All methods created to help people who cannot sleep use the simplest technique of repeating something. After a little while they get so bored because of the absence of anything new that there is no reason to be awake. Even if you repeat “Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama,” you will fall asleep. That is why people who repeat mantras fall asleep and worshippers in temples get sleepy. There is simply no novelty, hence no challenge; there is no point in staying awake.
The mother pats the forehead of the child five or ten times – the same patting…the same patting…the same patting – and the child goes to sleep. There is nothing unusual in the patting; the child just gets bored. There’s nothing new happening, so the child goes to sleep.
That is why you fall asleep more easily in your own room; in a strange room it takes time because a strange room is unfamiliar. You fall asleep quite quickly on your own pillow or bed but it takes a long time to fall asleep in someone else’s bed; there is something new which keeps you awake. Hence, everyone has his own sleeping ritual.
A small child, feeling uneasy, puts his thumb in his mouth. In a few moments, because there is nothing new happening, he gets bored and falls asleep. There is not much difference between children and adults. Someone cannot sleep unless he smokes a cigarette at night. He smokes a cigarette – that is his substitute for sucking his thumb – then he goes to sleep. The daily routine makes one feel bored immediately. Sleep is also difficult in a new place, among new people, in a new house, because there are a lot of things around you which keep you awake demanding your attention, your awareness – because something is new.
Sleep has been disturbed in the West for the simple reason that the West is changing so fast that there is always something new. The East is at ease as far as sleep is concerned, but that will not last much longer. A villager will sleep deeply; someone living in a city cannot sleep so deeply. There is no particular reason for it except that the villager lives in old patterns, lives in boredom, there is nothing new to keep him awake. For someone in the city, every day there is something new: there are new films showing, a new newspaper is printed, there are new people to meet, new commodities are arriving on the market, shop windows are being decorated with new displays, there are new fashions, everything is new every day. The effect of all this novelty is that he is constantly awake and it is difficult to sleep. In the village everything is old; the same village, the same streets, the same people, everything is the same.
If I go back to my village after one or two years I find that everything has remained the same. When I enter my village I know exactly which porter I will see at the railway station and he always meets me – he is the only porter. I know which tongawalla will meet me and what he will talk about, because for years whenever I have gone there he has said the same things. And when the tonga goes through the village streets I know who will be sleeping outside his house and coughing…I know what will be going on in the village; everything is predictable. I know already what will be happening, almost nothing has changed. Sometimes something does happen: someone in the village dies, someone is born – sometimes. Everything else goes on as usual.