This post was updated on August 18th, 2019
It’s a pity that nobody taught you the basic “How”s of living. It’s even more saddening that you didn’t teach your children these basics, because you yourself did not have the knowledge. How should you eat? How should you sit? How should you walk? (Note the “How” in the question. The question is not “Should you walk?”) How should you sleep? I’ll cover the last question here, although these are not the only “How”s of life. Not knowing how to sleep has resulted in you popping sleeping pills & your kids resorting to smart drugs. How much sleep does your body need? You should be answering that. What’s your shoe size? Got it? You know your feet better than your brain! Is 6 hours of sleep enough? If you have a lifestyle like this, does the answer really matter?
I will teach you an amazing experiment, but you have to promise you’ll leave behind your dosha and your sleep timings in the comments below. Turn off all the alarms on a Friday night. Here are the prerequisites:
- Saturday is an off day at work
- You are not on any medication that makes you sleepy
- You haven’t had coffee/alcohol in the evening or after that
- You are not feeling too tired or drained after the week’s work
Great, now try to go to sleep at the same time you usually hit the sack on weekdays. If you have multiple alarms (Kapha types usually need that), remember switching off all of them. Don’t cheat. Pull yourself out of bed once you wake up. Don’t try to fall asleep again (Pitta types are very good at doing this). If you decide to cheat and doze off again, just make a note of the time. How much time did you sleep for?
On the other extreme, if you are suffering from insomnia, add milk, honey, yogurt to your diet. If you eat meat, try mutton soup for a good night’s sleep. Pre bath oil massage & massaging ubtan also helps.
Wake up with a jolt
Do you even know how stressful your life is? It starts the very second you wake up. The alarm clock gives most people (Pitta, followed by Vata) a shock that makes your body shiver. You are supposed to wake up slowly, but everyday you sit up as if from a nightmare. You are supposed to remember dreams, but the alarm clock wipes away those memories. Instead of absorbing the day’s stress like a sponge, your body gets poisoned with every dose.
Avoid the alarm clock unless you have to catch an early morning flight. Wake up naturally, preferably before sunrise & complete dinacharya as prescribed in Ayurveda.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm experiment 
Ayurvedic researchers are excited at this recognition. They feel this research is a scientific validation of the ancient Ayurveda clock. I’m not as optimistic. Here’s a simplified version of the Ayurvedic colck:
Further research on fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) will have to lead to a commercial gain; a new medicine, or better still, a gene editing technique for acute & chronic insomnia. The research will never lead to doctors prohibiting patients from sleeping in the afternoon while recovering from a surgery or to sleep well before 10pm while balancing their Pitta to repair damaged liver in patients recovering from dengue fever.
Feeling drowsy in the afternoon at office? Well Ayurveda says you should be at your best alertness from 2pm to 6pm & recommends this time for solving complex issues! This indicates that your body clock is completely out of sync or you had a very heavy lunch. It’s highly likely that you’ll have to take care of both, especially if you are having lunch in a restaurant. An innocent looking masala dosa picked up from a restaurant in Mumbai in December 2018 had 1100 calories in it! That’s more than half of your daily calorie requirement if you have a desk job & don’t get much exercise. Having one of those at lunch will make you drowsy & having one for dinner can mean some restless sleep.
Sleeping before/by 10pm and waking up before/by 6am without any afternoon sleep is a surefire way to keep your body clock in sync with the Ayurvedic clock.
There are very few rules in Ayurveda that are generic in nature (& I have covered most of them in this blog). This holds good for sleep too. So, when we say wake up at 6am (assuming that’s the sunrise time), it applies only to Vata types. Pitta people should wake up half an hour earlier & Kapha people should wake up atleast an hour earlier. Vata people prefer soft beds, pitta sleep on hard beds & Kapha types can sleep anywhere. Vata constitution types need a bed lamp, pitta complete darkness & kapha can sleep with all the lights on. Knowing techniques to counter problems specific to your constitution will help you sleep much better.
Being drowsy while sitting in a boring lecture or meeting and even catching 40 winks of sleep does no harm though!
Ayurveda recommends sleeping on your left side, especially if there’s not too much gap between the dinner & sleep time. Sleeping on the left aids digestion. 10pm to 2am (pitta time) is used for digestion. If you have dinner between 6pm to 7pm, then sleep on the right. If you suffer from acidity, sleep on the left. When you are too tired, sleep on the right side. Try not to sleep on your back. If you sleep on your stomach, nightmares will wake you up. It’s a signal for you to change your sleeping position. Usually you will feel too uneasy to go back to sleep on your stomach. If you do, a nightmare will wake you up again!
Sleep with your head facing East. You will get articles & videos online preaching all kinds of directions. Even some Ayurveda gurus are confused about the direction to sleep in. If you can’t orient your bed in the east west direction, consider moving your furniture or moving to a room where you can. If nothing works out, you can sleep facing south, but that’s a poor consolation. If you ever have to choose between North & West (maybe while traveling), choose the latter. The only being that gained anything out of sleeping North was the elephant who was beheaded to become the head of Lord Ganesha. Lord Shiva had specifically asked for the head of any man or animal sleeping with its head facing North.
Before signing off, let’s have another look specifically at Kathryn Rose’s sleep patterns. She sleeps approximately at 10:30pm and wakes up at 4.30am. I would recommend Rose to wake up earlier. Yes, you heard it right. Here are the 4 changes I need to you to do Rose:
- Get up at 4 am: I’m serious. Please read through
- Meditate for 15 mins: It might take 15-20 days for you to see results. Please don’t abandon the experiment midway
- Sleep at 10pm: After all that running around, your mind will be highly unproductive. The same work can be finished in 15 mins in the morning
- You have not mentioned about weekends, but follow the same sleep pattern during the weekends. No, there’s nothing called catchup sleep! I want your body to follow a routine
I can give more detailed instructions only after I know your Ayurvedic constitution. Is 6 hours of sleep enough though? It’s 7hrs 30 mins for me. You are not sleeping enough and I won’t let you catchup on weekends. You only recourse is to up that meditation you have been practicing. Join a Yoga nidra class during weekends. Even 5 hours of sleep should be enough then!
Food, sleep & celibacy are the three mega pillars of life according to Ayurveda. Sleep well!