The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda defines optimal health when there is a proper balance of the three pillars of health. These three pillars of health which are Sleep, Nutrition and controlled Sex, will guarantee a healthy life that will not be affected by diseases. Sleep is often correlated with stable moods and energy. People who are content and peaceful, sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep according to Ayurveda:
“Yada Tu Manasi Klante Karmaatmanah Klamaanvitaha |
Vishayebhyo Nivartante Tadaa Swapati Maanavaha”
(Cha Su 21/ 35)
Ayurveda terms sleep as Nidra. The body and mind gets exhausted and tired due to day long activity resulting is spontaneous detachment or dissociation of the senses or sense organs from their respective objects to induce a state known as “Sleep”. When a person is in sleep he will not be able to perceive or carry any information. Swapna or dream us a conscious series of images, emotions or thoughts that occur during sleep.
Sleep is a naturally recurring phenomenon where mind and body are in rest and is characterized by altered consciousness with relatively subdued sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles and reduced interactions with surroundings. It is also described as a “behavioral state” with a characteristic immobile posture and diminished but readily reversible sensitivity to external stimuli.
Sleep is the greatest rejuvenator. According to ancient Ayurvedic texts ones’ happiness, strength, endurance, potency, cognitive functions and life span depends upon the quality of sleep. Charaka (ancient sage) states that disturbed, untimely or excess sleep will fade away happiness, longevity and leads to debility, weakness and poor cognition. Many researches have validated the fact that a healthy sleep pattern is a most powerful anti-inflammatory activity that you will ever do. It boosts your immune function, balances hormones, renews cells, detoxifies waste products, and consolidates everyday’s learning process to memory.
Ayurveda classifies six types of sleep:
- Sleep caused by increased Tamas is Tamobhava Nidra
- That which is caused by accumulation of Kapha is Sleshmasamudbhava Nidra
- Sleep caused due to exhaustion of body and mind is Manah Sharira Sambhava.
- That which is produced during bad prognostic indication or that which occurs before death is Agantuki
- Sleep that occurs due to complication of a disease us Vyadhyanuvartini
- Physiological sleep is that which occurs naturally during night and is called Ratrisambhavaprabhava.
- Physiological sleep at night is regarded as life supportive process. Tamasika Nidra occurs due to bad deeds of past and present life and the rest are observed in diseases.
Just as wholesome diet is required to maintain health of body a good sleep is also equally necessary to lead a healthy life. Sleep is referred to as “Bhuta Dhatri” which means “provider of nourishment and rejuvenation to all the creatures.” Sleep should never be suppressed. Suppression of sleep causes yawning, myalgia, drowsiness, headache and ENT problems, heaviness of eyes and dream.
Here are some quick tips to induce a good night’s sleep.
- Massage your body with warm oil.
- Take a bath with hot water
- Consume soup that is nutritious and easily digestible.
- Consume rice with milk and unctuous articles
- Cheer your mental activities by scents
- Hear music that is soothing
- Rub your body with consoling hands
- Use soothing eye drops
- Apply anointing agents to face and head
- Use comfortable bed
- Sleep at proper time.
These above methods are general methods that will help you fall asleep but each person is unique and their unique doshas recommend different sleep times.
According to Ayurveda, Vata is at its strongest from 2AM – 6AM and 2PM – 6PM, Kapha from 6AM – 10AM and 6PM – 10PM and Pitta from 10AM – 2PM and 10PM – 2AM. The Vata hours are ideal for movement, leading to heightened mental alertness; Pitta hours for physical activities while the body digests its food and Kapha hours, which are slow and relaxed, for sleep. Going to bed in the Kapha hours (6PM – 10PM) and waking up before the next Kapha hours (6AM-10AM), will ensure that the body receives restful 7-8 hours of sleep.
While this is a general rule of thumb, not everyone requires the same amount of sleep, just enough. We take a look at detailed look at lifestyle changes one must make based on their dosha type.
Sleep associated with Vata dosha tends to be irregular and light, but can be intensely deep when one is completely exhausted. People of Vata prakruti usually crave for a soft bed to cushion their protruding bones, and tend to sleep fewer hours than other types. If Vata is more then there are tendencies to grind the teeth, sleep walk, talk or murmur in one’s sleep. Interestingly dreams of Vata persons incline to be spacious and airy and often focus on movement, adventure, or being chased or flying. They also dream a lot but many a time fail to recollect their dreams. Vata dosha makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep, a typical Vata imbalanced sleep causes awakening during night and it becomes difficult to return to sleep again. This happens very often during the Vata kala (Time) from 2 am to 6 am. Due to the restless sleep the person wakes up tired.
Here’s what a Vata type can do to get a good sleep:
- Eat food that is balanced and avoid cold food or food that increase Vata.
- Eat dinner before 7 pm so that it helps you to sleep early.
- Avoid too much stimulation at night.
- Go to bed by 9.30 pm.
- Let go of body tension. It helps surrender completely when going to bed.
- Intake of milk + sugar cane juice/ meat soup/ wine prepared out of rice or blackgram will help.
- Massage your hands and feet with warm oil.
- Ayurveda treatments such as Shirobasti, Netra Tarpanam, Shirodhara would help in complete relaxation.
Pitta persons often sleep well but have a lighter sleep. Since Pitta person sweat a lot they prefer a firm bed with less covering or light blankets. Though Pitta persons have a moderate sleep they can still sacrifice their sleep in there are any work that have to be completed by the deadline. Dreams associated with Pitta are bright, fiery, vivid and active but unlike Vata Pitta can return back to their sleep very fast if they wake up at midnight. If there is complete pitta imbalance then mind gets preoccupied by different thoughts and thus person with Pitta imbalance find it hard to fall asleep at the start especially during 10 pm to 2 am which is the Pitta kala. Due to this they tend to stay awake the whole night similar to an owl. Pitta people are most productive during night time.
Here’s what a Pitta type can do to get a good sleep:
- Eat more fruits and sweets.
- Consume Pitta pacifying food that includes bitter, sweet and astringent taste.
- Eat food that is warm or cool.
- Eat large amount of dinner so that hunger doesn’t wake you up at night as Pitta people usually tend to eat more.
- Keeping room cooler before sleep will give you a better rest.
- Use aroma lamps so that it helps you relax your mind before sleeping.
- Go to bed before 10 pm.
- Jeevantyadi ghrita 1 tsp with milk can be taken before sleeping.
Kapha imbalance causes heavy sleep. People of Kapha prakruti can fall asleep anywhere and at any time. They like to sleep in comfy and fluffy bed with lots of covering and for longer duration. In reality Kapha persons should actually sleep for lesser hours to keep the Kapha dosha in balance. Due to Kapha imbalance the longer hours of sleep make people awake heavy headed, sluggish and lazy to start the routine work. Kapha is elevated in the mind and in the atmosphere from about 6–10 a.m./p.m.
Here’s what a Kapha type can do to combat over-sleeping:
- Wake up before 6 am.
- Eat a Kapha-pacifying diet. This includes avoiding desserts, especially heavy, oily, cold sweets such as ice cream.
- Exercise regularly and heavily.
- Never sleep during the day.
- Eat a very light dinner.
- Ayurveda treatment such as Udvarthana (powder massage), detoxification treatment such as Vamana and Virechana would help you in removal of the excess Kapha.
- Go to bed after 10 pm.
Now further you may have heard many of them saying that they sleep after their afternoon lunch. Is afternoon sleep or day sleeping really good? What is the impact of day sleeping on our body?
Day sleeping is good only for those who are engaged in strenuous and laborious work, who ready too much, for alcoholic, those who have walked a very long distance, people suffering from emaciation, thirst, diarrhea, indigestion, colic pain, dyspnoea, insanity, old age, too young such as infants, those who are suffering from trauma, exhausted due to journey, vigils in night and those who have had intolerable anger/ fear/ grief.
Day sleeping in the above conditions helps in promotion of Kapha and thus protects the dhatus (body tissues) from getting emaciated. It promotes strength and longevity. Sleeping during the day is also advised to normal people only in Grishma Ritu i.e. summer season as the Vata gets aggravated and it causes exhaustion to the body. An afternoon nap during summer balances the aggravated Vata dosha. But apart from summer, sleeping during the day gives way for Kapha-Pitta vitiation. Hence, sleeping during day time is completely contraindicated. One who forgoes the rules for day sleep may succumb to acute jaundice, head ache, heaviness, obesity, malaise, digestive dysfunction, urticarial, eruption, abscess, cough, throat diseases, impaired motor organs and accumulation of excessive toxins in the body. Hence, it is not recommended.
Excessive sleeping, insufficient sleep, day sleep and irregular sleep all cause one or the other problem. Sleep is a boon if you sleep at regular time and aptly. Sleeping on your sides help in proper metabolism and increases the energy flow and improves blood circulation. Sleeping on your back and on your stomach obstructs the energy flow and hampers the breathing. Use a comfortable bed and pillow to sleep well.
Never forget if your day starts with a smile then your night ends with a smile.