At one point in our lives, most of us have probably struggled with getting good sleep. Insomnia and chronic fatigue are common problems in our modern lives. Sometimes, loss of sleep is temporary, like staying up late traveling or studying for a test. Other times, it’s chronic—and that’s when real health problems can arise.
Sleep is essential for good health, which is why the Caraka Samhita Sutrasthāna (21) goes into detail around sleep, or “nidra.”
The Caraka Samhita defines sleep as a “state of exhaustion.” When you are asleep, the manas (mind), jnana Indriyas (sensory organs like the eyes) and karma Indriyas (motor organs like the limbs) withdraw and disassociate from their physicality.
Caraka also categorizes seven types of sleep by its root influence: tamas, kapha vriddhi, mental exertion, physical exertion, stress and/or trauma, disease and, of course, natural sleep at night.
What does balanced sleep look like?
Bhutadhatri, translated literally as “what nourishes or rejuvenates all living creatures,” is the name used to describe high-quality and restorative sleep achieved without medication. Good sleep looks different from person to person, depending on the person’s physiological needs such as age, prakriti, vikriti and work schedule. Balanced sleep leads to happiness, nourishment, strength, fertility, mental clarity, and longevity.
First Steps to Balancing Sleep
The most tried and true method for maintaining or restoring a natural sleep cycle is to wake up about 45 minutes to one hour before sunrise—this will keep you on the circadian rhythm. The time just before sunrise is known as "brahma muhurta." It is also the best time to start daily activities. Waking up in this window of time has many positive benefits.
Symptoms of Imbalanced Sleep
Anidra means “improper sleep” in Ayurveda. It is a disorder of kapha kashaya (too little kapha dosa) and vata vriddhi (high vata dosa). So, all factors that decrease kapha and increase vata will cause and worsen anidra.
Scientific studies have shown that natural sleep plays an important role in regulating neuroendocrine, hormonal, and metabolic function. Due to the modern lifestyle, both adults and children are progressively getting less sleep while simultaneously stressful activities have increased(1).
Caraka includes both atisthula (obesity) and atikrisha (anorexia) as potential outcomes of either excessive sleep or the lack of sleep. Studies show with prolonged periods of sleep deprivation, there is an increased risk for weight gain and obesity, along with metabolic and endocrine disruptions. Increased insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, elevated sympathovagal activity, elevated levels of serum glucocorticoid hormone, increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin are also symptoms of sleep deprivation(1).
Causes of Imbalanced Sleep
- Elimination of the dosas from the body and head through purgation and emesis
- Fear, anxiety, and anger
- Dhumapana (herbal smoking)
- Excess physical exercise or work
- Uncomfortable sleeping area
- Predominance of sattva and suppression of tamas
- Diseases, especially due to vata vitiation or pain
- Old age
- Vata prakriti
When to Sleep During the Day
Sleeping during the day is recommended if you are exhausted from singing, studying, drinking alcohol, sex, elimination therapy, carrying heavy weights, walking long distances, tuberculosis, wasting, fasting, diarrhea, colic pain, dyspnea, hiccup, insanity, young, old, weak, injured by fall or assault, traveling, anger, grief, and fear. When you sleep when you need to, your strength is maintained and kapha nourishes the body and ensures longevity.
During the summer the nights are shorter and vata is provoked from the effects of the adana kala (season of low body strength) due to absorption of heat and light. Therefore, during this period daytime sleep is recommended.
For healthy people, sleeping during the day is contraindicated for all other seasons because it vitiates kapha and pitta. This is especially true if one is obese, addicted to unctuous foods, have kapha prakriti and/or vikriti and unresolved ama. These conditions will increase kapha symptoms, including headaches, coldness, muscle fatigue, malaise, loss of digestive power, edema, nausea, rhinitis, itching, drowsiness, coughing, disorders of the throat, obstruction of the circulatory channels, fever, impairment of memory and intelligence and slowing of the sensory organs.
How to Promote Sleep According to Caraka
- Daily oil massage followed by warm bathing
- Meat soups from domestic, marshy, or aquatic animals
- Shali rice with curd
- Mental pleasure
- Pleasant scent and sound
- Soothing oil to eyes, head, and face
- Comfortable bed and home
- Habituating sleep at a regular time
How to Promote Sleep According to Central Council for Research in Ayurveda
- Drink warm milk before bed
- Sleep on comfortable bed
- Use the bed and bedroom for only sleeping purposes
- Maintain a regular sleep/wake up schedule
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Leave the bed if unable to sleep
- Avoid stressful conditions
- Avoid heavy meals at bed time
- Avoid excessive amounts of coffee, tea, soft drinks, alcohol, and smoking
- Avoid irregular sleep habits and nap during the day
- Avoid watching TV at bed time
Kottakkal Products for Promoting Sleep
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Beneficial Yoga Therapy for Vata Disorders and Anidra
The Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha Department of AYUSH has recommended the following yoga therapy as beneficial for Insomnia(4).
- Pranayama: Chandra anuloma viloma, Ujjai, Bhramari, cooling pranayama, and meditation along with practicing Yama and Niyama.
- Asana: Suryanamaskra, Tadasana, Matsyasana, Mandkasana, Bhujangasana, Padmasana, Paschimottanasana and shavasana.
- Yoga Nidra: deep rest and relaxation technique.
- Karine Spiegel, Rachel Leproult, BS, Eve Van Cauter.: Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The lancet, Volume 354, Issue 9188, 23 October 1999, Pages 1435–1439.
- Caraka Samhita Sutrasthāna 21/35-59
- Original source: Dr JV Hebbar, EasyAyurveda.com
- Ayurvedic Management of Select Geriatric Disease Conditions, Central Council for Research in Ayurveda, and Siddha Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, 2011.
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