Ayurvedic Day and Night Sleep Patterns

How different it would have been if we could stay awake for 24 days every single day, this idea might sound somewhat absurd and unrealistic and yes it is. Our body requires a phase in our daily chores to relax and this phase is known to be as Sleep.  “Sleep” is the natural recurring state of mind and body that pertains to altered levels of consciousness, sensory activity and muscular activity along with a diminished interaction with surroundings.

Our sound sleep is merely dependent on the balance of these doshas (Humours); any imbalance amongst them may result in distinctive sleep disorders. In other words, if there exists any imbalance overlaying these constitutive doshas (Humours), a corresponding sleep disorder may result. Also the type of sleep that pertains to an individual is often the resultant of his predominant dosha. For instance, in case of a vata(Air)-predominant individual is more likely to experience vata(Air)-type sleep disorders; Pitta (Fire)-types will tend toward Pitta (Fire) sleep complaints, and Kapha (Water)-types toward Kapha (Water) sleep issues.

Ayurveda categorizes a 24 hour day into two 12 hour cycles. The first phase initiates with the sunrise and terminates with sunset and is opposite for the second cycle. Each phase is further subdivided in three equal periods pertaining to our Doshas (Humours)Vata(Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Water). According to Ayurveda, if we consider the sunrise to be at 6:00 am then the first cycle ends at 6: pm while the second cycle begins at 6:00 pm and would end at 6: am. Furthermore, the 12-hour duration of each phase is divided into intervals of four hours each that corresponds to Kapha (Water), Pitta (Fire) and vata(Air).


Daytime Kapha (Water) Cycle: The Ayurvedic day cycle initiates with the Kapha (Water) phase that begins with the sunrise at 6AM and ends at 10AM. The cortisol levels in our body increase during this period and reach to maximum. This period is considered a period during which, according to the Kapha (Water) principle, the structure and strength of muscles increases. This period is considered to be most effective to perform physical activities  and labor as the muscles are in theirs strongest state and the environmental heat has not interfere with the day. This time is best suitable to perform exercises to keep yourself fit. Performing physical effort can help to align ourself with the daytime Kapha (Water) cycle. Ayurveda has recommended that we should wake up at or before sunrise and try to take in 10 minutes and bright morning sun.  Sleeping during these hours inhibits the strengthening of the muscles and cause them to be more stiff and tired. The ‘late wakes’ often have issues with their musculature and are lethargic. Waking up in the initiation of daytime Kapha (Water) hours and engaging ourselves in exercise regimes like physical exercises, yoga or some sort of cardiovascular workout can improve the Kapha (Water) dosha. Usually light diet is recommended to be taken in the morning hours.

Daytime Pitta (Fire) Cycle: The Ayurvedic day cycle continues with the Pitta (Fire) phase that begins with right after the daytime Kapha (Water) cycle gets over, i.e. at 10AM and it continues till 2PM. During this time the sun moves up in the sky and reaches to its peak position at noon. It is said that at this time when sun is directly above our heads the heat principle of the body i.e. the Pitta (Fire) is strongest. Our digestive fires are in the most aggravated stated and hence heavier dietary intake is usually recommended during this time as they can be digested without any problem. Ayurveda has recommended that along with eating the biggest meant during daytime Pitta (Fire) cycle, it is necessary to maintain our alignment with the daytime Pitta (Fire) cycle too and the dietary pattern is the key to this. The majority of the meal should consist of seasonal foods and should be ingested during peak hours. A rest period for 10-15 minutes after the meal is usually recommended.

Daytime Vata(Air) Cycle: The Ayurvedic day cycle ends with the Vata(Air) phase that begins with right after the daytime Pitta (Fire) cycle gets over, i.e. at 2PM and it continues till 6PM. During this time of the day the vata(Air) dosha predominates in our body pertaining to the nervous system which his activated in this phase. The digestive system provides the demanding energy required for the activation of the nervous system hence it is necessary to have a proper diet in the proceeding cycle. Noncompliance with energy levels result in afternoon lull, craving, or moodiness. The brain needs energy and it is crucial to sustain these levels for proper functioning. Carvings for food during this part of day are often a result of insufficient diet and implies that the brain demands energy. Towards the end hour of this cycle i.e. between 5PM and 6PM, the body demand a period of stillness appropriate for meditation. During this time the body entrains out systemic rhythms to parallelize with those of nature to acquire a state of mental de-stress. The cortisol levels during this phase decline.  According to Ayurveda, our evaluation of how we feel in afternoon aids to align our daytime vata(Air) cycle. A proper lunch is necessary to avoid afternoon cravings.

Nighttime Kapha (Water) Cycle: After the completion of Ayurvedic day cycle, the nighttime cycle initiates. This second 12 hour phase initiates with the Kapha (Water) Cycle at 6PM and terminates at 10PM. During this time the melatonin levels start to rise in our body while the hormones that pertains to body’s energy hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline decreases thereby slowing down metabolism of our body and prepare for sleep. At the sun set time, the digestive fire is at the diminished state and it is advised to take light means at this time as the digestive fire is not in sufficient amount to digest the heavy meals, if taken cause obesity. Ayurveda recommends that during nighttime Kapha (Water) cycle, we should avoid eating late and eating heavy. Exercises are generally not recommended during night cycle as it can overstimulate out body and result in impaired sleep. Ayurveda favors to go to sleep during this terminating time of this cycle.

Nighttime Pitta (Fire) Cycle: The Ayurvedic Night cycle continues with the Pitta (Fire) phase that begins with right after the nighttime Kapha (Water) cycle gets over, i.e. at 10PM and it continues until 2AM. During this time the Moon moves up in the midnight sky and reaches to its peak position. Due to the aggravated nature of Pitta (Fire) principle, the mind can be kept stimulated to keep u awake and hence u become sleep deprived. This occurs usually because of Pitta (Fire) aggravation because our live is active during this time and it detoxifies our body fluids. Due to its active state, the body becomes stimulated. Special care is taken for the dietary intake timings because late eating will impair the digestion and hence the detoxification process will be impaired and delayed. This may cause congestion of liver and there is a buildup of toxic substances in the body. Ayurveda supports the alignment of nighttime Pitta (Fire) cycle by recommending early digestion and early sleep patterns as previously mentioned.  Early eating corresponds to digesting the food in time. Physical exercises are usually not recommended during this phase as the cortisol and adrenaline levels are in dormant state and exertion may affect the sleep and liver detox activity. It is usually recommended to go to sleep before entering nighttime Pitta (Fire) cycle i.e. before 10PM.

Nighttime Vata(Air) Cycle: This is the last cycle of a 24 hour day that begins at 2AM in the might and terminates at the early morning hours at 6AM of next day. At this time the melatonin levels are at the peak. Anthropologically, this time of the day is considered the quietest time in the 24 hour cycles. With the rise of dawn, the mind progresses towards its activation and gradually increases the awareness levels. In a regular sleep cycle where the person went to sleep before the completion of night time Kapha (Water) cycle i.e. 10PM, it is quite evident that the person will wake up naturally before the termination of night time vata(Air) cycle. This is an ideal sleep pattern. The 4 hour period pertains to feeling of calmness and reduced mental stress hence referred to as the best time for the meditation as the bodily rhythms are in synchronization with the silence of nature. Our biological clock rests its processes during these hours in order to start a new fresh day hence, it is very essential to have a sound sleep during these hours. Ayurveda recommends that the nighttime vata(Air) cycle has to be in alignment by the practice of getting to bed early and eating light dinner early.

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