A dear friend, who my children regard very highly, had dinner with us last evening. She had the sense to talk with my 14-year-old about the importance of “beauty sleep.” Let me just say that I am extremely thankful for my friend’s contribution – no amount of coaxing (gentle or otherwise) seems to convince my teenager that anything her mother says might have the slightest bit of wisdom behind it. The conversation encouraged me to write this post clarifying the difference between day and night as regards ultimate health and how to plan for it.

Dinacharya or daily routine merges an individual’s daily cycle with the natural cycle of the Sun, Moon, Earth and other planets in the Solar System. The daily routine includes all aspects of regimen, diet and also sleep, which means that the definition of “daily routine” extends to how you spend your night time hours.

Ayurvedically speaking, there is a big difference between day and night. The daylight hours are those dominated by the fire of sun. It’s the time of absorption, of chemical change in the body. It makes sense to eat vitamins in the morning because they have plenty of time to be absorbed through the rest of the day.

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This is why going to the toilet first thing in the morning is a good idea. If not, the toxic matter in your digestive waste will be reabsorbed during the later hours of the day, something that is definitely avoidable as it ultimately leads to illness. Indian kids are generally trained to sit on the potty first thing in the morning, the idea is that this becomes a habit throughout life. However, I find that many Westerners have not been brought up to follow this simple practice which is critical to ultimate health. You might want to think about re-training your toilet habits sooner rather than later in life. Your digestive system will thank you for tuning it to its natural flow.

The night time hours on the other hand are dominated by the cooling qualities of the moon. This is the time when things “build.” Cells, tissues and even the building blocks of the mind. Night time is when we “grow” in all definitions of the word. Babies and children physically grow taller and bigger, our cells regenerate and our tissues build given the nutrients absorbed through the digestive system during the day. Think about it — if you don’t get those vital hours of “beauty sleep” then chances are slim that your skin will rejuvenate for maximum radiance.

Because growing through the night helps the mind-body reach peak performance level, Ayurvedic rishis suggested optimizing your potential for peak performance by waking up about two hours prior to dawn, around 4.30am to 5am. During this time of the day, called “Brahma-mahurat,” the air is most fresh and pure and Sattvic. Dr. Yuva Dayalan, a Hong Kong based yoga teacher, believes that this is the ideal time to practice yoga and meditation.

I find that Brahma-mahurat is the ideal time to unleash you creativity, whatever that means for you. But of course you need to get enough sleep to be creative in the first place. So to that old adage, “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy…and wise!”