The modern age of technology has seriously made sleeping a challenge for our society as a whole. Under the system of capitalism, hard work and material gain is constantly prioritized over our inner peace and emotional stability. Sleep should be prioritized because drowsiness affects our work, judgement, emotions and reflexes. To counteract chronic sleep debt, people can abuse stimulants which also messes up natural sleep rhythms even more. Every animal (including humans) has a circadian clock, which is our biological mechanism for sleeping and waking. For humans, this is 16 hours of waking time and 8 hours of sleep per day. Sleep is supposed to provide nourishment, strength and knowledge; and we should wake up feeling refreshed.
Problems With Sleep An imbalanced Vata dosha looks like insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns due to indecisiveness and worry. They overthink what has gone on in the day without slipping peacefully into sleep. They are light sleepers, and remember their dreams. A Pitta imbalance has characteristics of anger, overheating or hunger. Events throughout the day may not have gone how they wanted, and they feel aggravated and suffer from the need to control things. They lose sleep over this, but typically do recall their dreams. Kapha imbalances look a little different than Vata and Pitta, because they will sleep undisturbed throughout the night, but wake up feeling unrefreshed. When we are balanced in our doshas, our sleep schedule will also be balanced.
Here are a few suggestions in aiding your peaceful sleep journey:
Preparation The key to changing poor sleep patterns and achieving a better quality of sleep is preparation. Ritual and ceremony should surround us preparing to delve into our inner world through deep sleep. At the end of the day, we should have a little recap. To shed some intentional light on when we were not acting in alignment with our values, when we were indecisive, and where we succeeded and created harmony. This prepares our minds for mental digestion during sleep. Having comfortable clothing, soft lighting and calm aromas can help prepare our bodies for sleep as well.
Technology It is difficult to get away from technology completely in this age, but for our rituals surrounding sleep it can be somewhat possible. Put your devices on “Night Shift” to dim the blue lights which disrupt our sleep chemicals. Sleep with your electronic devices away from your head, and limit use before bedtime.
Mental Digestion Contrary to popular belief, our brains actually do more activity when we sleep. Our sleep is integral in the manifestation of our mental health. Mental digestion occurs in our sleep, in which our daily interactions, thoughts and experiences are digested in our minds. We turn our experiences into wisdom and it becomes part of our mental fabric of consciousness during proper mental digestion. When we are tossing and turning, lying awake for hours it can be because we have an emotion or experience that we haven’t acknowledged. Ask yourself “what is inside me that I need to acknowledge and get out?”. Cultivating the self awareness to observe the reasons as to why we are unable to sleep will help us. Our soul wants resolution for the things we have been through, and we can achieve this through proper mental digestion that sleep brings.
Sleep Position The way a person sleeps is important. If you typically sleep on the left side, the pressure suppresses Kapha and builds Pitta. More acid secretion is pressed from the liver, which results in an increased Agni (digestive fire). This can be positive if you need a stronger Agni, but there is potential for more hyperacidity. If you sleep on your right side, it can calm Pitta but induce Kapha aggravation causing sinus congestion. Sleeping on the right side makes the stomach empty earlier because the pyloric valve is on the right, but the food may not be fully digested. Please wait at least 3 hours after a meal before going to sleep.
Napping Napping has the ability to aggravate the Kapha and Pitta dosha, because it does mess with our circadian rhythms. Typically, Ayurveda does not recommend sleep during the day. If you feel the need for a nap, it should be about 10-20 minutes on an empty stomach. Sleeping for too long in the daytime will disrupt our nighttime sleep patterns. In the summertime, naps can be good because our Vata dosha is increased which causes dryness. A little nap will increase the Kapha dosha and restore some moisture to the body, balancing out the increased dry Vata dosha. The same effects of a nap could also be achieved by taking a walk in the sun, drinking some water or light yoga.
According to Ayurveda, the best quality sleep is from 10:00pm-6:00am (Pitta and Vata). To achieve this, start setting your sleep time back 15 minutes per week and you will eventually be settling down to sleep at 10:00am. We hope that these few suggestions will guide you on your odyssey for a better sleep and more balanced doshas.
Dosha for Life: The Ancent Ayurvedic Science of Self-Healing by Linda Bretherton & Jim Whitham
Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles by Vasant Lad MASc
Photo by Burst