While Western medicine can be quite helpful for sleep problems, at times, you can benefit from taking a closer look at Eastern, holistic traditions as well. For example, there’s Ayurveda.
Originating in India over 5,000 years ago, the word Ayurveda (ai-yr-vay-duh) comes from the Sanskrit word, “Ayur-Veda,” which means “the science of life,” explains Tracy Adkins, certified Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Love Jivana, an Ayurvedic skincare company.
“Ayurveda is a complete medical system based on the underlying principle of balance,” she says. “It recognizes that our physical, mental, and spiritual beings are connected not only to each other but also to the rhythms of nature. One segment cannot be separated from another, and if one element is out of balance, they all have the potential to be affected.”
In Ayurveda, sleep (known as nidra) is one of the three pillars of good health. Additionally, sleep and other physical functions are determined by three body types, known as doshas.
Ahead, we’ll explore what each of the three doshas represents and provide tips for sleeping better based on your dominant dosha.
What are the Ayurvedic types? Understanding your dosha
Ayurveda has three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
“Doshas are energetic forces that can be difficult for Westerners to conceptualize because they cannot be seen, quantified, or measured in any meaningful way,” Adkins says. “Unlike in traditional medicine where we have labs drawn with results that can be evaluated and assessed, or image scans which allow us to visualize inside the body, Ayurveda relies largely on our senses, intuition, and perceptions.”
Adkins explains that we all have each dosha in us—but in varying ratios.
“This unique dosha makeup will guide how you look, feel, and act, and this is what makes each of us different,” she says. “The dosha balance in which you were born is referred to as ‘Prakriti.’ This is your ideal balance and where you will always feel, look, and perform your best. The goal is to stay as close to your Prakriti as possible.”
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that doshas collectively control all the functions of the mind, body, and consciousness in parallel with the rhythms of nature and the environment in which you’re immersed. Adkins says this can include the food you eat, medications you take, your sleep schedule, and stress level.
“Vata exists as movement in the body and is visible in the action of breath, the movement of limbs, contraction of muscles, heartbeats, nerve impulses, the transport of all blood and fluids through the body, and the movement of all other doshas through the body,” Adkins says. “Without Vata, no other dosha could move or exist.”
She adds that Vata is also responsible for our thoughts and nervous system. “When balanced, those with a predominance of Vata are creative and whimsical creatures who love trying new things even though they easily get bored,” says Adkins.
Meanwhile, Pitta controls digestion, metabolism, and metamorphosis, explains Adkins. “Pitta is responsible for regulating body temperature, digestive fire, absorption, assimilation, and all chemical reactions in the body,” she says. “Pitta processes all the information we ingest, from food to knowledge to our senses.”
When in balance, those with a predominant Pitta dosha have skin that glows, healthy appetites, and regular digestion.
Finally, “Kapha is the glue that holds the body together,” Adkins says. “Earth and water make mud, and likewise, Kapha is the ‘biological water’ of all bodily fluids, including phlegm, plasma, synovial fluid [the fluid within joints], and cytoplasm [the fluid within each cell]. If these natural waters are balanced, our immune system is in ideal condition.”
Wondering what dosha type you are? Adkins recommends taking this online quiz that’s available on Love Jivana’s website.
Ayurvedic sleep remedies for your dosha
Once you’ve figured out your predominant dosha, you can tailor your sleep routine accordingly with the following tips.
Vata dosha sleep tips
Vatas are characterized as restless sleepers who arouse easily, according to Adkins. “They should reduce light, sound, and anything else that may cause a disturbance,” she suggests. “Due to their more fragile and precarious nature, Vatas require the most sleep.”
They’re also well-served by following a regular eating and sleep schedule to stay grounded, focused, and avoid illness, says Adkins. “Vatas often feel cold, so they should sleep in warm pajamas and make sure the room is warm and comfortable,” she adds.
Pitta dosha sleep tips
Adkins says Pittas tend to be sound sleepers who don’t rouse easily. However, “Given their inclination to work excessively and with intensity, it is imperative Pittas allow time to wind down before bed to slow their mind and body and promote a restful slumber,” Adkins advises.
Pittas benefit from being asleep by 10 p.m. and up by 6 a.m., says Adkins. “Because Pittas tend to be sensitive to heat, they should make sure the room they are sleeping in is adequately ventilated and cool,” she adds.
Kapha dosha sleep tips
“Kaphas tend to enjoy sleeping long periods at a time, yet they need the least amount of sleep,” Adkins observes. “Because of their naturally solid structure, excessive sleep, especially during the day, will increase Kapha, thereby causing them to go out of balance.”
Kaphas don’t require more than seven hours of sleep per night, adds Adkins. “They should go to bed at the same time every night, preferably by 10 p.m.,” she says. “And they’ll benefit greatly by waking with or before sunrise.”
Additional Ayurvedic sleep tips
In addition to the Ayurvedic sleep remedies for each dosha, there are some tried-and-true Ayurvedic tips that anyone can use, regardless of your dosha.
Adkins recommends the following:
- Use Nasya oil before bed, which is a traditional Ayurvedic nasal oil that can moisturize and soothe the nostrils. “The nostrils are considered the gateway to the brain and nervous system,” Adkins says. “Calming the consciousness a half hour to an hour prior to bed is an excellent way to promote more restful sleep. Additionally, [Nasya oil] may help reduce headaches and other ailments.”
- Drink teas with ingredients that are warming and calming, like lavender, valerian, chamomile, and lemon balm.
- Sip this warm milk recipe before bed: Gently warm 1 cup milk of choice on stove. Add 1 teaspoon ghee. Add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Include a couple of optional drops of vanilla.
Which dosha is responsible for sleep?
“Increased Kapha is responsible for sleep, however, for proper restoration to occur, it’s best for all doshas to be balanced,” says Adkins. “Too much Vata causes insomnia or restless sleep; too much Pitta can lead to difficulty falling asleep.”
What’s the best Ayurvedic treatment for sleep?
Since Ayurveda promotes individualized care, explains Adkins, it’s really all about finding out what’s right for you. “While a calming tea may help one person, it may do nothing for the next,” she says. “There is no one-size-fits-all in Ayurveda. We are all different and respond to everything in our own unique way.”
With that said, Adkins says she personally responds well to drinking warm milk and using Nasya oil. “I also like doing body scan meditations before bed or Yoga Nidra, which I think is extremely powerful at stilling the mind and sets you up for a gentle ease into sleep,” she says.
Next, optimize your bedroom for better sleep with these feng shui tips.