pillow you use will result in either a good or poor night’s sleep. The ancients often slept on either porcelain pillows or mung bean shell pillows. They seldom slept on soft cotton pillows, which today seems counter-intuitive.
People who do not sleep well often suffer from excessive upward internal heat. Sleeping on cotton pillows can cause the head to become overheated making the brain swell. Jade, porcelain, mung bean shell, and tea pillows keep the head cooler. This helps people relax more, making it easier to fall asleep.
Some may think that a porcelain pillow would be too hard and uncomfortable. Mung bean shell pillows and tea pillows are softer and more comfortable.
To sleep well, keep your head cool, yet the feet can be warm. Wearing socks to bed in winter will bring your qi energy to the lower part of the body, which can also help you to sleep well.
Translated by Joseph Wu and edited by Helen