Healthy sleep (the right quality and amount) provides pleasure, growth and feeding of body tissues and cells, strength and immunity, sexual energy, knowledge and intelligence, good health, and longevity. There are processes that occur during sleep that can’t be reproduced while we are awake.
On the other hand, abnormal sleep (inadequate/insufficient, excessive, or irregular sleep) has the opposite effect on health and life expectancy, for example lack of adequate sleep interferes with the ability of our bodily systems to repair and rejuvenate. Without sufficient rest our digestion, metabolism, cell regeneration, emotional balance, creativity, mental clarity and motor skills are impaired.
According to our Ayurveda, the ideal time to sleep is between 8pm -10pm and wake up between 4am – 5:30am or 45 minutes before sunrise, which is also known as the Brahma muhurta. A great shift of energy takes place at that time.
Ayurveda tells you to do some meditation, exercise and prayers to start your day right.
Let me try to explain a little more in a simple way — Ayurveda tells us about three doshas, which are the bio energies (made up of the 5 elements) found in our body and mind: Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth).
A day is divided among these three doshas –
Early morning (as per Ayurveda, which is 4 am to 5.30 am) is dominated by Vata, which governs body movement, flexibility, mental activities etc. So, if you wake up at that time, you will get these advantages. Again, waking up does not mean opening your eyes and going through social media feeds. In this extraordinary case, waking up means getting out of bed and doing some activity— if not jogging then at least doing some stretches or deep breathing even if it’s for 5 – 10 min.
The Kapha dosha starts from 6 am till 10am— this dosha is marked by its heaviness. So, if you wake up after 6 am, Ayurveda tells that you are bound to feel heavy and slow both mentally and physically throughout the day. Again at about 6pm, we move from vata to kapha dosha. The same kapha energy—dull, slow, stable, heavy that makes it difficult to wake up with ease after sunrise (6am) now supports us to move into sleep. If you tune in, you will start to feel the body and mind’s fatigue and recognize your desire for a good night’s sleep.
Then comes the Pitta dosha, marked by productivity (fire). No wonder we feel so productive between 10 pm to 2 am, and watch all our series episodes at one go — while we must be active between 10 am and 2 pm, when we basically sulk at traffic and then at office.
The Pitta time at night is also for productive activities, but not externally according to Ayurveda. Instead, internal activities like to digest experiences, emotions, and any remaining food from earlier in the day, and to repair and renew itself.
AN IDEAL AYURVEDIC BEDTIME ROUTINE
To promote sound sleep –
- Follow a regular routine of going to bed in the kapha time between 8 -10 pm and wake up in the vata time of the morning before sunrise.
- Make your last meal of the day easily digestible, light, and nourishing, allow 2 -3 hours after eating and before going to bed for proper digestion of the food eaten.
- Turn off the TV at least an hour before bed.
- Resist online anything—shopping, Twitter, Facebook, news gathering, or working.
- Use that extra hour for self-reflection, journaling, restorative yoga, or meditation.
- Treat yourself to a foot massage by applying sesame oil to feet, wear socks or remove excess oil with cloth, apply brahmi and sandalwood infused oil on the top of the head and/or forehead, spray lavender on bed pillow, sit and connect with your breath, then consciously release the details of your day, surrendering to this time of restoration
- Create a bedroom that is clean, uncluttered, comfortable and peaceful – use soothing colors and soft textures.
- Put on your favorite deep relaxation music to help you practice resting and to take the edge off the nervous system.
- Vata types should sleep on their back (balancing lunar and solar energy), pitta types on their right side (breathing in lunar energy) and kapha types on their left side (breathing in solar energy)
- Make yourself some warm milk laced with special sleep-inducing herbs. Pour 4 to 6 ounces of organic milk into a saucepan, along with 1/4th tsp of cinnamon or nutmeg, cardamom and saffron, and a teaspoon of ghee, and simmer for about three minutes. Remove from the heat and let set for a minute or so. If you like it sweet then you can add ½ tsp of honey or maple syrup. Take this warm elixir with you to bed, sip until finished, and settle in for a divine snuggle.