Sleep is a basic instinct of life according to Ayurveda which makes sense because when our sleep patterns are not balanced we feel discouraged and lethargic. According to ayurveda balanced sleep is essential to all living beings to rejuvenate and reenergise our minds, bodies and spirits. Sleep makes up one of the three pillars in Ayurveda to achieving good health, the other two being good food or ahara and finally, sexual energy or brahmacharya. Ayurveda offers simple and practical approaches to achieving balanced sleep cycles which are easily adopted even with our modern routines.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a timeless science of life with a history of over 5000 years, yet the practical teachings and advice offered by Ayurveda prove adaptable and successful in today’s world as well. If you are looking to achieve mental and physical wellness and wellbeing, Ayurveda practices will help you with this journey as the focus is on a wholistic approach to healing. Finding balance helps you achieve physical, mental and spiritual health.
What causes insomnia and sleep disorders?
Stress – Stress can lead to anxiety and the combination of both can lead to insomnia and sleep imbalance. Sadly, when you have problems with getting good sleep it can cause you to experience stress. This cycle adversely affects the amount of sleep you get each night.
Anxiety – Those with anxiety are at higher risk of experiencing insomnia. Anxiety leads to excess worry which makes it really difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night, instead of waking up in the middle of the night. Some even refer to this as sleep anxiety.
Changes or life events – Changes to your normal sleep schedule or life changes can cause difficulty falling asleep. Once chronic insomnia happens it can cause you to become worried or anxious about falling asleep which again causes a stressful cycle.
Caffeine/alcohol consumption – While caffeine and alcohol consumption affects different people differently, the impact on sleep largely depends on the individual, as you get older you may find that the consumption of either beverage before bedtime does affect the quality of your sleep, especially as you can experience dehydration which affects sleep.
Using electronic devices in bed before sleep – While it is tempting to check your phone, ipad or laptop before you go to bed studies have shown that they do supress the production of melatonin which interferes with sleep. This natural hormone, melatonin, is released in the evenings to help you feel tired and ready to wind down.
Ayurveda and sleep
For Ayurveda sleep is on par with eating and essential for our overall health for physiological and cognitive functioning. Sleep helps us function coherently as it ensues we get essential rest. Ayurveda classifies sleep imbalances according to the dosha – vata and pitta and kapha. Doshas can have a direct influence on our sleep preferences and habits.
What are the 3 doshas?
Kapha dosha – Kapha types are generally heavy sleeps and are not easily disturbed or awoken. They actually need less sleep than the vata and pitta types, as they sleep soundly and calmly. However when out of balance it can cause excessive sleep and a feeling of heaviness and experience difficulty with waking up.
Pitta dosha – Pitta types tend to sleep well though more lightly than kapha and need just a moderate amount of sleep which supports their physiological needs. They can function on less sleep when the need arises and as a result can be night owls and be productive in the night When out of balance it can cause pitta dosha types to have difficulty with falling asleep as their minds become stimulated.
Vata dosha – Vata types generally experience irregular and light sleep which can become a deep sleep if exhausted. They tend to sleep fewer hours than the other two dosha types. When vata dosha types experience imbalance, it causes them to awaken during the night and have difficulty with falling back to sleep.
Ayurveda practices that will help promote good sleep
Consult an ayurvedic practitioner to find your dosha type and which dosha dominates to cause you imbalance. You will be advised on the best ayurvedic practices to adopt to regain balance so you can once again enjoy a healthy sleep and the correct amount of sleep for you to feel rested and rejuvenated.
- Abyanga (oil massage) – a self-massage with herbal oil a few hours before bedtime will help your body relax and be ready for sleep
- Ayurvedic diet – you can incorporate foods and herbs that help you regain balance which in turn promote good sleep
- Using essential oils – these help relax the senses and thereby promote and aid sleep
- Adjusting bedding and lighting – dim lighting, soft bedding, correct temperature
Understanding your dosha type will allow you to adopt ayurvedic practices geared for you specifically. Following the ayurvedic medical advice diagnosis or treatment will help you regain balance in your life for a healthy sustainable lifestyle.