Sleep and the doshas
According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 3 people now have problems with sleep. In the last 50 years, The National Sleep Foundation says the average amount of sleep we get has reduced from 8 to 7 hours – that’s a month of sleep lost each year.
People who struggle with sleep often fall into 2 categories:
Those who can't get to sleep
Those who wake in the middle of the night or the early hours
Sleep can be affected by myriad factors like stress, anxiety, depression or chronic pain, to name a few, and often when we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, we don’t feel on top of our game mentally or physically.
Why is sleep so vital?
Sleep offers the body time to repair and recharge each night. Between the hours of 10pm-2am the real physical repair process happens, and between 2-6am psychological repair processes take place – a little spring clean for the brain.
There’s no simple answer to how much sleep we need as every individual is different, and healthy sleep patterns can range from 4 to 10 hours per night. Although 4 is at the lower end and we certainly wouldn’t recommend this amount of sleep for a long period of time.
Doshas and sleep
Ayurveda offers deep insights into the nature of sleep by looking at mind-body types, or doshas, and states that if sleep happens at the right time, you’ll be cheerful, strong, disease-free and might even live to be a centenarian! Take a look at your dosha type below and see if any of them ring true, you might find out why some people are vulnerable to disturbed sleep, while others can neck an espresso martini before bed and start snoring within seconds.
Are you vata?
You may generally be more alert and wakeful. When aggravated, you’re likely to wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep between 2 and 6am. Vata types are generally light sleepers, needing black out blinds and earplugs and preferring a soft, cosy bed. You may find teeth grinding, sleepwalking and sleep talking are commonplace.
How to support sleep for vata dosha
Pukka's Head of Herbal Education, Jo Webber, explains: ‘Getting a regular routine is really important and ensure you wind down early evening with warm bath or gentle yoga stretches. Sleep by 9.30pm if you can, latest by 10pm. Vata types are also encouraged to get plenty of rest, or cat-naps, at any time of the day.’
Diet wise, try cutting out caffeine to see if your sleep improves as vata types may not be able to tolerate a coffee even after breakfast. Jo recommends drinking teas containing herbs such as liquorice, fennel, cardamom or tulsi throughout the day and especially in the evening, to allow the mind to calm a lot quicker come bedtime.
Are you pitta?
Jo explains that ‘difficulty falling asleep is the classic pitta-type sleep disorder as high pitta can be mentally stimulating, overwhelming any desire to sleep’. Pitta types may become night owls, and you may be more restless in the night, with the tendency to overheat, therefore preferring fewer or thinner covers.
How to support sleep for pitta dosha
Aim to limit distractions in the evening, such as screens, in order to sleep around 10pm.
‘Keeping your bedroom cool with plenty of ventilation is also helpful,’ says Jo who adds that less spice in your evening meal as well as limiting coffee and alcohol will also help. Try drinking teas containing chamomile, rose, mint or licorice to cool and soothe throughout the day. These are especially helpful in the evening.
Are you kapha?
Kapha types are heavy sleepers, rarely disturbed or awakened. However, they are the most likely to have a sleep condition called sleep apnoea (breathing difficulties) and are more likely to need to urinate in the night. They love soft beds with lots of warm covers. Kapha types don’t often need as much sleep as they have, which can lead to difficulties waking up. Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalise this dosha.
How to support sleep for kapha dosha
‘Relaxed kapha types tend to sleep very well, but if not, aim for more stimulation, exercise and activity in the day to balance this dosha,’ recommends Jo, who warns that kaphas shouldn’t nap in the day and interestingly, should also avoid lie-ins! When it comes to food, avoid heavy, sweet foods in the evening such as wheat, cheese and yoghurt. Try a light dinner instead such as a bowl of soup and aim to finish dinner at least three hours prior to bedtime.
Jo adds: ‘Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalise this dosha.’
Good sleep hygiene for all
Sleep hygiene works on the idea that many (but not all) sleep problems are due to bad habits. Here are three very simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene. We know you’ve heard these before, but have you mindfully tried each one, or just thought about them? How did you get on?
Go to bed and get up at the same time each day – it’s so simple but we rarely do it
Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only – absolutely no screen time
Try some breathing techniques as you lie in bed, like inhaling for a count of 3 or 4 and exhaling to a count of 6 or 8. This helps relax the nervous system
You could try some herbs to aid your sleep as well. Ashwagandha is a hero herb for helping calm anxious nerves. Valerian is another traditional sleeping tonic and natural sedative used in lots of sleeping tablets, including our very own Night Time supplement, which also contains ashwagandha. Not forgetting our sweet, organic Night Time tea, which can help soothe you into a blissful sleep.
Author: Sebastian Pole
Co-founder and Master herbsmith
Pukka’s Co-founder and Master Herbsmith keeps a close eye on the formulation of our organic creations. Sebastian has been in clinical practice since 1998 using a blend of Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western herbal medicine and has pioneered organic and FairWild practitioner-grade herbs as the norm at Pukka.
Degree in Hindi and Indian Religions, a registered yoga therapist
Years of experience
23 years in clinical practice
Member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners, Fluent in Hindi.