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Insomnia- Ayurvedic View

Writtern by Dr. Akhil B.A.M.S

Sleep is a natural phenomenon of giving adequate rest to the body and mind. According to Ayurveda, the amount of sleep you need depends on your mind-body constitution or body type. People with Kapha constitution need the most sleep - about eight or nine hours in order to feel rested. Pittas are next, with a need of seven to eight hours. Vathas can manage with six to seven hours of sleep. Your requirements of sleep also depends on what stage of life are you in. Babies can sleep as much as 15 or 16 hours in a day. Children frequently sleep 10 hours or more. At the other extreme, elderly people rarely enjoy a sound, unbroken sleep of more than four or five hours.

Ayurveda considers childhood to be the Kapha stage of life. Adulthood is Pitta time, and old age is the Vata stage of life. So the same principle applies here as with body types: we need the most sleep during the Kapha stage, the least during Vata time.

Your sleeping hours can be defined on the basic of your body type

  • Vata= 6-7 hours
  • Pitta= 7-8 hours
  • Kapha = 8-9 hours

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night for many hours or inability to have a sound sleep, which deprives one of natural rest and interferes with activities during the day. In Ayurveda, Insomnia is known as Anidra. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, the doshas (Ayurvedic humors) responsible for this disease are Tarpak Kapha, Sadhak Pitta or Prana Vata.

Tarpak Kapha is a sub-dosha of Kapha. It nourishes the brain cells and facilitates a good night’s sleep. Imbalance of this dosha causes poor nourishment of brain cells, leading to Insomnia. Sadhak Pitta is a sub-dosha of Pitta and is located in the heart. It controls emotions, desires, decisiveness, and spirituality. Its imbalance makes a person demanding and workaholic, thereby leading to situations that may cause lack of sleep. Prana Vata is a sub-dosha of Vata. It is linked to insomnia, worry, anxiety, and problems like depression. Prana Vata makes the nervous system sensitive; this sensitive nervous system coupled with an aggravated Prana Vata lead to insomnia.

In each patient, different combinations of doshas can lead to the disease. The Ayurvedic treatment of Insomnia focuses on balancing the aggravated body energies through herbal medicines as well as customized diet and lifestyle plans. Besides that, relaxation of mind is also important part of the treatment.

When you break your own regular habit patterns, you are prone to get insomnia. Examples are: crossing time zones when traveling or staying up late working several nights in a row. These disturbances in our daily routine put us out of synch and it seems we cannot get back into our usual rhythm and then can't seem to get back into synch. According to Ayurveda, nature also has its own rhythm. Insomnia can result when we are out of harmony with nature's regular patterns. The natural cycles run through phases of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We are healthiest when we organize our lives in tune with nature's rhythms.

An improper diet and lifestyle causes aggravation of Vata (Ayurvedic humor representing Air) that travels through the channels of the head causing sleeplessness. Vata is aggravated by increased intake of tea and coffee, especially, before going to bed; long gaps between meals; and intake of cold and dry food, cabbage, lettuce, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, rice, and smoked foods. Suppressed emotions, disturbed sleeping patterns, worries, anger, overwork, overexcitement, and ill health may be other responsible factors.

Have fresh fruits, avocado, pasta, rice, dairy products, and sweet foods .Include nuts like almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts in your daily diet.Have salads with a dressing of cream, yogurt, or vegetable oils. Use whole-wheat flour and brown rice instead of refined varieties. Increase use of butter or purified butter in foods. Avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and aerated drinks after dusk. Avoid watching television or working on the computer late at night. Have a body massage with sesame oil, followed by a bath.

Have a glass of whole milk (without the cream removed) with green cardamom powder before going to bed. Have 1 teaspoon of licorice root powder with a glass of milk on an empty stomach in the morning. Boil 3 grams of fresh mint leaves or 1.5 grams of dried powder of mint leaves in 1 cup of water for 15-20 minutes. Take lukewarm with 1 teaspoon of honey at bedtime. Add ½ tsp of cinnamon powder and 1 tsp of honey with 1 cup of warm milk. Drink before going to bed. Massage your feet with lukewarm mustard oil 2-3 times a day and before going to bed. Take 1 teaspoon each of brahmi and ashwagandha powder in 2 cups of water, boil and reduce it to one cup and drink it daily in the morning to reduce headache. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cumin on a sliced banana. Eat at night regularly.