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I’ve got a question for you…. how much are YOU getting?

The time has come to dive into the three key aspects of physical health.

According to Ayurveda these would be food, sleep and sex. Each plays an important roll in our relationship with ourselves and the world, and whether we realize it or not, each is vital to our ability to achieve a healthy happy life.

Given their importance to the whole I’ve decided to take on each of these subjects in turn over the coming weeks to give you a clearer sense of the Ayurvedic views of what constitutes a healthy approach and perhaps open your eyes to what each of these means for you and how you can transform your relationship with them to get more of what you want out of life (and less of what you don’t want).

And so I’ll direct your attention to one of the most important of the three…

So how much sleep ARE  you getting?  And how much do you need?

The concept of rest is a critical one in Ayurveda. Deep rest is vital to health. It restores and renews the body-mind and makes healing possible. Not only that but it’s a key part of feeling alive. Unfortunately, in this busy world that we live in, rest is something that too many of us trade in exchange for the “opportunity” to get stuff done (or should I say get more stuff done).

How valuable is sleep… really? How much sleep should you be getting? How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? I thought you’d ask, so I found this incredible TED Talk to try and provide some answers…

Ayurveda has plenty to say on the subject of sleep.  And as with everything, it is vital to consider ones individual nature, environment, and state of health in determining how to improve the value and impacts of sleep.  I’ve worked with many people who have struggled with trying to get a satisfactory(and replenishing) night sleep on a regular basis.  So I thought I’d summarize the Ayurvedic perspective by answering some of  the questions  most asked of me around this subject.  Here goes…

How much sleep should I be getting?

The amount of sleep you need is entirely individual (like most things). Ideally you want to wake without the use of an alarm clock, feeling energized and refreshed (remember the purpose of sleep is to renew and restore).

Ayurveda recommends sleep according to dosha:

  • Vata individuals  between 7-8 hours sleep per night
  • Pitta individuals  between 61/2 to 71/2 hours sleep per night
  • Kapha individuals  51/2 to 61/2 hours per night

But these are just guidelines. The best way to find your sleep time “sweet spot” is to increase or decrease the amount of time you sleep by 10-15mins over a period of a week or two in order to find the right mix (keeping bed and wake times consistent is best) and pay attention to how you feel after sleep. It’s amazing the difference a few minutes more or less can make.

When should I sleep?

Ideally, getting into bed during Kapha time (between 6-10pm) allows you to take advantage of the peak in heavy and slow kapha energy that occurs during that time of evening. Ayurveda also recommends bed times by individual constitution:

  • Vata individuals should try to get to bed between 9-10pm
  • Pitta’s want to get in bed sometime between 10 – 11pm
  • Kapha’s should be targeting somewhere between 11 – 12pm

Realize as with anything these are just guidelines. You need to find a time that works best for your constitution, environment, and circumstances and make  adjustments to it throughout the year in order to maintain balance. The goal is to wake up feeling good, so shoot for that.

What can I do to get to sleep?

Many people complain of having a hard time falling asleep (Pitta’s mostly).  The culprit is most often a busy mind.. thinking, planning, replaying the events of the day.  Dealing with insomnia is a matter of taking steps to prevent it and having a few options in your back pocket in the event that you’re not able to.  Here are some suggestions…

  • Create a space that’s optimal for sleeping.  A room that’s dark and on the cooler side is perfect.
  • Drink a cup of warm herbal tea (chamomile or cinnamon) or warm milk before bed (I like to add a little ghee and warming spices)
  • Avoid exercise for up to 2hrs before bed time
  • Wrap up  your last meal of the day  at least 3 hours before going to sleep (optimally somewhere between 6-7pm), and keep it light.
  • If insomnia is an issue try a cup of warm milk (any type will do) with 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of nutmeg just before bed.
  • Avoid doing work in your bedroom ( or wherever you sleep)

 How can I improve the quality of sleep?

Getting to sleep is one thing.  Getting good quality sleep can be something quite different.  Both Vata and Pitta individuals can often be plagued with waking up in the middle of the night.  During Vata time (between 2am – 6am – usually somewhere around the 3 or 4am mark), or as a result of minor disturbances (noises or dreams).   Good quality sleep at night  is often the result of work done during the day and evening to prepare the body-mind for complete relaxation.  Try this…

  • Create a night-time routine – Take time to wind down and relax for an hour or so before bed. Avoid active and stimulating activities (TV, computers, work) and opt for quiet and relaxing activities (meditation, gentle breathing exercises, etc.).
  • Massage the feet and temples with warm sesame oil before going to bed
  • Take time before bed to do some gentle yoga postures… Here’s some I prepared earlier!
  • Wake up and go to bed around the same times every day.  This helps settle the mind.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol, or caffeine before bed

Okay so there’s a lot of information here…

Perhaps you’re wondering…

What’s the best way to start?

Start with a simple night time routine.  Notice the impacts of just a few small changes on the way you feel and the quality of your sleep.  And from there you can make adjustments to get yourself closer to where you want and need to be.

Remember your sleep should support your life, health and happiness.  If that’s not happening,  then it’s time to change things up.  Start small and allow the benefits achieved to be the catalyst for the next step.

Oh and I couldn’t let you go without this little gem from Arianna Huffington…

So… it’s time to weigh in!

Are you getting enough sleep?  Most people I talk to aren’t.  If not why not (you know what they say a problem well stated is a problem half solved)?  Join the conversation in the comments below!


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