Are you a light sleeper? Or do you tend to oversleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and then struggle to go back to sleep? Do you often dream about falling or running or have vivid, colorful dreams? It is quite interesting how our dosha makeup—or their imbalances influence and determine—the quality, depth, or duration of sleep we get.
Sleep is the body’s natural way of repairing, rejuvenating, detoxing, and replenishing. The better your sleep is, the more effective the self-repair. Consistently poor sleep quality can disturb your digestion and lead to problems like weight gain and bloating. Lack of deep, restful sleep can increase blood pressure, weaken immunity, and even give you anxiety and depression. Hopefully, you have seen how you feel energized and ready to go after a good night’s sleep. Understanding our individual sleep patterns, how or why they get disturbed, and what we can do about it helps ensure we sleep better.
The Dosha Clock
According to the timeless science of Ayurveda, the three doshas dominate during various times of the day. To live a holistic and happy life, one full of vitality, it is a good idea to align our daily activities, including sleep, based on the dosha clock.
Ayurveda divides the day into the sun cycle and moon cycle, and six parts, each consisting of 4 hours when a specific dosha dominates.
SUN CYCLE (6:00 am–6:00 pm)
6:00–10:00 am Dominated by Kapha dosha
10 am–2:00 pm Dominated by Pitta dosha
2:00–6:00 pm Dominated by Vata dosha
MOON CYCLE (6:00 pm–6:00 am)
6:00–10:00 pm Dominated by Kapha dosha
10:00 pm–2:00 am Dominated by Pitta dosha
2:00–6:00 am Dominated by Vata dosha
Learn more about the Ayurvedic Daily Routine
Ayurveda Sleep Rules
When to sleep. Ayurveda recommends getting to bed by 10:00 pm when the kapha dosha is dominant. During this time, the body and mind demand rest naturally. After 10:00 pm, the pitta dosha becomes active and involuntary functions dominate—we channel the life force for vital detox and repair functions of major organs like the digestive system and liver, among others. If you stay awake during this time, energy is taken away from this critical process.
Which side to sleep on. Sleeping on the right is relaxing and deep since the Chandra nadi (energy channel influenced by the moon) is active at night. But if you have had a heavy meal late at night, you can spend some time sleeping on your left. About 6–8 hours of sleep is sufficient for adults; if you meditate regularly, you may only require five hours. Ideally, you should finish dinner by 7:00 pm or have only a light meal after that time, so the food has enough time to digest before you hit the sack.
When to wake up. The rules of Ayurveda dictate that it is ideal to wake up before the sun rises when vata dosha is still dominant (as difficult as that can be for many of us). Doing so pays rich dividends as vata time is light, peaceful, and filled with Sattva. It is an excellent time to learn, meditate, contemplate, and be with nature.
Do you know your dosha? Take the quiz.
Doshas and Sleep
Vata Type: Light Sleepers
People with the dominance of vata dosha, or air element, are prone to having sleeping difficulties unless they adopt specific basic Ayurveda-led guidelines that support better rest. Vata people tend to sleep light, have vivid and colorful dreams, and often report waking up in the middle of their sleep (usually between 2:00–6:00 am) and often struggle to go back to sleep. This could also be linked to weak digestion, which is common among vata people. When digestion is slow and improper, it may also affect the natural sleep quality since it causes the body to move and digest.
Vatas tend to have irregular and insufficient sleep, despite needing it the most among the three doshas to compensate for their hyperactivity. They like to sleep on soft mattresses and pillows that support their often lean bodies. They may also be prone to sleepwalking or muttering in their sleep.
Here’s what we can do to balance vata dosha for better sleep:
- Have your meals at least two hours before going to sleep.
- Counter the lightness, coolness, and movement of vata with warm and grounding foods and activities that support kapha’s heaviness and bulk. Dairy, avocado, butter or ghee, porridge, thick soups, and coconut milk are ideal. Eat sweet-tasting, ripe fruits like bananas, apples, pineapples, figs, melons, kiwi, raisins, soaked prunes, oranges, papayas, peaches, avocadoes, berries, cherries, apricots, plums, coconuts, and dried fruits in moderate amounts. Vegetables should be cooked and not raw for vata dosha. Eat asparagus, zucchini, spinach, fennel, carrots, garlic, sprouts, onions, beetroot, sweet potato, and tomatoes. Also, include ghee, fresh milk, paneer, or tofu.
- Use spices such as cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cloves, and cardamom.
- Nourish the dryness by oiling your body regularly in the form of abhyanga or full-body massages with specific vata pacifying oils like Brahmi or sesame.
- Give yourself a break from watching the screens to manage an overstimulated brain an hour before going to sleep.
- Darken the room before falling asleep. You can use lightly fragranced oils or candles with scents like lavender or chamomile.
- Go for a walk after dinner to get the digestion going.
- Avoid afternoon naps.
- Put a drop of ghee (clarified butter) in each nostril before sleeping.
- Wash your feet with water before sleeping.
- An important way to manage vata is to stick to a routine, which means you should ideally go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Pitta Type: Struggle to Fall Asleep
Pitta people also sleep light and can manage with moderate amounts of sleep compared to the other doshas. But often, when pitta gets out of balance, they struggle to fall asleep due to excess heat in their system. They can also do without sleep when they have to finish a task, unlike kapha people who love their sleep.
Pittas prefer firm beds or mattresses, typically do not like sleeping under many layers, and have passionate and active dreams. They can fall asleep quickly after waking up. But if they stay up past 10:00 pm when pitta kicks in, they may struggle to fall asleep due to the heightened fire element and mental activity. That’s when they tend to think of tasks to be done or goals to be achieved, making them restless and feverish, obstructing their ability to fall asleep. This also makes many pitta people more productive at night.
Here’s what Pitta people or those with pitta imbalance can do for a good night’s sleep:
- Adopt a good winding-down routine to manage the excess pitta and calm nerves before sleeping.
- Put gadgets away at least an hour before bed, so the brain gets enough time to prepare.
- Create the habit of sleeping at the same time every night.
- Food should not be very spicy, sour, or salty. It should be warm and not steaming hot. In summer, favor cooler foods like salads or fruit juices. Herbal teas for pitta types are mint or licorice.
A vegetarian diet is advisable, with recommended foods such as avocadoes, apples, coconuts, melons, oranges, dates, figs, grapes, sweet cherries and berries, mangoes, pomegranates, plums, and raisins. Avoid having dried fruits. Since pittas have good digestion, they can have moderate to heavy dinners.
- Have some ghee in a glass of warm milk before going to bed.
- If pitta people have an early dinner, they will likely feel hungry quickly. If so, have buttermilk or something light and easy to digest.
- Get a foot massage with clarified butter before calling it a day.
- Sleep in a well-ventilated, cool room.
- Use calming essential oils like sandalwood, chamomile, rose, fennel, or peppermint. Try a head massage using gooseberry or bhringraj-based oils.
Kapha Type: The Heavy Sleepers
When it comes to sleep, nobody can quite beat kaphas at it. They can sleep anywhere and everywhere, and no sound or disturbance bothers them enough to wake them up. Unfortunately, this means they tend to oversleep. They like to sleep on soft beddings, snug under layers of comforters and sheets. Their dreams are not fiery or active but calm, emotional, and slow.
When kapha is in excess, it shows up as an inability to wake up in the morning, feeling heavy and not rested even after sufficient sleep. Kapha dosha dominates from 6:00–10:00 am, so their tendency to sleep often extends late into the morning unless they wake up early. They may still feel sleepy during late evenings, making them prone to sleeping more than necessary. So kapha people must wake up when the vata dosha is still dominant to avoid the traps of kapha-induced sluggishness.
To counter the heaviness of kapha and the tendency to oversleep, lean toward having more of vata qualities in your food, habits, and lifestyle: light, intense, cooling, and dry. Make efforts to have a thriving digestive fire (agni) to balance excess kapha.
Here’s what we can do to counter kapha vitiation:
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Go for a vigorous form of workout to bring down the kapha accumulation.
- Avoid napping in the afternoons.
- Eat light, pungent, bitter, astringent, and easy-to-digest foods—drying foods to counter the excess earth and water elements of kapha in your system. The foods that help the Kapha people digest food better include fruits like apples, cherries, mangoes, berries, pears, raisins, dried figs, plums, and peaches. Avoid most other dried fruits.
Kaphas can have spicy and bitter veggies, including cabbage, carrots, eggplants, mushrooms, onions, spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery, garlic, peas, fennel, and cauliflower. Enjoy barley, millet, oats, and corn in moderate quantities.
Avoid white sugar, yogurt, cheese, and any fatty food. In fact, avoid all forms of sweets on the dinner platter.
- Use heating spices like black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin.
- Avoid frozen foods, foods with additives and sugar, and oily or heavy foods.
- Avoid overeating.
- Abhyanga with sesame oil every morning is recommended.
- Take a brisk walk after meals to digest food better.
- Avoid snacking or eating after dinner.