Ayurveda Tips for Sleep
It is important to recognize and honor that good sleep is something natural for each of us. It is the time the body repairs, rejuvenates, detoxifies and rebuilds. During deep sleep, the body produces growth hormones that help to repair tissues, bones, and muscles. Deep sleep also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Rest creates space for systems to function optimally. Unfortunately if we do not pay attention to healthy sleep cycles it doesn’t take long for the body and mind to feel affected.
The good news is Ayurveda offers easy approaches to maximizing sleep cycles that can be implemented into your daily schedule. With them you can experience deeper rest and feel more joyful and light upon rising.
Not all sleep is equal!
Let’s consider your own sleep patterns. Are you falling asleep naturally? Do you awaken and get back to rest? In the morning do you rise without an alarm feeling rested and rejuvenated? If any of these areas are a challenge for you we are here to help!
In an ideal world one would eat dinner around six and get to bed by ten. This would make it quite easy to greet the sunrise with ease. What’s the hold up though? We hear from so many clients that they can’t fall asleep at that magic hour. We can lean into the other two pillars of health for insight.
How Digestion and Food Choices Affect Sleep
Food choices, digestive patterns and times of meals all have a great affect on how well and what time we can get to sleep. Eating meals that are too heavy, too late or that create digestive disturbance or variable elimination patterns can all make it challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. Ayurveda recommends that we consume our largest meal with the midday sun. This serves to maximize the digestive function and give the body the entire afternoon to use the nutrients and energy consumed. Then, we naturally wind down in the evening. Try eating a larger lunch and a smaller dinner of soup or a simple rice dish.
Patterns of late night snacking can also create shifts in sleep patterns. If late night snacks have become a pattern, first try having your sweet or salty treat in the afternoon as a snack instead of eliminating it completely. This may keep your craving satisfied without effecting sleep. If you have variability in digestion or elimination patterns dive into our article on digestive health or reach out to us for a health consultation.
You will notice how physical exertion and mental stimulation works with our food times and choices as well. Stimulation of late night tv watching or mental exercises on the phone or computer can lead to the feeling of needing more food. Restful activities at night help us switch gears with greater ease.
Paying attention to fluid intake in the evenings can help as well. If you are consuming large amounts of water, alcoholic beverages or even sleepy-time herbal teas right before bed you may wake up more to urinate. Try minimizing fluid intake after dinner to 8oz or less and see if that helps.
The Balance of Exertion and Relaxation to Sleep Like A Baby
Now let’s consider physical and mental activity. There is a delicate balance here because if we stimulate the body or mind in excess it can create hyperactivity making it hard to slow down. On the flip side, lack of movement, activity and excitement can create over stimulation when its time to sleep because we have not used up our energy reserves for the day. A good rule of thumb is to exercise in some form daily alongside spending time in Nature, enjoying the great outdoors. Bringing the body to a state of a light sweat, or gentle labored breathing is a sign that you have exerted yourself to capacity. Walking, swimming and time in the yard playing or gardening should also be enjoyed on a daily basis. Balanced exertion should help you fall asleep like a baby.
Being mindful of mental activity is important as well. In general, computer work, phone calls, strenuous mental exertion should be done in the morning to maximize the growing intensity of the sun. Once the sun peaks best to put the screens away and shift attention to cooling and calming practices like crafts, hands on activities, meal planning, task oriented physical practices and things in the real world. If you can completely eliminate screen use after dinner to allow the visual channel or sense of sight to rest as we wind down towards sleep.
Ayurveda offers many techniques to help balance the doshas and promote healthy sleep habits.
How Dosha Affects Time and Sleep
Understanding the energetic forces of the Dosha: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha helps you tune into the natural rhythms of the world. These doshas exert their influence on us shifting every four hours, dominating our energy and influencing the qualities of that time. By understanding these patterns, you can choose activities and food that support the dominant energy inside and around you at that time.
Kapha is composed of the earth and water elements and associated with 6-10am/pm. Because of the heavy, dense and static quality of earth and water, Ayurveda recommends getting up prior to Kapha time when those qualities would increase. This results in feeling more alert and productive so you can get things moving before the kaphic energy sets in. In the evening, the heaviness of kapha builds up. The density motivates us to settle down and ideally go to bed before 10pm when Pitta begins to increase.
Pitta is related to the fire and water elements and associated with 10-2am/pm. Due to the light, hot, liquid and sharp qualities of Pitta, Ayurveda encourages us to use this knowledge to be goal-oriented. Our productivity during the daytime window corresponds with the intensity of the sun peaking through the early afternoon. It is important to get to bed prior to the evening window. Staying up past 10pm often results in getting a second wind. We can optimize our use of the nighttime pitta window to process physical and psychological energy while we are sleeping.
Vata corresponds to the air and ether elements and is associated with 2-6am/pm. The light, mobile, subtle and clear qualities of Vata during the early morning hours, may make sleep feel light and the mind more active. However it is one of the best times to meditate or be spiritually-oriented because of the predominance of the air and ether elements. The afternoon vata window can be a creative or solution-oriented time due to the light, clear, mobile and subtle qualities. However the space filled with these qualities could be experienced as agitating if there’s too much vata in the environment or within your system. Reducing external stimulation, enhancing your environment to sooth your senses or taking a break in nature can all help balance these qualities and work with the energy of this time to find balance.
The quality of sleep can vary depending on both time and the affects of the three dosha.
Each dosha can affect sleep differently:
- Vata: shows up as irregularity. You may be waking up frequently, sometimes sleeping late, sometimes rising early. You might wake up multiple times in the middle of the night. Create a regular sleep routine. Engage in calming activities before bed, such as self-oil massage or reading can be nourishing and balancing.
- Pitta: you might have a hard time falling asleep, experience overheating or an over-active mind; but then you might sleep soundly or wake up at a certain time to eliminate and go back to sleep. Going to bed a couple of hours after eating; reducing screen time and creating a cool, dark sleep-conducive environment can help soothe the mind and promote restful sleep.
- Kapha: exemplified in long, hard uninterrupted sleep. You might up wake up in the morning feeling a little bit slower, groggy, sluggish or lethargic. To find balance don’t create excess heaviness before going to sleep. Engage in stimulating activities during the day. Make sure that you eat dinner, you’re satisfied and then you stop eating. Reduce the sweet taste before bed.
Sleep and Women’s Health
Whether you are a mama or not, the health of our reproductive tissues go hand and hand with our overall health. We’ve been diving into Women’s Health deeply in our weekly Women’s Health course. Sleep is often a challenging area for women in general. Our fast paced society and natural instincts often put our systems in overdrive which help to care for our families, community and keep home life in order. However, the push through time and the daily dosha cycles shared above can create stress on the nervous system, hormones and weakens our systems as a whole over time.
As women age this becomes more and more pronounced as our hormones change. Women who have lived an over- stimulated, stressful, fast-paced life for years or decades are at risk for increased bone loss, nervous system disorders and overall dysfunction surrounding the entire physiology of the body.
Sign-up for our weekly Women’s Health Course, meets every Wednesday at 9am ET, playbacks available.
So what can we do?
Nourishment is #1.
Pay attention to the tips shared above along with self-oil massage, breaks for breath, meditation and reflection. Feel ok slowing down or saying no. Join our in-person weekend or weeklong programs both in Puerto Rico and other lovely destinations to give you the jump start for your healing journey.
Sleep is such an essential component of overall health and well-being. Remember! It’s a Pillar of Health! By understanding your dosha and incorporating Ayurvedic practices into your sleep routine, you can improve your sleep quality and wake up feeling refreshed and renewed.