How much sleep do you need?
Ayurveda has very specific recommendations for food and lifestyle and sleep is no exception. Sleep plays a vital role in our well-being, so much so, that sleep is one of the 3 pillars of Ayurveda. Now let's explore what that really means and how you can optimise the amount of sleep you have so you can feel your best.
Early to bed, early to rise. This has so many benefits! Ayurveda recommends rising during brāhma muhūrta which literally means 'creators hour' and is the last phase of the night, 96mins before sunrise. This is a very auspicious time and a great time for yoga, meditation and making progress in your life – so anything you wish to change about your life, this is the time to get up early and spend an hour or so manifesting your new reality. Be still, meditate and listen to your intuition and internal guidance, make notes and check lists and set about taking action – your new life will emerge very quickly in line with your highest purpose – this is both exciting and fulfilling.
Another reason it is best to rise early is because Vata, the energy responsible for movement, is active between 2am and 6am, if you rise during these hours you will feel more light, alert and ready to get moving. The kapha dosha is most prominent between 6am and 10am so getting up after 6am can often leave you feeling more heavy, tired and static which are the qualities of Kapha.
Also, Pitta dosha, responsible for appetite and metabolism, is active between 10pm and 2am so when we stay up late we often feel hunger set in at around 10 or 11pm. If we are in bed sleeping it allows our body to rest and digest and experience a short 'fast' from food which is very beneficial.
High vata or high pitta are the most common causes for sleep disturbance, you may be able to identify the main dosha at play based on the signs.
Avoid day sleep
Ayurveda suggests avoiding day sleep as it increases the qualities of Kapha in the body. If you have had disturbed sleep for whatever reason, I have children, or if you have had a flight or function to attend and you feel like you need to rest during the day, Ayurveda recommends you take half the amount of time that you missed as a day sleep and if possible in a semi seated upright position this is less kapha increasing.
Sleep for your constitution - Vata, Pitta and Kapha
There are three primary doshas according to Ayurveda and each dosha has different requirements in order to keep them balanced - as always like increases like and opposites pacify, so with this in mind Vata is the most mobile or active of the doshas, then comes Pitta and Kapha is the most static.
Vata requires the most amount of sleep and should aim for about 8 hours
Pitta requires a medium amount of sleep approximately 6-7 hours
Kapha requires only 5-6 hours of sleep
I always find it best to determine the time you would like to rise in the morning and work back from there to determine the best bed time.
Ayurveda always respects the sense organs - our brains are constantly collecting information through our senses and it is important not to underuse, overuse or misuse our sense organs. This is quite a big topic but during the evening it is recommended to reduce all stimulus, TV and electronic devises, and take some time to reflect and be grateful. Also a suggestion to turn off your Wi-Fi while sleeping and charge your devices in another room, not your bedroom. Make your bedroom a sanctuary conducive to a sound nights sleep.
If you suffer from insomnia Ayurveda has some simple remedies (and some complex) that are very effective. I like to include some essential oils into my evening routine to create a relaxing ambience, I tend to use vetiver, valerian, gentle baby, lavender, dream catcher and cedarwood.
I also like to include a calming balancing Pranayama (breathing technique) such as Nadi Shodhana as a beautiful way to calm the mind.
With these principles in mind you can make adjustments according to the season, your stage of life and also if you have two doshas prominent in your constitution.
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