Sleep. It’s one of the most important protective processes our body goes through — just as important as eating! Sleep is crucial for our bodies to rest, rejuvenate and detoxify. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of problems, including poor immunity, issues with concentration, alertness and a build-up of waste materials and toxins (ama) in the body.
Ayurveda and Sleep
Ayurveda considers sleep a very important process for our body to digest the day, mentally and physically, and bring ourselves back to balance, ready for the next day. Ayurveda breaks the day down into different sections of times related to the three doshas.
It is suggested to be in bed around 10pm, so that your Kapha time can give way to Pitta. Pitta time, at night occurring between 10pm and 2am, is the time our bodies digest our food as well as digest the day’s events. Vata time takes over next, around 2am, and it’s responsible for taking those digested goods and delivering it to our cells. Waking up around 6am can help ward off the heavy earthiness of Kapha time, which starts back up at this time.
What Your Dosha Says About Your Sleep
- Vata: If your primary dosha is Vata, you may prefer a softer mattress and pillows, and you have a tendency to not get enough sleep, even though Vata-types need the most sleep of all the doshas. Vatas have very vivid and creative dreams that focus on movement and adventure. Vata sleep imbalances can often show up as having trouble falling asleep and most likely shows itself as waking up in the middle of the night, usually around the Vata time of 2am-6am.
- Pitta: Pitta’s tend to enjoy a firm mattress and not too many blankets. Pitta-types require moderate amounts of sleep, not as much as Vata and not as little as Kapha. Pitta’s often have vivid and action-based dreams, but are rarely awoken by them. Pitta sleep imbalances usually relate to difficulty falling asleep due to an over-active mind. Because Pitta time starts up again around 10pm, it can make Pitta’s more likely to become night owls.
- Kapha: Kapha-types are those that can easily fall asleep and have difficulty being woken up. Kapha’s enjoy soft mattresses with lots of blankets. Kapha’s usually have very calm and sometimes emotional dreams. Kapha-types actually need less sleep than Vatas or Pittas but are prone to sleeping too much, which creates an imbalance that increases the tendency towards heaviness and slowness. Kapha-types should strive to wake before or with the sun to avoid falling into the sluggishness of Kapha morning time.
So what do you do when you can’t sleep? Sleep problems and disorders affect so many of us these days and our modern lifestyle does little to support healthy sleep habits.
Waking Up in The Middle of the Night – Vata Imbalance
Waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep is rooted in an imbalance in Vata. This could be due to a sluggish digestion which is also connected to the Vata dosha. When your digestive system is struggling to break down food, it might signal your body to wake up and move around because movement can stimulate digestion.
Try eating your last meal around 3 hours before going to bed and try not to make it your heaviest meal of the day. Focus on well-cooked and easy to digest foods for your dinner and engage in a little light exercise (a walk around the block will do) to gently stimulate your digestive system.
If you are struggling with digestion issues you might also consider taking a probiotic to help your gut support a strong digestive function. Pairing it with Ayurvedic herbs like triphala and curcumin (found in My Healthy Digestion) will help remove built-up toxins and support a strong digestive fire, or agni, for sound sleep at night.
Trouble Falling Asleep – Pitta Imbalance
Having trouble going to sleep when you get into bed is tied to an imbalance of Pitta. Trouble falling asleep is usually due to having issues winding down properly before sleep and often can be linked to an overactive mind (classic signs of Pitta imbalance).
Establishing a routine for winding-down before sleep can go a long way to pacify Pitta and calm the mind. Eliminating the use of electronic screens that emit blue light, well known for disrupting our circadian rhythm, about an hour before bed time will help prepare the body for rest. Try to go to bed at the same time every night to get your body into the habit of sleeping at the same time.
If you feel like you can’t sleep because your mind won’t “turn off,” try stress and anxiety relieving activities like reading a book (no backlit screens, please) or journaling. If you feel like your mind is still racing, try incorporating herbs that support a calm mind like magnolia bark which helps relax the mind by lowering cortisol levels. Combining magnolia bark with saffron can also help with stress levels and keeping the mind from racing, both are in YouVeda’s My Healthy Mood.
Oversleeping – Kapha Imbalance
Struggling to get out of bed in the morning or sleeping too long is a sign of a Kapha imbalance. While oversleeping sounds like it would be a lovely thing, it is, in fact, very hard on our bodies.
Kapha sleep imbalances are associated with the qualities of excessive heaviness, slowness and dullness. In Ayurveda, opposites will balance each other, so focusing on Vata qualities can actually bring Kapha back into balance and more specifically, focusing on agni (digestive fire) will support bringing the body back into balance.
Prioritizing exercise will help the digestive fire. Focus on exercise that is vigorous and aim for 3 to 5, 30-minute sessions a week. Eating a light, easily digested dinner is important to help balance the qualities of heaviness. Taking a supplement with dinner to help support a strong digestive fire is also a good way to balance the system, gaining more energy through the day and more quality sleep at night. Try YouVeda’s My Healthy Digestion.
Sometimes mental stress can make our bodies prone to oversleeping and contribute to poor quality sleep. If you feel your Kapha sleep imbalance is due to emotional or mental stress, consider trying adaptogens as a way to calm the mind. Ashwagandha helps the body and mind adapt to stress; promotes healthy (read: non-wired) energy levels during the day; and quality, restorative sleep at night. Ashwagandha can be found in My Health Mood.
Pro Tip: If you feel you have a combination of weak digestive agni and emotional or mental stress that’s preventing you from getting an adequate amount of quality sleep, consider combining My Healthy Mood (taken with your morning meal) with My Healthy Digestion (taken with your evening meal) to gain the powerful benefits of both.
Sleep issues can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s often a sign our bodies are not in balance. With some self-awareness, good sleep habits and sometimes a little supplement help, you will be able to bring yourself back into balance.