In This Article
The Ayurvedic Clock, Doshas, and Sleep
Our sleep needs and patterns can vary with each season. Many of us have experienced the winter blues, which can feel like a mind-body fog that rolls in robbing our energy and motivation. Come April and May, spring fever may set in and you might find yourself feeling restless. Then as summer approaches and the days get longer, you may get a second wind each evening and struggle to go to bed before 10 pm.
Ayurveda has an explanation for our seasonal sleep issues, along with a time-tested plan to balance your Ayurvedic body type, or dosha, for the best sleep possible in each season.
Studies on the doshas have shown that your body type will predispose you to significant sleep changes during each season. Knowing your body type or dosha is the best place to start.
Take our free interactive Ayurveda body type quiz.
Then read on for dosha-specific tips for better sleep for each season!
How to Get Better Sleep if You are Predominantly Vata
According to Ayurveda, vata is the primary dosha responsible for sleep related issues.
Vata is a quality in nature that is governed by air and space (ether or akasha).
Everyone has a certain amount of vata, but some folks have more than others. The higher your vata score on the body type quiz, the more likely you will have issues around sleep.
Vata is cold and dry and controls movement that includes how smoothly the nerves, intestines, and muscles move. Too much vata can aggravate movement, making muscles and joints stiff, intestines constipated, and the nervous system hypersensitive. Perhaps the most common symptom of a vata imbalance is difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. When a vata imbalance happens during vata season or during the fall and winter, sleep can be further disturbed.
Sleep, Vata, and Winter
Like vata, the qualities of winter are cold and dry.
While the coldness and dryness of vata increase each winter, nature’s antidote is a natural harvest of heavy and fatty foods—think nuts and seeds.
These provide warm, heavy, and oily nutrients that calm vata, and support sleep.
The long nights of winter also allow for more melatonin production, which regulates sleep cycles for deeper and more restful sleep—think winter hibernation.
While these factors encourage deep sleep in the winter, if you have a vata imbalance caused by a circadian disruption and an out of season diet, sleep in the winter can be a challenge.
If we choose to eat foods out of season, like cold, raw, and dry foods in the winter, this will only increase vata and further disturb sleep.
If we stay up late with lights, screens, and phones blazing, melatonin will be inhibited, and sleep will suffer.
Eating seasonal organic food and living a lifestyle in sync with nature’s circadian rhythms is the primary antidotes for most sleep disturbances.
Vata Time of Life and Sleep
According to Ayurveda, the last third of our lives are the vata, or wisdom, years, where elders are revered and sought after for passing their wisdom on to their children and grandchildren.
This time of life is governed by air and akasha and the desire for a spiritual life predominates. Sadly, in our culture of stress, vata aggravation, and severe circadian disruption, our elders suffer.
Today, insomnia affects 10-20 percent of the population, while disproportionately affecting 40 percent of older folks. One study found that trouble getting to sleep starts at age 35 and progressively gets worse as one ages.
Studies have also found that the elderly have more difficulties staying asleep. Researchers have found that elders are more vulnerable to sleep disturbances between 2-4 a.m., which Ayurveda calls the vata time of night.
The deep sleep stages that take place predominately between 2-4 a.m. are reduced as we age, causing lighter sleep and more disruption from noise and other environmental factors.
How to Get Better Sleep if You are Predominantly Pitta
Pitta dosha is the fire dosha. When pitta is in balance, sleep cycles are generally healthy.
Pitta types are hot, fiery, competitive, driven, and intolerant to excess heat. When out of balance, they are most vulnerable to inflammation, which. not coincidentally, has the word flame in it.
Pitta types often wake up at night to urinate as a result of prostate or bladder irritation and inflammation. Pitta body types also tend to overwork and burnout. This can exhaust them, leaving them without the energy needed to sedate the nervous system and lower cortisol at night for deep sleep.
Pitta Time of Life and Sleep
According to Ayurveda, between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is when pitta dosha becomes active. Circadian science has found that the liver, a pitta organ, engages in detoxification activities as this time.
For those with a predominately pitta dosha or a pitta imbalance, it may be difficult to get to bed or fall asleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., since pitta can rise at this time, stimulating the mind and deliver a surge of energy to the body.
The tendency for pitta types to stay up late can be more extreme during summer months, when there is more daylight.
The pitta time of life is from teenage years to the early 60s, when the drive to change the world is replaced with a desire to help the world.
Part of the reason sleep is more difficult during the vata time of life, when we are over 60, is because of the burnout that may have occurred during the pitta years.
The best way to enjoy good sleep later in life is to live a balanced Ayurvedic lifestyle for your type early in life.
How to Get Better Sleep if You are Predominantly Kapha
Kapha types rarely have sleep issues, but any body type can become out of balance and have difficulty sleeping.
Kapha types are governed by earth and water and are therefore more vulnerable to imbalance in the spring when the qualities of earth and water predominate.
Heavy spring and kapha qualities can cause daytime tiredness and the need for naps, particularly in the spring.
The kapha time of day is between 6-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. From the perspective of sleep, studies have found that not sleeping in after sunrise, along with getting to bed during the kapha time of night, before 10 p.m., is key for healthy kapha sleep cycles.
Dosha-Based Herbal Guide to Sleep
The best Herb for vata- and kapha-based sleep issues are Ashwagandha or Sleep Easy.
The best herb for pitta-related sleep issues is Brahmi Brain.
Download my free Ayurvedic Guide to the Best sleep in Your Life ebook for more sleep wisdom and ways to fee rested.