Sex and sleep are among the most basic of human needs. They’re also among the most pleasurable of experiences, so it’s no wonder that early Hindus — enlightened authors of the Kama Sutra — extended their teachings about sexual positions to include instructions on sleep positions. To be more precise, their acknowledgement of sleep had to do with direction; meaning, the position of the body in relation to the earth’s cardinal compass points. And it's still prevalant in certain parts of Hindu culture today.
References to sleep positions can be found in a number of ancient Sanskrit missives, collections of practical wisdom that the Hindu tradition refers to as puranas. In fact, one of the oldest and most revered of these texts, the Vishna Purana, tells readers that sleep is to be conducted only with the head facing East or South.
“O King! It is beneficial to lie down with the head placed eastward or southward,” reads a portion of the manuscript. “The man who lies down with his head placed in contrary directions becomes diseased.” Another important Hindu text, the Mahabharata, one of India’s two major epics, advises, “Men become wise by sleeping eastward and southward.”
This preoccupation with orienting one's sleeping body in accordance with particular compass points originates with the Vastu Shastra, the important Ayurvedic belief that a basic mystic energy flows from east to west across the earth and that the human head functions as a receptor. In the Vastu Shastra belief system, sleeping with the top of one’s head facing east was said to increase memory and one’s inclination toward spirituality. It also ensured pleasant dreams, good health, and high energy upon waking.
Sleeping with the top of one’s head facing south was said to increase wealth, happiness, prosperity and intimacy among couples. By contrast, sleeping with your head pointed north was to be avoided at all times, not merely because it interrupts the restorative east-west flow of energy, but also because negative energy that might get trapped in the body was thought to originate there.