Late Night Snacking Affects Brain Functioning: How Going to Bed on Time Supports Short and Long-Term Memory

I am always interested in research that gives a fuller understanding to the basic principles of Ayurveda. Recently I read about a study from the University of California that concluded that late-night snacks could negatively impact brain functioning. In the study, mice that were fed during their normal sleeping times experienced a decline in both short-term and long-term memory. The study suggested that digesting food at a time we are supposed to be asleep causes distress in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where memories are formed.


There is already evidence that eating when we normally should be sleeping can cause an increase in blood sugar levels — which can lead to diabetes and heart problems. Now we find that irregular eating habits can impact mental cognition. The University of California study revealed that the mice that were given food when they should have been sleeping had lowered levels of a protein called CREB, which plays an important role in supporting the body’s internal clock and in the brain’s ability to form memories.

“Since many people find themselves working or playing during times when they’d normally be asleep, it is important to know that this could dull some of the functions of the brain,” observed lead researcher Dawn Loh.

This dovetails with an earlier study funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in 2013. The study showed that the space between the brain cells can increase during sleep. This allows the brain to cleanse itself of toxic molecules during sleep. Previous studies have associated the toxic molecules that accumulate in the space between brain cells with numerous neurodegenerative disorders. These toxins diminish during sleep.

The leader of the 2013 study, Milken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M., observed, “Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It (the brain) appears to be in a completely different state.” (There is some indication that Shirodhara, one of the classic treatments used in the Panchakarma or detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, also put the brain into this state of detoxification.)

If we are up and active or eating during our most important sleep hours, the natural cycle of purification and detoxification in the brain can not take place.

According to Ayurveda, the ideal hours of sleep are from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. This is the time when Pitta dosha (the principle of transformation) is supporting the body’s self-repair mechanisms. The strongest Pitta cycle of the day is from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. During this time the Pitta quality of transformation is best directed towards digestion. For this reason, Ayurveda says the biggest meal of the day should be eaten at noon. The transformational qualities of Pitta at night are directed to a more subtle kind of work. This is when the body switches into its powerful healing and self-repair mode.

Last week we talked about how the biological clocks located in our joints (that allow for regeneration of the joints) need a regular routine of eating, exercising and sleep to be most effective. Now we see more evidence that the ideal daily routine upheld by Ayurveda does indeed lead to better health and increased well-being. We are a part of nature and living in tune with the underlying cycles of nature supports our entire mind/body system. As modern science continues to validate the age-old principles of Ayurveda, we can see how this ancient science is as relevant today as it was 4000 years ago.

When we live without regard for the natural cycles of eating, exercising and sleeping, the natural healing modalities that are build into our physiologies can not do their job and impurities can build up in the body. Removing these deep-seated impurities is the speciality of Panchakarma, the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda.

For more information on Ayurveda and Ayurveda detoxification programs, visit The Raj website:

Staying Healthy with Ayurveda Daily Routine



According to Ayurveda, following a proper daily routine is a prerequisite for health. Almost 90% of ill health in the United States is said to be preventable. In most cases, the imbalances at the basis of disease and disorders are created over time by simple mistakes in diet, exercise and behavior that disrupt our biological rhythms.

Our diet and daily routine of eating, sleeping, and exercising, determine whether we become stronger and healthier day by day or whether we create imbalances that continually grow toward disease. Without proper diet and routine of life the effectiveness of any treatment program we undertake will be greatly reduced because the true cause of the disorder will continue to exist. One of the goals of a successful Ayurveda program is to help structure day-to-day behavior so that it has a balancing and strengthening effect on health.

Ideal daily routine means a routine that is in accord with the laws of nature; a routine that keeps the mind/body system functioning efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.

Here are a few examples of how ideal daily routine can promote health.

Ideal Times for Sleeping

There is a saying, “The day starts the night before”. Only by going to bed early can the next day’s activity be fully supported. By going to bed during Kapha time, (before 10:00 P.M. when the evening Pitta period begins), we take advantage of Nature’s natural cycle of healing and rejuvenation. The qualities of Kapha, (heaviness and dullness), allows us to get to sleep most quickly, and to have the deepest, least interrupted sleep.

After 10:00 Pitta begins to dominate. Pitta at this time of day should be involved in metabolic cleansing. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that it can focus its intelligence and energy on metabolic cleansing and rejuvenation. If we are up and active during this time, we may enjoy an effective spurt of energy but we cheat our bodies on much needed self-repair. Over time this can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

Going to bed on time allows us to easily rise at the proper time, before 6:00 A.M. The period before 6 AM is the time when all of Nature is waking up, and a time when Vata is enlivened in the environment. If we start our day in Vata time, our mind will experience more of the qualities of balance Vata throughout the day: increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

If we sleep past 6 AM, we sleep into the Kapha time of the day. When a person sleeps until 7:30 AM they have been lying dull and dormant of 1 and 1/2 hours in Kapha time and they wake imbibed with the qualities of excess Kapha: dullness, heaviness and lethargy.

Understanding and following the ideal times for eating and sleeping means harmonizing our behavior with the rhythms and cycles of the body and the cycles of nature. This is the key to living a health-promoting life. If we live a lifestyle that disrupts our natural biological rhythms, we are sabotaging our own health, breaking down the resistance of the body and contributing to the creation of disease.

Ideal Times for Eating


Digestion is not strong when we first awake, so breakfast should not be a heavy meal. Cooked apples and pears are a perfect way to begin the day. It is best to avoid cheeses, meats and other heavy, hard-to digest foods at breakfast.


In the middle of the day the heat element in nature is at its peak. This activates the heat element, Pitta, in our own bodies. Pitta is responsible for digestion and metabolism.

For this reason we should eat our largest meal at noon. The ideal time for lunch is between 12:30 and 1:00, as this is the period of highest Pitta and greatest digestive power. Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal, with all six tastes. Take at least 30 minutes, eat in a relaxed setting, and then sit comfortably for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish.


In the evening, digestion is less strong. In a few hours we should be sleeping, which further slows the digestive and metabolic processes. Therefore dinner should be a lighter meal. Heavy foods like cheese, ice cream and met are best avoided at this meal.

It is better to eat earlier in the evening that later. The later you eat, the less food you should consume and the lighter the food should be.

If we have been living a life that is out of tune with nature’s laws, it is never too late to make healthy changes. A consultation with an Ayurvedic expert can pinpoint imbalances that have built up in the physiology, and provide specific recommendations for restoring a healthy balance. The traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma treatments, can remove accumulated imbalances and blockages from deep within the tissues.

For more information on Ayurveda, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Center: