As the sun sets, the body and mind are affected by heavier and slower energies, which favor’s the advent of sleep. After 6 pm, digestion, metabolism and other normal activities slow down.
Those who are in tune with the cycles of their body, feel the need to slow down their rhythms.
The digestive fire, which manifests itself according to the movement of the sun, falls into a significant decline after sunset.
Ayurveda (India's health system) recommends consuming a light afternoon meal, preferably around 18:00. That way, we will have enough time to digest our food before going to bed.
Research has shown that the most important digestive enzymes are not produced after 20:00. Hence, if we do not consume our dinner on time (ie after 19:00), the food will not be fully digested. Consumption of food after 19:00 will create heartburn. This is due to the acids that rise to the esophagus (indigestion).
Considering all these, it comes as ‘no surprice’ that it’s very beneficial to sleep before 22:00. Most people fall asleep or feel sleepy between 21: 00-22: 00. This is due to the secretion of the sedative melatonin which is produced from the “endocrine gland” (pineal gland/ conarium/ epiphysis cerebri) in the brain.It seems that melatonin decisively affects the onset of sleep, the greater the amount we secrete in the afternoon, the greater the desire for sleep. People who do not feel sleepy between 21: 00-22: 00 most probably have a disturbed melatonin cycle.
Around 21:00 the body's immunity decreases, as shown by the sudden drop in endorphins and corticosteroids, which are the body's weapons against inflammation. During this period, the body tries to save as much energy and resources, as possible.
Why it is important to sleep properly.
The liver requires a lot of energy to co-op with its many responsibilities, as well as takes the time to detox itself. The later, is done during the hours that we sleep (22: 00-02:00). If we expend the liver's nocturnal energy by forcing it to digest food, or if we engage in physical or mental activities during the night, this vital organ will have minimal energy to perform such an important task.
Energy must be channeled into the liver and, to some extent, into the kidneys. This way, the kidneys effectively filter the blood plasma and maintain fluid balance and blood pressure at normal levels.
The brain contains more than 1/4 of the blood of humans. However, much of the blood in the back of the brain is transported to the liver for storage and cleansing. If we are physically or mentally active at that stage, the liver does not receive enough blood and therefore does not function properly. It also fails to adequately cleanse the blood, resulting in the retention of toxic material in the liver and blood. If the liver does not receive the energy it needs for its activities, we become easier susceptible to lots of chronic diseases, that involve the majority of our vital organs.
Sleep has two phases. Phase one takes place 2 hours before midnight and phase two, 2 hours after midnight. In adults, the most important detoxification and regenerative processes take place at phase one, 2 hours before midnight.
Taking into account that sleep starts at 22:00, the ‘deep sleep’ state, lasts for about an hour - from 23:00 until midnight. In this phase, the person does not dream, while oxygen consumption is reduced. As a consequence this allows us to experience a deep rest and relaxation.
The ‘growth’ hormone is secreted in high amounts during this time. This powerful hormone is associated with cell growth and regeneration. Human’s age faster if they do not produce enough growth hormone. Lack of it can be dangerous for humans. The alternative is the consumption of synthetic growth hormone which, can prove to be just as dangerous as well.
On the other hand, if the body produces these hormones at the right time and in sufficient quantities, as naturally occurs during ‘deep’ sleep, the body stays youthful in a natural way.
Deep sleep never takes place after midnight, and only comes if we sleep two hours before midnight. If we are deprived of deep sleep on a regular basis, the body and mind get tired. As a consequence this triggers the permanent secretion of the stress hormones: Adrenaline, cortisol and cholesterol. Once these hormones are depleted, we feel the need to find them in other man-made stimulants: cigarettes, coffee, black tea, caffeinated carbonated beverages and alcohol.
The frequent feeling of fatigue and diminished energy precedes all chronic diseases and many acute diseases.
One of the most important findings in relation to cancer, is that reduced levels of melatonin in the blood significantly increase the risk of cancer. Melatonin controls the gene that controls the lifespan of cells. In other words, the less melatonin we produce overnight, the greater the chances of prolonging cell life and thus allowing them to become cancerous cells.
Melatonin is negatively affected by light. The discovery that melatonin prevents cancer growth and light prevents melatonin production is groundbreaking in the treatment and prevention of cancer.
Exposure to artificial light during the hours were natural darkness occurs, disrupts the molecular clocks of the brain. Artificial lighting hinders the production of melatonin and promotes the growth of cancerous tumors.
To summarize, do not eat heavy meals after 7pm
and as elders said "every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. "
from Andreas Moritz's book The Complete Book of Alternative Medicine Volume II