Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. In Ayurveda, proper rest is considered one of the three pillars of life, together with proper digestion and proper management of sexual energy. Your life expectancy and health could depend on these three pillars. In today’s society, sleep tends to be overlooked and most adults feel tired throughout the day even after several hours of rest. Having a healthy sleep can affect your mind, your mood, and your physical well-being. While the amount of sleep needed is not the same for everyone, we all need sleep to be refreshed and rejuvenated for a new day.
Correct Time to Sleep
Sleep can either kill you or heal you. Studies have shown that sleep disruption can have both adverse short- and long-term health consequences. Lack of sleep can lead to pain, depression, anxiety, and memory deficits. Hypertension, weight gain, gastrointestinal disorders and even cancer risks increase over time due to sleep disruption. The days tend to be longer for everyone yet life expectancy is decreasing. This is why it is important that you allow yourself to get the sleep your body needs to repair and rejuvenate.
There are those that will say you will need more than six hours of sleep to function properly. Ayurveda recommends between six and eight hours of sleep every night. But more than that, it also recommends the best time to go to sleep according to the doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Doshas are derived from the five elements. Vata is the combination of space and air. Pitta is the combination of fire and water. Kapha is the combination of earth and water. Each have different qualities and energy. Each dosha has its primary function that you can align to have both a quality sleep and a productive day. Vata’s primary function is movement and communication. Pitta oversees digestion and transformation, while Kapha provides structure and cohesiveness. Doshas also govern our daily rhythm. Every twenty-fours hours is divided into the three energies:
Kapha - 6:00am to 10:00am and 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Pitta - 10:00am to 2:00pm and 10:00pm to 2:00am
Vata - 2:00pm to 6:00pm and 2:00am to 6:00am
Ayurveda suggests the best time to sleep is during pitta-dominated time. This means sleeping by 10:00pm and until 2:00am. You should prepare to go to sleep when Kapha turns to Pitta which is between 9:00pm and 10:00pm. Pitta energy has fire. If you are asleep, the fire destroys and repairs damaged cells and regenerates your body. Pitta is also in charge of your digestion and cleansing. If you keep skipping the repair time of the night by going to bed late, you are allowing your body to deteriorate at a faster rate than normal. This can lead to chronic diseases in the long run because you did not allow your body to repair at the right time every night. You might notice that when you are awake past 10:00pm you tend to have that fire of ideas and activities. You might think it’s a good thing but you are disrupting your body’s time for detoxification and repair.
If you stay awake when Pitta comes, you will also experience restlessness. It is usually caused by Vata-Pitta disturbance. Remember that vata is the energy of movement while Pitta is the energy of transformation. There are two types of insomnia that you may experience at night. If you are the type of person who falls asleep easily but wakes up around 2:00 or 3:00am, then you have a Vata-type insomnia. On the other hand, if you have trouble falling asleep until past midnight, then you have a Pitta-type insomnia. There are also Kapha imbalances that can cause you to oversleep and feel tired throughout the day.
Optimized Daily Activities
When to wake up is as important as when to go to sleep. Our bodies are naturally designed to wake up before sunrise. Ayurveda suggests you wake before 6:00am when the dominant energy is Vata. Vata gives you the energy to do your morning activities. If you wake up late, you will likely wake in Kapha which is slow-paced. This would explain the feeling of heaviness and drowsiness when you wake up after the sun has risen. You might feel sluggish and need a cup of coffee to wake you up. But if you wake up during the active dosha Vata, you can synchronize yourself with the sun. It is also the best time to meditate and prepare yourself for the day.
Knowing the three doshas can also help you maximize your day by doing the right activities at the right energy. This will help you skip the need for caffeine every morning just to get you through the day.
If you’re looking at the best time to exercise, vigorous activities are best done during Kapha time in the morning (6:00am to 10:00am) to give you more energy throughout the day. What you do during Kapha time can continue throughout the day. So make sure your morning routine during that time sets the right mood for the rest of your day.
If you want to accomplish your goals daily, the best time would be during Pitta in the morning (10:00am to 2:00pm) when heat is dominant in your mind and body. It is also when the sun is highest in the sky. Focus on accomplishing your most difficult tasks during this time. It is also suggested that you eat your biggest meal, usually lunch, during this time as the heat will help the digestion process. However, do not eat any heavy meals during the Pitta time in the evening (10:00pm to 2:00am) to allow your body to digest and repair. That time is for your body to remove the toxins from the food you ate throughout the day. If you eat heavy meals during that time, then you may end up with indigestion and a restless night.
Do you have a creative task to finish or a problem to solve? Vata hours (2:00pm to 6:00pm) allow your creativity and thinking to peak. Go find yourself a peaceful environment where you can work on your activities. Avoid stressors or too much noise during this time.
It is important that you understand your “energy buckets” throughout the day to avoid any imbalances. An imbalanced Vata can cause you to feel fear or anxiety. It can also lead to exhaustion and muscle spasms. When your Kapha is imbalanced, you can feel greed and resistance to change. An out of balance Pitta can create fiery reactions including frustration and jealousy. It can also lead to inflammation in your body affecting your tissues and organs. If you don’t seem to understand why your days are unproductive, check the timing of each activity and realign them to the appropriate dosha. Do not push yourself to finish strenuous tasks when you should be processing your day or when your mind is supposed to be unwinding. Learn to go with your body’s natural flow for productivity.
Keys to a Good Night’s Sleep
Aside from sleeping at the right time, you can also try a few of these things to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Drink water from a copper vessel
Not everybody realizes that dehydration can affect your sleep. Our body is made of 50-60% water so it is important that we keep ourselves hydrated throughout the day. If you become dehydrated, your mouth and nasal passages can become dry and lead to sleep-disruptive snoring. But instead of just keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day, Ayurveda recommends drinking water that has been stored in a copper vessel. Copper is an essential mineral in our body. By storing water in a copper vessel, called “Tamra Jal”, you help balance all three doshas. This practice has been employed for centuries in India.
A study conducted by the University of South Carolina explored how copper can reduce infection. The research showed that “antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill 97 percent of bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections,” resulting in “a 40 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring an infection.” Copper has also been found to play a key role in metabolizing fat. Because copper is a conductor, it can help amplify your thoughts and reduce negativity in the mind. It also helps balance your body’s natural pH.
You can skip the fancy filters and get yourself a copper water bottle to help you stay hydrated and get enough sleep. Store your water in a copper water bottle for 6 to 8 hours then drink at least one cup in the morning as part of your morning routine.
Massage your head
You can also practice self-massage on the energy points on your head to promote better sleep. All you need is 1-2 minutes. When you find yourself struggling to sleep, your Vata dosha might be causing too many thoughts. That is the time to practice your self-massage.
When massaging, the three points that you should focus on are: a) the center of the top of your head, b) the back of your head, and c) the indent at the base of your skull. Use your index finger when massaging. You can also use coconut oil or ghee for your self-massage to help balance your Vata and Pitta. You can follow your gentle, full-body self-massage with a warm bath. Do not rub your head too hard to avoid over-stimulating it.
Let the sun into your room
You want your sleep and your daily activities to be aligned with nature. Allow sunlight to enter your bedroom if possible. This will help you be in tune with the sunrise. Remember it’s best to wake up before the sun rises to avoid the sluggishness that Kapha brings in the morning. If you go with the day’s natural waves, you can experience better well-being. Wake up before the sun rises. Go to sleep when the sun goes down. It is better if sunlight enters your room so you have nature’s reminder when to wake up and go to sleep.
It might be tempting to continue working until the late hours of the evening but your nervous system and cortisol levels should be winding down during Kapha time (6:00pm to 10:00pm). Do not force yourself to do high energy and high concentration activities at night. It’s time to unplug those gadgets. Gadgets emit blue light that inhibits melatonin production. We tend to overstimulate the mind with gadgets even if those gadgets have blue light filters. All those social media posts can flood your brain with information that you do not need before sleeping. Let your nervous system relax. Listen to soft music. It is best if you turn off or stop using devices an hour before you intend to sleep. Have a relaxing nighttime routine that tells your mind and body it’s time to sleep. Let your mind detach and calm down after a long day.
Another Ayurvedic ritual for quality sleep is abhyanga. Abhyanga is anointing your body with oil.
Apply warm sesame oil on the soles of your feet. Sesame oil is known as the “king of oils” because of its high concentration of antioxidants. If you have some essential oils, you can soothe your body and mind by putting a few drops on your pillowcase or wrist and breathing it in.
Studies have shown that meditation can help you sleep better and lessen insomnia and fatigue. It can also increase your melatonin levels. Melatonin plays a vital role in regulation of sleep. Meditation increases melatonin concentration by slowing its hepatic metabolism. This affects your quality of sleep at night. Give yourself time to meditate at night before going to sleep. Allow your body and mind to be in harmony.
How our day goes can affect our sleep and how our sleep goes can affect our day. Give yourself the sleep you deserve so you can make the most of your day. Don’t make sleep a luxury but rather a necessity each day. Imagine getting a good night’s sleep and waking up feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. You can do more and become better each day because of a good night’s sleep.