Restful sleep: An ayurvedic perspective

Learn to sleep and wake up the correct way as per your doshas

woman got up from her sleep

Sleep is one of the three pillars that support our edifice of health; the other two being diet and lifestyle. Managing your waking and sleep time routine as per the tenets of ayurveda can help you balance your doshas.

Rituals before bed time

Ayurveda explains that there are seven types of sleep:

  • Natural sleep
  • Sleep due to illness
  • Sleep due to imbalance of the mental faculties
  • Sleep due to imbalance in physical body
  • Sleep due to aggravation of kapha dosha
  • Sleep due to imbalance in tamas state.

Of these, natural sleep is regarded as paramount, which habitually arises from exhaustion of the physical and mental arena.

Drinking a glass of warmed and sweetened milk [preferably buffalo milk] with a pinch of balancing herbs like cardamom, turmeric, saffron or dry ginger powder helps you sleep sound.

Have a fixed routine before bedtime, like listening to soft music or reading. This signals the body to get ready for sleep. Activities like reading and meditation promote tranquility and peace of mind, a great aid for restful sleep.

Limit your intake of oily, spicy and heavy-to-digest meals before going to bed as this interferes in the natural pattern of sleep.

Massage your scalp and the soles of your feet, with a little oil [preferably sesame oil] just before you sleep.

Spend some time with your kids or family members, before going to bed.

Rising in Brahma mahoorata

The right time to wake up and be out of bed is 4 – 6 am. It would be ideal to fix your wake up time 15 minutes to half hour before the crack of dawn. Brahma corresponds to wisdom, as well as God. Thus, this time of the day is apt for meditation as well as for intellectual work such as writing, reading, or studying. Sushruta, the Guru of ayurveda, has described this period as amrit vela or the period of bliss when all the natural elements [sky, air, fire, water and earth] co-exist in their purest form. Welcome the morning at this time to gorge in the freshness and grace that nature offers. Moreover, according to ayurveda, the simple activity of waking up at this fixed time keeps you reasonably distant from health maladies like constipation, indigestion, sinusitis, lethargy, eye ailments and halitosis [bad breath].

Cleaning the face

When you’re rinsing your face, you need to take a sip of cool water, swish it slowly in your mouth, and spit it out when it gets lukewarm. While splashing your face with water, hold a mouthful of water in and splash your face 15 – 20 times, then spit out the water. To freshen your eyes, again fill the mouth with water and splash cool water on the eyes. This helps balance the pitta dosha, since according to ayurveda the eyes are the seat of fire.

Nasal cleansing

Rub about 3 – 4 drops of sesame or olive oil inside the nostril to clean the sinuses and promote mental clarity. Anu tailam is a medicated herbal oil, which is highly recommended for this purpose. This mild oiling not only protects the nose but also the ear and throat from allergies.

Cleaning the mouth

To clean the teeth, ayurveda counsels natural tree sticks, or datun. These herbs provide wormicidal, blood-purifying, and healing benefits. But if you don’t have access to these you could use herbal toothpastes that contain neem, babool, lohdra and kushta. These protect the gums and enamel. When gargling the mouth, it is suggested that you first do so using some sesame or olive oil mixed with warm water, followed by plain warm water. This helps to keep the lips moisturised, prevents sore throat and tooth decay and is good for the vocal cords. Follow this by gargling with an astringent herb decoction. Then massage the gums gently to stimulate them and cleanse the digestive fire. This entire activity helps to remove ama [undigested toxic matter] from the digestive tract as well as invigorates the gastric fire .

Relieving the bowels

This has to be done with silence and patience, without forcing yourself or applying too much pressure. Using force may prove to be harmful in the long run.

Massage and bath

Before you bathe, a daily self massage with mustard or sesame oil helps balance the doshas. If you don’t have time, you could just massage the three areas—head, soles of the feet and the ears. Ayurveda suggests using warm water for below the waistline, but never wash your head with warm or hot water, as this could be harmful for your eyes and hair. After bath, use perfumed pastes made from scented herbs like sandalwood to enhance your natural glow and charisma.

Recommendation for vatta dosha

Of the three doshas, vatta is most easily affected by sleep inadequacy. This is mainly because vatta is light and erratic by nature. Also, a vatta person is generously a frivolous thinker with often fluctuating mental states—thus also a light sleeper. This condition could be aggravated in case the individual sleeps less or ignores/delays the call of sleep. Sleeping on your left side aids in right nostril breathing, which is warm and thereby balances the cold vatta.
Vatta types may sleep on their left side. For the vatta dominant types, it is strongly suggested that you be more persistent and serious with your everyday sleep pattern. Lest it could make you more prone to insomnia, disturbed sleep and also physical attributes of excessive gas and belching. A sleep routine is incredibly amicable for the vatta individual because the frequently dodging mind has to be kept under control.

Recommendation for pitta dosha

In case the pitta dosha is dominant in your system, you need to understand that your sleep can be easily affected by external stimuli like lights and sound. So you need to keep your room dark and mildly scented with rose petals, lavender oil drops or henna leaves. Sleep on your right side so as to encourage the cool left nostril breathing. Also, having a nap in the moonlight or amidst cool air and showers, or in cool dark shade will do you good.

Recommendation for kapha dosha

Kapha dominant individuals are of a steady and relaxed type. Therefore as kapha is largely stable and motionless [both physically and mentally], all factors that enhance relaxation like leading a sedentary life, sitting or resting for too long and especially sleeping for long causes dosha imbalance. Sleeping during the daytime is a strict no-no for you, in case you’re kapha type. As you already have the tendency to sleep more than average, over-sleeping and daytime sleeping are sure to result into kapha aggravation and imbalance. On the contrary, early rising from the bed would be supportive. It is alright if the bedtime is delayed sometimes. You are also advised to be sleeping on your left side, which aids in warm right nostril breathing.

This was first published in the October 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Sonica Krishan
Sonica Krishan is an Ayurveda and natural lifestyle consultant based at Chandigarh. She has authored natural home cure books like Herbal Healers and Home Remedies.

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