A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.According to Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, sleep is one of three key factors contributing to our ability to both survive and thrive.Unfortunately, contemporary modern lifestyle is interfering with natural sleep patterns. Most people are now sleeping less than people did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.

Sleep deprivation is considered a global epidemic and research has linked it to a list of illnesses including anxiety, depression, heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis, just to name a few. So getting enough sleep, no matter how challenging this is for you, is VITAL.

The secret of early sleeping hours

The deterioration of sleep quantity and quality is subject to the time frame of sleeping hours. According to Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, the most nourishing sleeping hours occur between 20:00 PM and 24:00 PM. Vital nourishing processes of body essence rejuvenation (Kidney Jing or Ojas) take place mostly during these hours, and only while sleeping. Going to sleep later, on a regular basis, will cause gradual depletion of body source energy. 8 hours (or even more) of sleep between 24:00 PM and 8:00 AM cannot compensate for the indispensible early sleeping hours.

Feeling tired and willing to go to sleep happens naturally around 20:00 PM to 22:00 PM. But, many temptations lure us away from bed and make us overcome the natural tiredness, by the help of foods, stimulants or other distractions. So give it a try and listen to your inner rhythm, comply willingly with this basic need and turn in when you sense a sleepy notion, which is just on time.

How can I enjoy the advantages of early sleep and not totally give up on my night life?

You can plan a regular weekly “go to sleep” time table. A few days a week you go to sleep at 21:00 PM or as soon as the kids are tucked in and sound asleep. Probably you will choose to go to sleep early the nights before long and challenging working days. And on other nights, you may choose to go to sleep a little bit later, around 23:00 or so, so you can enjoy some quality time with yourself, your spouse or friends.

The more depleted you are, the more your life rhythm is hectic, the more you are stressed and fatigued, well, the more you should schedule early night sleep. This is totally individual.

What about over sleeping?

Although less common, over sleeping have its down sides as well. Over sleeping will make the body heavy and stiff, may cause weight gain, dull thinking capacity, lethargy, confusion and different degrees of depression. For anyone who is heavy and slow by nature, oversleeping, especially in the late morning, will be a problem. In contrast, a light, anxious and stressed person could really benefit from some extra morning sleep to calm down a stormy mind.

Understand the three basic sleeping patterns with Ayurveda

It’s kind of common knowledge that everyone should be getting between 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, depending on the qualities and preferences of the individual. As any couple knows, no two sleepers are alike. Ayurveda describes three basic types of sleep quality:

Vata type sleep

Vata sleep is often light and highly variable owing to the movement and changeability of Vata energy in the mind (racing thoughts) and body (heightened sensitivity, to noise and light). As a result, Vata type sleep tends to average between 4 to 7 hours of sleep per night.Vata sleep could be interfered by digestive distress, dreams, or a racing mind when stress hormones are activated between 4AM-6AM.The objective for people with a Vata type sleep pattern is to prolong and deepen sleep, as they are challenged by difficulty falling asleep and by a light and unsettled sleep.

Vata type sleep is common among the elderly, because of the typical dryness at this stage of life.

The main causes for Vata sleep imbalance is an excess of either dryness, lightness, coldness, or any combination of the three.

Excess dryness is the cause of mental noise leading to obsessive thinking, anxiety and stressful thoughts. Excess lightness is responsible for heightened sensitivity, a restless body and difficulty to relax and sink into sleep. Excess cold makes the body hard and contracted which will prevent the necessary looseness for sleep.

Insomnia is generally associated with excess dryness and lightness. The Chinese medicine equivalent is Yin deficiency. When fluids are depleted and the nervous system is lacking nourishing oiliness, the Yin of Kidney, Liver or Heart is damaged. The mind becomes hyperactive with too many thoughts and it’s impossible to relax. So, the obvious solution to this problem is to relieve the stress, but we all know that’s easier said than done!

Home remedies to balance Vata sleep challenges

Take a warm bath.

Massage the feet,scalp and temples with warm sesame oil before going to bed. There are thousands of nerve endings on each foot, so giving both a massage helps loosen the entire body. Massaging the scalp and temples, where the nerves start, has a comparable effect.

Drink a warm glass of milk with a 1/8tsp nutmeg. If cow milk is not an option for you, try almond milk or oat milk instead.In Ayurveda, warm milk is considered healing and soothing. Milk contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which both induce sleep. Nutmeg gives the comforting drink a sweet taste and acts as another natural sleep aid.

If you shiver when you slip in between the cold sheets, warm them up with a hot water bottle and an extra heavy blanket. Place the hot water bottle in your bed 15 minutes before bedtime to make it toasty and warm!

Practice Alternate Nostril Breathing: sit on your bed. Close your eyes. Close your right nostril and inhale through your left. Then, close your left nostril and exhale through your right. Inhale through your right nostril, close your right, and then exhale through your left. Continue this technique for a few minutes, as long as comfortable.

For difficulty falling asleep and excessive worrying before bed, practice belly breathing, journaling, a few minutes of meditation or prayer, and add a drop or two of lavender essential oil on your pillow. Empty your mind, let go of the thoughts you’ve been holding onto all day, (they will be there for you to continue processing tomorrow), and write down what is bothering you, so the paper can hold on to whatever it is, but your mind can temporarily let them go.Say some prayers, and be grateful.

Pitta Type Sleep

Pitta sleep is moderate; sleep pattern is basically pretty well. Pitta type sleep may wake up during the night, but most often have no problems getting back to sleep. Average Pitta sleep is between 5 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Pitta sleep is challenged with falling asleep, especially when there’s work to be done, or during summer when you are hot and may not have enough cool moisture or grounding minerals to allow you to relax. Pitta sleep could be disturbed by frantic dreams or can wake up in the middle of the night exited or nervous thinking about ideas and how to get things done.

Pitta type sleep is common during midlife, when ambition and action are at their peak.

The main causes for Pitta sleep imbalance is an excess of either heat, lightness, sharpness, or any combination of the three.

Excess heat in both the mind and body will cause restlessness and difficulty to fall asleep, as well as disturbing the flow of sleep during the night. A clear example for this is during menopause, when women wake up from hot flushes or for anyone during the hot summer. Excess lightness, as for Vata, is responsible for heightened sensitivity, a restless body and difficulty to relax and sink into sleep. Excess sharpness keeps the mind too focused on the job, making it difficult to let go and doze away.

Home remedies to balance Pitta sleep challenges

Take a lukewarm bath with a drop of rose or jasmine essential oil.Rose and jasmine are said to reduce stress, open the heart, and purify negative emotions.

Apply 5-10 drops of Bhringaraj Oil (Eclipta Alba) or Brahmi oil (Bacopa Monnieri) on the top of the head to soothe and cool the mind and nerves before sleep.

During summer days and evenings rehydrate with cool (but not cold) water and replenish your electrolytes by adding a pinch of rock salt, honey and lemon grass to the mix. Drink this mix when you are frustrated by the heat and can’t fall asleep.

Magnesium rich foods may be especially helpful to help your muscles relax. Magnesium is cooling in nature, so it helps sleep but also cools you down systemically.Bananas and coconut water may be supportive because of their cooling nature and magnesium content. Under certain circumstances a magnesium supplement before bed time may be appropriate. More options are cooling fruits juices like pear juice, blueberry juice, and pomegranate juice.

Bring a cup of milk to boil and let it cool down a bit. Add a pinch of turmeric, tea spoon of ghee and a touch of honey. Milk is high in magnesium and is naturally calming. Turmeric helps you fully digest the milk proteins. Ghee further lubricates your dried out summer body and skin.

If you are waking up feeling hot and bothered in the middle of the night, rub brahmi oil on your head before bed, turn off all electronics and stop work at least two hours before bed. Dim the lights an hour before bedtime and keep the bedroom cool in summer.

Kapha Type Sleep

Kapha sleep is heavy and deep, the king of sleep. Kapha sleep pattern is undisturbed, and for longer periods than the other two Dosha types. Kapha sleep type may easily do over 8 hours of sleep each night if undisturbed. Kapha Sleep type Challenges concern waking up on time. Getting too much sleep could signal some level of depression or a means to avoid coping with reality.

Kapha type sleep is common among children and adolescent, since the night is the time of physical growth.

The main causes for Kapha sleep imbalance is an excess of either coldness when going to sleep or heaviness when it’s time to wake up.

Kapha may also cause difficulty falling asleep at night, when level of activity during the day is low, prolonged day sleep, not enough stimulation of the senses or some level of depression.

Home remedies to balance a Kapha sleep challenges

If you shiver when you slip in between the cold sheets, warm them up with a hot water bottle and an extra heavy blanket. Place the hot water bottle in your bed 15 minutes before bedtime to make it toasty and warm!

To overcome heaviness when waking up, go to sleep relatively early and wake up early, not later than 6AMeach day. Drink a glass of hot water, with juice from a wedge of lemon, 10 drops of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of cayenne, and a teaspoon of honey. Make sure to have a light evening meal and avoid any rich or heavy food at night. Plan some sort of exercise when you wake up,like a brisk walk in the fresh air, to increase circulation and get light.

Together we stand, divided we sleep

How much sleep do you need, between what hours, and how well you’ll actually sleep when you do get to bed are factors that are unique to each one of us—factors that according to Ayurveda can be related to our born constitution (Described by the three Dosha system). None the less, any constitution type may experience any of the three sleeping patterns. For example, a Kapha-Vata person may experience a period of Pitta sleep disturbances, in account of high ambition and motivation to get things done. Soby understanding your constitution and the 3 different sleeping patterns, you can understand better the quality and quantity of sleep you need in order to thrive, and how to balance any type of excess interfering with your good night’s sleep!

The Dosha time table for sleeping

There’s a rhythm to the natural world that plays a significant part in how we feel, act, and sleep. Ayurveda suggests that the rise and fall of energy shifts throughout the day, in intervals which can be expressed by the qualities of the three Doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Seeing things this way gives us insights into the best times of day to do all the important things like eating, sleeping, and even having sex.

The Sleep Zone – Kapha time

Kapha time,from 6 PM to 10 PM, is best for falling (and being) asleep, owing to the dense, slow, and heavy energy of Kapha. These are the best hours to go to sleep, starting as early as 8 PM, as discussed above. Just before sleep Sex is recommended, if you saved aside some energy for it! Another option for sex is in the middle of the night. If you go to sleep early enough, you wake up in the middle of the night energized for making passionate love, and then you are ready to go back to sleep again!

From 6 AMto 10 AM; Waking up between these hours will make you feel heavier and slower, the later you wake up, the slower you will feel. For heavy and slow people, an early rise will do well, and for the too light and too hastened people, waking up later can help nourish and relax them.

The sharp zone – Pitta time

Most folks, however, end up getting to bed sometime during pitta time (10 PM to2 AM), and can either find falling asleep challenging if their mind is ambitious and planning the future, or they may just give up on sleep all together in order to take advantage of the “second wind” burst of energy and focus, which is a well-known phenomenon around this time.

The scattered zone – Vata time

If you suffer from insomnia, you may find yourself wide awake (sometimes for no apparent reason) right around the kickoff of Vata time (2AM to 6AM) when Vata energy begins rising again, with more movement in the mind and body. For some, these hours may be very creative, imaginative and inspiring.

Sleep Cycles & Hormones

Our bodies operate in 90 minute sleep cycles, and when the last cycle completes at dawn, you wake up gently, feeling fresh and bright. Cortisol, a hormone usually associated with stress, but is also responsible for waking you up naturally in the morning, responds to the morning light. The highest cortisol level you experience should be first thing in the morning, and it should steadily decrease throughout the day. However, chronic stress and waking unnaturally or unrested creates spikes in cortisol at the wrong times of day. This cycle of stress drains your adrenals (defined in Chinese medicine as Kidney Yin deficiency).

When you fall into deep sleep at night, your neurons shut down and rebuild. Allowing your neurons to fully repair during your sleep by getting adequate rest and waking appropriately helps your memory, clarity of thought, mood and your ability to interpret life experiences in a positive way.

Sleep Do’s and Don’ts

You can’t control when you fall asleep but you can control when you go to bed.

Wake up and go to bed around the same times every day. This helps program your sleep system to function smoothly, so you can wake up in the morning on time, at the end of the last sleep cycle, fresh and bright, without the need for an alarm clock.An irregular sleep schedule disturbs the Liver Qi and creates emotional instability. Although the mind loves freedom, the body loves stability. Regular mealtimes and bed schedule is the foundation of a healthy routine.

Create a nighttime routine—take time to wind down and relax for an hour or so before bed. Lie down, release tension, breath naturally, stretch gently with some yoga postures: Child’s Pose, Knees to Chest, gentle twist with knees to either side. The purpose of all nighttime rituals is to prepare your mind to go into a different state, a state of relaxation.

Avoid stimulating activities just before bed time such as dynamic exercise, work and watching stressful content on a screen.Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine before bed time.

Exercise during the day helps you sleep sound at night.

Avoid eating heavy dinners or eating heavy foods late at night just before bed time. Digestion is not active at these hours and the heavy meals may stagnate in your stomach for the whole night, causing a very unpleasant experience. If you find yourself hungry at night, it means you missed your bedtime. An apple can help suppress your appetite. Applesauce, rice milk or almond milk, are easy to digest, appropriate late night snacks that can help you get to sleep.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, minimize use of the eyes and stay in bed. Gentle stretching is okay. Repetitive prayer practices sooth the mind back to sleep quickly, while trying deliberately to fall asleep makes you nervous and stimulated. Falling asleep requires letting go.Praying for others redirects the focus away from your body and the concerns of the day. Create loving, tender thoughts for whatever wakes you up.

Sleep for fulfilling your life’s path

Getting the right quality and quantity of sleep requires internalization of how much sleep is a vital fuel for your mind, body, and life.


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