Sleep is a naturally occurring state of mind and body. Let’s take a look at the 6 different types of sleep in Ayurveda along with some remedies for better sleep.
Sleep is an important biological process and requirement for the body just like food, water, and air.
During sleep, our body recovers from the wear and tear which occurs during the day. Not just this, there are many more advantages to having a good night’s sleep.
During sleep, our body enters an anabolic state (the anabolic state is the constructive mechanism of our body) that restores the body’s critical functions like immunity.
Along with the nervous system, the skeletal system, and the muscular system also recover when you sleep. Therefore, sleeping is necessary for survival. We also feel more alert, restful, calm, and happy after sound sleep.
The Role Of Sleep
Sleep has a critical role in brain function, systemic physiology, in maintaining metabolism, regulation of appetite and the functioning of the immune, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems.14
Normal healthy sleep is characterized by various factors. These factors include sufficient duration, good quality, appropriate timing and regularity and the absence of sleep disturbances, and disorders.
While sleeping, your alertness and consciousness are altered. Your muscular and sensory activity drastically reduce when sleeping. There is also a modest decrease in the body’s metabolism during sleep.
While we don’t usually respond to our surrounding environment while sleeping, the state of sleep is very different from being totally unconscious (like when under anesthesia or in a coma).
Sleeping has a crucial role in maintaining the normal motor and cognitive functions of the body.14
Our body’s natural circadian rhythm or biological clock plays an important role in regulating sleep.
Thus, we can infer that is not normal to be feeling sleepy when the body is supposed to be awake. Such problems with sleep can be attributed to poor lifestyle habits or certain underlying medical conditions.
Such issues can also indicate the presence of disorders like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and others.
The hormone melatonin is responsible for maintaining and regulating normal sleep patterns. This hormone is released by the pineal gland. Interestingly, melatonin is also known as the “hormone of darkness”.
Problems in sleep patterns may lead to the development of other issues like lack of concentration, difficulty in learning, memory lapses, fatigue, lethargy, and unstable emotional and mental states.
Sleep pattern problems may lead to the development of issues like lack of concentration.
In general, aging is the only factor that can lead to a change in sleep patters if there are no other underlying health conditions.
The ideal duration of sleep varies according to age and also from one person to another. However, in adults, approximately eight hours of sound sleep in the night are deemed necessary.
People tend to have dreams while sleeping which is also a normal physiological phenomenon. While sleeping, the body alternates between two different modes.
NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep alternate cyclically.
Keep reading for types of sleep and ayurvedic suggestions for getting better sleep and types of sleep.
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Sleep And Types Of Sleep In Ayurveda
In Ayurveda too, sleep is given great importance. Nidra (sleep) is considered as one of the three upasathmbha (secondary supports of life) in Ayurveda.
The context related to sleep has been explained very deeply in the classical Ayurvedic medical text Charak Samhita.
Various details related to sleep have been explained in this text like the different types of sleep and the advantages of getting better sleep at night.
6 Types Of Sleep 1
- Tamo bhava: This kind of sleep occurs due to tamas guna (tamas guna is one among three manas guna or mental qualities. Tamas is considered to be dull, lethargic, dark and chaotic.).
- Shleshma samudbhava: This type of sleep occurs due to a vitiated Kapha dosha.
- Mana sharir shrama sambhava: Such types of sleep occur due to mental exertion and due to physical exertion.
- Aagantuki: This occurs due to external causes (external cause can be medicines, odors or the topical local application of herbal pastes).
- Vyadhya anuvartini: These types of sleep occur as a result of complications in various disorders.
- Ratri svabhava prabha: This type of sleep occurs due to the nature of night. This is physiological sleep.
Ratri svabhava prabha nidra is also called as bhuta dhatri. Bhuta dhatri means that which fosters and nurtures all living beings just like a mother that raises her children with love and affection.
Ayurvedic Explanation Of Physiological Sleep
According to Ayurveda, when the mind gets exhausted, the sensory organs also get exhausted. As a result, they detach themselves from their subject (i.e. you!) and ultimately, the individual falls asleep.2
Now that we have discussed the different types of sleep mentioned in Ayurveda, let’s take a look at the benefits of getting better sleep.
Benefits Of Better Sleep
- Sleep is as important as food for the body. Proper food provides health and happiness to the body. Similarly, regular sound sleep keeps the body healthy, safe, happy and comfortable.
- Weight gain and weight loss both depend on food and sleep.3
- Better sleep provides nourishment and strength.4
- Sound sleep can be helpful in enhancing a person’s mental faculties. (because sound sleep is helpful in improving concentration) 4
- Regular and healthy sleep patterns are also helpful in promoting longevity.4
Problems With Untimely Sleep Schedules
Let’s see what happens when you don’t sleep properly.
- Improper sleep can lead to emaciation, weakness, sterility, and impotence.
- It can also make learning and concentration difficult.
- Lack of sleep can also affect longevity which ultimately leads to untimely death.4
- If someone is on an irregular sleep schedule, then just like an apocalypse, improper sleep can destroy the health and wellbeing of a person.5
- If someone wakes up for a long time at night on a regular basis, then it may lead to aggravation of Vata dosha in the body. This further leads to dryness in the body.6
- If someone sleeps regularly in the day time, then it may lead to aggravation of Kapha dosha in the body. This leads to an increase in snigdha in the body.6
- Increase in snigdha guna in the body leads to an increase in ‘oiliness’ and fat in the body.
Let’s take a look at some Ayurvedic suggestions for better sleep.
How To Get Better Sleep?
Charaka Samhita mentions various remedies for getting better sleep.7 Here are some of them.
- Use of ubtan or body scrubs.
- Gently massage the body.
- Taking a hot shower or a relaxing bath.
- Drinking soup made from the meat of marshy and aquatic animals.
- Having bhaat (boiled rice) with yogurt.
- Use of milk, ghee (clarified butter), and alcohol in the diet. (in limited amounts)
- Using favorite scents and perfumes.
- Listening to gentle, calming sounds.
- Do samvahana (samvahana is gently massaging your body where organs are massaged very gently).
- Using soothing ointments on the eyes.
- Application of cool pastes over on head and face.
- Having a comfortable, clean, and pleasing sleeping area. Comfortable, cozy beds and regular sleep schedules both contribute to inducing better sleep.
Factors That Deter Better Sleep + Insomnia Causes 8
Insomnia and sleep disorders are not new to the world of medicine. Ayurveda has also talked extensively about insomnia and other factors that disturb sleep.8
Here are some of the causes that deter sound sleep and cause insomnia.
- Fear, anxiety, and anger can cause insomnia.
- Smoking, fasting, and physical activity (before bedtime) can cause insomnia.
- Panchakarma treatment like virechana or purgation therapy, vamana or emesis therapy, nasya or administration of Ayurvedic medicine through the nasal passage and rakta mokshana or bloodletting techniques can lead to lack of sleep (always do these therapies under supervision).
- An uncomfortable bed and improper bedding can also cause insomnia.
- The predominance of sattva guna, suppression of tamas guna and people who are generous by nature also suffer from lack of sleep.
- Hectic work schedules can cause anxiety and worry that can lead to insomnia.
- Old age and sleeping at odd times can also cause lack of sleep.
- Some conditions like sannipata javara (fever caused due to vitiation of all three doshas), unmada (it covers a number of Ayurvedic psychiatric diseases according to Ayurveda), colicky pain, Vata roga (various problems due to vitiated Vata dosha) and aggravation of Vata dosha can also cause sleeplessness.
Daytime Sleep In Ayurveda
In the Charaka Samhita, it is clearly mentioned that daytime sleep is contraindicated.
The Ayurvedic scholar Charaka stated that sleeping in the daytime in any season (except for summers) aggravates the Kapha and Pitta dosha. This is also applicable for the different types of sleep mentioned earlier.
It had also been mentioned that those who are overweight, obese or those with Kapha prakriti (physical constitution with the predominance of Kapha dosha), and those suffering from latent poison should also avoid sleeping in daytime.9
Problems With Daytime Sleeping
People who sleep at odd times in the day (due to various habits or poor lifestyles) may suffer from a host of health problems. Here are some of them.
Headache, heaviness in the body, body aches, loss of digestive strength, heaviness in the cardiothoracic region, edema, lack of interest in food, rhinitis, nausea, and hemicrania.
It can also cause hives, pustules, bodily eruptions, itching, drowsiness, cough, throat infections, memory impairment, fever, weakness of sensory and motor organs, and obstructions in the body’s minute channels (srotas). 10
When Daytime Sleep Is Appropriate
- According to the Charaka Samhita, daytime sleep is okay for summers. This is because nights are shorter during summers and the Vata dosha (air) increases in those with a predominance of Vata dosha.11
- Singers can sleep during the day.
- Students can also sleep in the daytime.
- Alcoholics can sleep during the day.
- People who engage in sexual intercourse during the day.
- People who engage in excessive physical activities during the day.
- Those who are underweight and/or emaciated can also sleep in the daytime.
- Those suffering from ajirna (indigestion).
- If someone has been suffering from any injury can also sleep at day time.
More Indications For Daytime Sleep
- People with weakness.
- Elderly and young children.
- Those suffering from thirst, colic pain, or diarrhea can sleep during the day.
- Those suffering from asthma, chronic respiratory problems, and hiccups can also during the day.
- People suffering from mental health issues like mania.
- Those who work in night shifts.
- People who regularly sleep during the daytime and have become physiologically accustomed to their sleep schedules.12
For the above-mentioned circumstances, daytime sleep nourishes the body’s tissues, supports strength, and maintains longevity.13
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before following the types of sleep and guidelines for better sleep as mentioned in this article.
- Charak Samhita with Hindi commentary, part-1, Sutra sathan, 21/58-59, p.no. 307, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan,2017.
- Charak Samhita 21/35, p.no. 304.
- Same as reference #1, 1/51, p.no. 307.
- Charak Samhita 21/36, p.no. 305.
- Same as reference #4, 21/37, p.no. 305
- Charak Samhita part 1, 21/50, p.no. 306.
- Same as referecnce#3, 21/52-54, p.no.
- Same as referecnce#3, 21/55-57, p.no. 307.
- Same as reference #6, 21/44-45, p.no. 306.
- Same as reference #6, 21/46-49, p.no. 306.
- Same as reference #6, 21/43, p.no. 306.
- Same as reference #4, 21/39-41, p.no. 305.
- Same as reference #12, 21/42, p.no. 305.
- Medic, Goran, et al. “Short- and Long-Term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption.” Nature and Science of Sleep, Dove Medical Press, 19 May 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/.