Sleep, according to Ayurveda, is a fundamental instinct of life, common to all living beings. It
is necessary for us to rejuvenate and reenergize our bodies, mind, and spirit.
Sleep, known as Nidra in Ayurveda, is one of the three foundations of good health. Then there’s the food (ahara) and the sex (brahmacharya).
The right balance of these three elements is required for a healthy life.
Types of sleep
Sleep and other bodily functions are determined by the three constitutional forms, or doshas, according to Ayurveda. The three doshas are as follows:
- vata (wind)
- pitta (fire)
- kapha (water and earth).
Sleep is dominated by kapha, which creates the heavy feeling of tiredness.
The ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, lists six forms of sleep. According to the transcript, sleep may be caused by:
- 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
The Ayurvedic clock
Natural sleep adheres to the Ayurvedic clock, which insists on the best time to sleep, the length of sleep, and the best time to wake up.
A day is divided into six 4-hour zones in Ayurveda, each governed by a different dosha:
When the Kapha cycle has caused dullness in the body, it is best to wake up before sunrise and sleep before 10 p.m., according to the Ayurvedic clock.
It’s also necessary to leave at least 2 hours between dinner and bedtime. Dinner is best served at 7 p.m. If you eat a late meal, choose something light and eat 2 hours before going to bed.
Guidelines for different doshas
Depending on the dominant doshas, Ayurveda recommends various behavioral changes to increase sleep.
Excess Vata refers to excess wind, which has characteristics such as lightness, movement, and roue.
Individuals with aggravated vata can consume foods that raise kapha in the body. This would boost the heaviness, stillness, and smoothness.
According to Lineesha K.C., an Ayurvedic physician at Greens Ayurveda in Kerala, people with high Vata should eat heavy and rejuvenating foods. This can include things like:
- coconut milk
- meaty soups and stews
- butter and ghee
- rice porridge
K.C. recommends the following recipe:
- 8-oz warm milk (preferably a type that’s high in fat)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 pods cardamom
- some form of sweetener, like jaggery or honey (optional)
If you have aggravated vata, you may have difficulty sleeping.
To pacify vata, your body needs nourishment.
Excessive exercise can stimulate Vata. If your vata is big, try to avoid watching television and using the phone an hour before bedtime, and avoid exercising in the evening.
Keep your bedroom dark and well-ventilated for a restful night’s sleep. Scented candles with scents like chamomile, lavender, soft orange, or eucalyptus will also help.
When it comes to sex, vata personalities thrive on romantic, nourishing intimacy. Multiple lovers, passionate sex, and repeated orgasms can be too many for the vata nervous system. Getting love and rest after sex is also significant.
Steps to pacify vata
- Nourish your body and head with an oil massage.
- Eat warm food like meat soup and warm milk.
- Turn down the activity, especially an hour before bed.
- Try calming scents like chamomile, lavender, and sweet orange.
- Make sure the bedroom is properly ventilated.
- Focus on sensual, nourishing sex.
If you have a heavy pitta, you may have trouble falling asleep if your work stress is elevated or your diet contains too much acid.
Food for pitta
Eat cooling foods like new fruits and dates and have a mild to strong dinner to pacify pitta.
Since pitta-dominant people have a powerful digestive fire, you can wake up starving in the middle of the night if you go to bed without eating.
If pittas eat an early dinner and are always hungry when it is time to go to bed, a small snack of puffed rice or a glass of buttermilk is recommended.
Yanamandra recommends mixing a teaspoon of Jeevantyadi Gritam or medicated ghee into an eight-ounce glass of warm milk.
Sleep for pitta
Yanamandra suggests that pitta people can sleep a little later, by 11 p.m.
A foot massage with warm ghee is advised for better sleep. Sleep in a cool, well-ventilated bed, with sweet, cooling essential oils like jasmine and rose, and a light blanket over your head.
Cooling oil like bhringaj or amla can be used for a head massage.
Sex for pitta
Because of their passion and natural reserves of energy, pitta sex drive is normally strong. They can enjoy having sex with multiple partners as well as playing a dominant role.
Still, it’s important to remember to engage in cooling, calming activities to recover after sex.
Steps to pacify pitta
- Drink warm milk with ghee before bed.
- Favor sweet scents like jasmine and rose.
- Go to bed by 11 p.m.
- Try foot massage with warm ghee.
- Eat cooling foods like fresh fruit and dates.
- Remember to cool down after sex.
The Kapha types have a lot of earth and water in their constitution.
The kapha diet can contain ingredients that are both soothing and warming, such as potato broth and bitter greens. Dinner should be free of sweets.
A short stroll after dinner can aid digestion. It is also beneficial for kapha styles to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine.
Regular dry brushing and udvartana, or dry powder massage, with a combination of herbs can both aid in metabolism improvement.
Kapha-dominant people are usually heavy sleepers who can oversleep. Set an early wake-up time and stick to it if you have excess kapha.
Warming and invigorating oils like eucalyptus, rosemary, and ginger are ideal for scents.
Sex for the kapha personality group may be slow to begin. It can take them some time to turn on, but once they do, they have incredible endurance.
Steps to pacify kapha
- Wake early.
- Light, warm, and bitter foods, such as vegetable soups and bitter greens, are recommended.
- Dinner should be free of candy.
- After dinner, go for a short stroll to help with digestion.
- Regular exercise is important.
- Aromas that are invigorating, such as eucalyptus, rosemary, and ginger, should be preferred.
- Sex is a perfect way for kaphas to work out.
Sleep imbalance and treatments
One of the primary causes of sleep disruption is a dosha deficiency in the body.
According to Yanamandra, “disturbed sleep may induce headaches, migraines, and even insomnia.”
This results from aggravated vata and pitta, which may be due to:
- eating too much dry, crunchy food like salads
- eating too much cold food like ice cream
- staying up too late
- experiencing work-related stress
Shirodhara, a treatment in which oil is gently spilled on the forehead, may be used to cure chronic insomnia.
Shirodhara with Netra tarpana, or eye nourishment treatment, and Shiro lepa, or a head herbal bag, will help to balance pitta. A qualified Ayurvedic practitioner should perform these therapies.
Ayurvedic remedies for a good night’s sleep
One 2013 study Trusted Source noted that regular practice of yoga along with pranayama, or deep breathing exercise, in the morning also helps in improved sleep.
Research from 2020 Trusted Source also shows that ashwagandha root, known as Indian ginseng, may improve sleep quality. Ashwagandha powder, along with nutmeg, can be taken with warm milk.
Herbs are an extremely individualized therapy that may or may not be appropriate for the own constitution. Before taking some herbs, consult with an Ayurvedic physician and take their advice.
Napping do’s and don’ts
“Ayurveda does not prescribe diva Swapna (day sleep), or what we call a nap, because it raises kapha in the body,” says K.C.
There are exceptions for those who have vata-aggravated conditions, like:
- joint pain
- nerve-related conditions
- general muscle weakness
Other exceptions include:
- musicians who often use their vocal chords
- people who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding
- those who travel a lot
It’s better to sleep on an empty stomach 2 hours after lunch because food has time to digest. Sleep for 20 minutes while seated in a reclined chair. This helps to keep pitta at bay in your brain.
According to Ayurveda, individuals who meet one of the following criteria should avoid naps:
- those with a kapha-dominant constitution
- those with obesity
- those who eat a diet high in oily or fried food
- those who are generally healthy and don’t have an underlying condition
However, naps are recommended in summer when the heat makes it difficult to get a full night’s sleep.
The Take Away
Ayurveda is an ancient philosophy of medicine that stresses the importance of a proper combination of food, sleep, and sex.
The three doshas and the Ayurvedic clock are inextricably linked to good night. Though adhering to the clock is not always easy in our current lifestyle, these tips will help you find a balance.
Read more about: Tips to Sleep Better at Night