The power of sleeping between 9pm and 6am
SLEEP, DREAMS, AND INSOMNIA – THE AYURVEDIC APPROACH
By Vladimir Kazinets, Certified Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner
Sleep is a physiological state of dormancy of the human body, mind, and senses organs—the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and skin. Sleep, called nidra, can be literally translated from Sanskrit as “nurse, feminine, maternal, nourishing,” because it feeds and nourishes all living creatures and promotes their growth and development. According to Ayurveda, life expectancy and health depend on food, sleep, and regulated sex life. Sleep is the second most important.
How many hours do you need to sleep?
Healthy sleep (the right quality and amount) provides pleasure, growth and feeding of body tissues and cells, strength and immunity, sexual energy, knowledge and intelligence, good health, and longevity. On the other hand, abnormal sleep (inadequate/insufficient, excessive, or irregular sleep) has the opposite effect on health and life expectancy.
Sleep is the healer, sleep is the killer. Several studies report that people who sleep too much or too little can have poor health and a shortened lifespan. Those who sleep less than five hours a night are at a 30% higher risk, and those who sleep more than 10 hours a night are at a 50% higher risk for shortened lifespan than those who sleep a normal amount (huffingtonpost.com/jerry-siegel/how-much-sleep-do-we-actu_b_437422). Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the sleep center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, commented, “Most of the studies seem to support the idea that people who are very long sleepers and short sleepers may live less” (abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=116991).
Most newborns sleep almost all day. Even up to the age of five, children should sleep almost twelve hours each night. A healthy person who has reached the age of 21 years should not sleep more than eight hours. Sleeping for more than eight hours will create in the body an excess of toxins (called Ama in Ayurveda) that will cause a feeling of tiredness and apathy. But in old age, sleep time for the average person is reduced to five or six hours a day.
Do all healthy adults need the same time of sleep? Because sleep has the property of gravity (heaviness, earth), Kapha people (those whose constitution has a predominance of the elements of earth and water) need no more than six hours of sleep, Pitta (those with a predominance of fire and water elements) between six and seven hours, and Vata (those with a predominance of air and ether) between seven and eight hours. People who are ill need more sleep to help their body recover.
The right time for sleep
Ayurveda suggests that we should go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. Sleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. is the most beneficial for our nervous system. This time is a Pitta-dominated time, and Pitta is responsible for intellect, creativity, and passion.
Between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., the subtle body of the mind is resting. The subtle body of the mind enhances the development of thinking, the ability to work with ideas, logic, understanding the essence of things, etc.
Sleep between 12:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. fills our bodies with vital energy of Prana (life force). During this period, we can see either nightmares or dreams of joy. There is a link between dreams and the way we use our Prana. If used in ignorance, nightmares will follow, and if used in goodness, then good and positive dreams will come.
Between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. the body is completely relaxed and is being filled with energy. Between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. is the time of happiness, optimism, and meditation. Nature wakes up before sunrise; the birds are singing, and it’s time for morning prayers in the temples. It is the time to understand the deepest secrets of nature. During this period, we gain a natural ability to be happy.
In general, Kapha people should get up 90 minutes before sunrise, Pitta 45 minutes before sunrise, and Vata 30 minutes before sunrise. For those who want to engage in spiritual practices, Ayurveda recommends getting up at 4 a.m. People who want to achieve their goals or attain prosperity should rise at 5 a.m.
After 6:00 a.m., Kapha is taking charge of nature. Kapha is slow and heavy. If we wake up after 6:00 a.m., we will have feelings of there being “not enough time for anything,” and sluggishness and indecisiveness will follow.
Getting up after 7:00 a.m. creates a state of stress and pessimism. People who wake up late often suffer from stress-related disorders, particularly digestive and cardiovascular diseases.
The critical time of awakening is 6:00 a.m. If we get up before that time, enthusiasm, cheerfulness and lightness will accompany the day. If the whole family wakes up before sunrise, everyone is happy with feelings of natural enthusiasm and mutual attraction. Waking before sunrise is the best anti-stress therapy.
A half hour before sunrise, the sun sends special rays that penetrate the atmosphere and give special energy to the human body. Japanese researchers have documented that for 20 minutes before sunrise, the biochemistry of the body changes dramatically. Even blood changes its composition.
Sleeping during the day
According to Ayurveda, daytime sleep usually negatively affects digestion, the liver, lymphatic and blood flow, and the breath. It creates heaviness in the head, and other imbalances in the body. It’s especially harmful for the body to sleep at sunset.
Sleep during the day is permissible for those who work at night. Daytime sleep is also allowed for children, older adults, and for people who are weakened by disease, performing heavy physical work, feeling tired from excessive sexual activity, fasting, tired from traveling, experiencing emotional stress, and for chronic alcoholics. For people living in hot climates, it is beneficial to take a nap (no more than half an hour) during the unbearable heat, but only in shady, cool, and dry places. Those with a Vata constitution can take a half-hour hap after lunch.
Daytime sleep is absolutely contraindicated in people who are obese or eat a lot of fatty foods, and those with a Kapha constitution, Kapha imbalances, or suffering from Kapha diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, water retention, and chronic colds. In general, the ancient texts of Ayurveda and yoga generally prohibit sleeping during the day, except in the case of disease.
As in real life, one’s dosha, or constitution type, is the key influence on dreams. Vata-type people have dreams generally colored by fear and anxiety. This tendency becomes more pronounced if Vata gets out of balance. Even if the Vata is not a dominant dosha, dreams can still be frightening if Vata is unbalanced. Dreams of Vata include autumn, falling down, flight, death of loved ones, snakes, and being numb with fear, the victim of an attack or harassment, or locked in an enclosed space.
Pitta-type people have adventurous dreams, often characterized by conflict situations.
Dreams of Pitta can present mystery and intrigue, as well as elements of aggression, conflict, confrontations, and fights. These dreams are more typical in men. Women’s dreams tend to contain more talk than action, and events tend to occur in closed environments focused on the domestic world.
Dreams of Pitta include summer, intellectual activity, the role of a student or teacher in a school environment, the failure of an examination, eating late, having a meal, aggression or violence, problem solving, sleep, or situations in which they’re either undressed or inadequately dressed in a public place and they feel ashamed.
Kapha-type people have serene, tranquil dreams, which usually are not remembered. Dreams of Kapha include winter, spring, snow, romance, finding money, enjoying sweets, doing the same work repeatedly, being late, a vision of themselves dead, and satisfying desires (often subconscious).
All constitutions can have sex dreams.
Certain dreams such as nightmares can affect how you feel and behave the next day. Happy dreams can help you start the day in a particularly good mood; some may even make you laugh on waking. Nightmares can be symptoms of deeper problems. They can be caused by stress at work or in the family, taking drugs, or excessive alcohol consumption.
Many people who chronically suffer from nightmares have experienced a traumatic event that remains unresolved. An ayurvedic diagnosis in these cases will show an imbalance of the doshas.
Insomnia in childhood is often accompanied by specific neurological problems, such as hyperactivity, a typical imbalance of Vata dosha. Balanced nutrition, massages with soothing oils (Vata or Mahanarayân oil), and small doses of ayurvedic herbs, like brahmi and ashwagandha could be helpful.
Vata-unbalanced people can fall asleep relatively easily, but have a tendency to wake up between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m.
Pitta-provoked people have difficulties falling asleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. This type of insomnia is usually combined with turbulent emotions, irritability, outbursts of anger, jealousy, resentment, or hatred.
Those with Kapha imbalances usually oversleep and sleep heavily, and they feel tired and lethargic during the day.
There is also situational insomnia, which is caused by stress, use of drugs or stimulants, long travel, working long hours, and other reasons.
During an ayurvedic consultation, the underlying factors that contribute to imbalance are revealed. Based upon the assessment, taking into consideration the person’s individual needs and choices, a personalized health-enhancing prescription is formulated, which includes recommendations on herbal supplements, stress management, diet and nutrition, use of special oils for topical applications, aromatherapy, gentle detoxification and cleansing techniques, lifestyle and daily routine changes, techniques for breaking bad habits (if any), physical exercise, yoga postures/asanas, meditation, Pranayama breathing techniques, and ayurvedic healing for the mind, using vibrating healing sounds.