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Sleep imbalances can take many forms. It can range from the occasional restless night of sleep to the chronic struggle with insomnia. Oftentimes, the culprit of poor sleep can be a mix of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, illness, sudden changes in schedule, and additional external factors.
The Ayurvedic clock:
Natural sleep follows the Ayurvedic clock, which focuses on the right time to sleep, the duration of sleep, and the ideal time to wake up.
In Ayurveda, a day is divided into 6 zones of 4 hours, each dominated by a single dosha:
- 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.-Kapha
- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.-Pitta
- 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.-Vata
- 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.-Kapha
- 10 p.m. to 2 a.m-Pitta
- 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.-Vata
Sleep time is repair time:
Sleep offers the body time to repair and recharge each night. Between the hours of 10 pm-2 am the real physical repair process happens, and between 2-6 am psychological repair processes take place – a little spring clean for the brain.
Charaka Samhita, the ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda, mentions six types of sleep. According to the text, sleep may be due to:
- Natural sleep without external imbalances
- Increased Kapha, caused by eating an excess of foods like chocolate, cheese, or fried food
- Exhaustion of mind and body caused by excessive physical work
- Chronic disease
- Imbalance or injury in the body
Doshas and sleep:
Ayurveda offers deep insights into the nature of sleep by looking at mind-body types, or doshas, and states that if sleep happens at the right time, you’ll be cheerful, strong, disease-free, and might even live to be a centenarian!
The 3 Ayurvedic constitutional types of Doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha – are responsible for homeostasis and health. The doshas determine various functions, including sleep.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, sleep tends to be disrupted by
- Vata Dosha (composed of air and ether) and
- Pitta Dosha (Fire and water).
Are you waking up in the night and struggling to get back to sleep between 2 and 6 am.?
You’re likely to be Vata Type.
You may generally be more alert and wakeful.
Vata types are generally light sleepers, needing black-out blinds and earplugs and preferring a soft, cozy bed.
You may find teeth grinding, sleepwalking, and sleep talking are commonplace.
How to support sleep for vata dosha
- Sleep by 9.30 pm if you can, latest by 10 pm.
- Vata types are also encouraged to get plenty of rest, or cat-naps, at any time of the day.’
- Diet-wise, try cutting out caffeine to see if your sleep improves as vata types may not be able to tolerate a coffee even after breakfast.
- Drinking teas containing herbs such as licorice, fennel, cardamom, or tulsi throughout the day and especially in the evening, allows the mind to calm down a lot quicker come bedtime.
Do you have difficulty falling asleep?
It is the classic Pitta-type sleep disorder as high pitta can be mentally stimulating, overwhelming any desire to sleep’.
Pitta types may be more restless in the night, with the tendency to overheat, therefore preferring fewer or thinner covers.
How to support sleep for pitta dosha:
- Aim to limit distractions in the evening, such as screens, in order to sleep around 10 pm.
- Keeping your bedroom cool with plenty of ventilation is also helpful.
- Less spice in your evening meal as well as limiting coffee and alcohol will also help.
- Try drinking teas containing chamomile, rose, mint, or licorice to cool and soothe throughout the day. These are especially helpful in the evening.
Are you a heavy sleeper? Rarely disturbed or awakened?
Yes! ‘Relaxed Kapha types tend to sleep very well.
However, they are the most likely to have a sleep condition called sleep apnoea (breathing difficulties) and are more likely to need to urinate at night.
They love soft beds with lots of warm covers. Kapha types don’t often need as much sleep as they have, which can lead to difficulties waking up.
How to support sleep for Kapha dosha:
- Kapha types tend to sleep very well, but if not, aim for more stimulation, exercise , and activity in the day to balance this dosha,’ Kaphas shouldn’t nap in the day.
- When it comes to food, avoid heavy, sweet foods in the evening such as wheat, cheese, and yogurt.
- Try a light dinner instead such as a bowl of soup and aim to finish dinner at least three hours prior to bedtime.
- Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric, or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalize this dosha.’
Ayurvedic Herb Supplements for sleep disorders:
Ayurvedic medicines are the most natural form of treating disorders and there is an ayurvedic remedy for every kind of sleeping disorder
- Brahmi: It is a powerful brain tonic, which supports and improves all aspects of mental functioning. It is a calming and tranquilizing herb. A cup of Brahmi tea or powder or any other preparation with Brahmi, taken at bedtime, will induce a peaceful sleep and its regular use will help to cure insomnia.
- Vacha: (Acorus calamus) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of various ailments, such as epilepsy, headache, insomnia, etc. it can be taken along with Amla, Brahmi powder at bedtime.
- Ashwagandha: This is an overall tonic for greater vitality and longevity. It enhances coordination between the mind and senses which, according to Ayurveda, is essential for good sleep. The recommended dose is a half teaspoonful of powder taken at night along with sugar and ghee or warm milk.
- Jatamansi: It has been found to increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin. It is a sedative, anti-depressant, and anti-epileptic cardio-tonic and is regarded as one of the most effective remedies for neurosis and helps a person with a sleep disorder.
- Valerian: Ayurvedic herbs for sleeplessness in Indian valerian, also known as tagar in Hindi, works on the nerve channels by clearing out toxins from the blood, joints, tissues, colon, and nerves. Its basic role is to rejuvenate. However, valerian should not be taken on its own. For, it can have a somewhat dulling effect. It is best used as part of some herbal preparation.
- Sleep First: “The Wizard of Zz is a strong sleep aid that calms your mind and supports restful deep sleep. This powerful synergistic formula integrates the best of Modern Science, Traditional Ayurvedic, and Chinese Medicines.
Good sleep hygiene for all:
Sleep hygiene works on the idea that many (but not all) sleep problems are due to bad habits. Here are a few simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day – it’s so simple but we rarely do it.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only – absolutely no screen time.
- Try some breathing techniques as you lie in bed, like inhaling for a count of 3 or 4 and exhaling to a count of 6 or 8. This helps relax the nervous system.
- According to the Ayurvedic clock, it’s best to wake up before sunrise and sleep before 10 p.m., when the Kapha period has induced dullness in the body.
- It’s also important to have a gap of at least 2 hours between dinner and sleep time. An ideal time for dinner is 7 p.m. If you’re eating a late dinner, aim for something light and eat 2 hours before you go to sleep.