Good morning, how did you sleep tonight?
If the answer is 'good' you probably feel great, if the answer is 'not so good' you may find just thinking of the day ahead challenging.
When we think about being healthy what comes in mind. Nothing hurts? I am not taking any medication? I am under no doctor's supervision? Well actually, health is so much more than that. According to Ayurveda we are healthy when these factors are also in balance:
- our Digestion
- our Sleep
- our Hormones (mood, libido, menstrual cycle for women)
Let's have a look at sleep in this blog post. According to the sleep doctor Michael Breus there are four kind of sleep types (chronotypes as he calls them) as opposed to the well known 'night owl' and 'early bird' ones. These chronotypes are mirroring the behaviours of animals.
The Wolf The Lion The Bear & The Dolphin
Wolves - wolves are actually the 'night owls'. They come out to play at night and struggle to start the day early. Lot of teenagers want to be wolves, but actually only about 15% of the population is a natural wolf! These people are most productive after 4pm in the afternoon.
The sleep expert recommends wolves sleeping times between Midnight - 7 am - around 7 hours
Lions - lions are the 'early birds', the ones who wake up with their eyes wide open, ready to tackle the world. Now, a lot of highly productive people want to be lions, and join the 5 am Club (Robin Sharma) but only 15% of the population is a natural lion. I strongly agree with an established morning routine, and practice it, but forcing ourselves to wake up early and cutting back on sleep will have negative consequences on the long run. My opinion is that do have a consistent wake up time and morning routine, but the start of it will be determined by your personal needs - more on that later. Surprise, surprise, these people are most productive in the morning! Lions also tend to have a slump in the early afternoon, and a short 20-25 minutes power nap will definitely help with that.
The sleep expert recommends lions sleeping times between 10.30 pm - 5.30 am - around 7 hours
Bears - bears need their sleep the most, a solid 8 hours is recommended for them. Actually about 60% of the population is a bear. These people are also productive in the morning and may have the mid afternoon slump.
The sleep expert recommends bears sleeping times between 11 pm - 7 am - around 8 hours
Dolphins - now dolphins are the self diagnosed insomniacs. They have trouble turning their brain off, they get up several times during the night and can't get a good night's sleep. About 10% of the population is a dolphin according to the sleep expert (see my opinion on this below). The most productive time for these people, even though they feel tired, is mid morning.
The sleep expert recommends dolphins sleeping times between Midnight - 6 am - around 6 hours.
Now see that there are recommended times for sleeping. The length is very personal! As we can have 3-5 sleep cycles a night ranging from 80-120 minutes our sleep need can be anywhere between 6-8 hours.
Let's connect all of this to what Ayurveda says about sleep time/length. When we look at the cycle of the day (see previous blog post on daily yogic routine) 6pm - 10 pm is Kapha time, as in the Earth and Water elements rule the energy, perfect time to wind down, relax and get ready to bed.
Ayurveda recommends to be in bed by 10 pm-ish. Why? Because 10 pm - 2 am is Pitta time, Fire and Water elements rule the energy, the transformer, the doer, the manager. What happens when we stay up after 10 pm? We often get a second wind and get wide awake! On the other hand, if we are sleeping in this period, all the transformation happens, we are digesting our day in our sleep. As we can see lions are in luck, for the other 3 they would definitely have to make sure to be asleep by midnight to get at least a few ours of metabolising time during Pitta cycle.
Now from 2 am - 6 am we enter Vata time, Air and Ether elements rule the energy, the mover, the changer, the creative one. Everything starts moving, so no surprises there that some of us are up and down in this time of the night.
What is the best time to wake up according to Ayurveda? Anywhere between 4-6 am, before Kapha time makes us sluggish and wants us to stay in bed all day. As Ayurveda is all about balance and finding our own perfect routine, experiment! I think the sleep times recommended coming together with Ayurveda can work beautifully, just make sure not to stay up later than midnight if you are a Wolf and be sure to be up by 7 am, Bears, you too!
A world about Dolphins. Wolves and Lions sound like Pitta sleepers - moderate hours, pretty good sleep. Bears sounds like Kapha sleepers - longs hours needed, good sleepers, don't poke the bear when she/he is asleep. Now Dolphins sound like Vata sleepers - highly variable, irregular, lots of movement, racing mind and body, little sleep is managed.
Who sleeps like a Vata? It can actually be due to 3 factors:
1. You are a Vata Dosha - your natural constitution/personality is Vata, as in you are a born Dolphin. Try the Dosha quiz on the website to find out your constitution
2. You have a Vata imbalance - your lifestyle, diet, stress creates a Vata imbalance in the body/mind and that keeps you up at night. There is too much wind in you, being in perpetual motion does not let you wind down.
3. You reached the Vata cycle in your life cycle - anywhere after 45 we enter the Vata cycle of our lives - Kapha cycle 0-15/20 years, Pitta cycle 15/20-45/55, Vata cycle 45/55 years over (will write a blog post on the life cycles soon).
If you feel like you sleep like a Dolphin/Vata than what you can do to help enhancing your sleep is:
- have a regular sleep schedule, go to be and wake up at a similar time daily, create a nighttime routine, eliminate screen time before bed as it is very Vata imbalancing - take the variable out of the equation
- avoid drinking coffee after 2 pm and alcohol 3 hours before bedtime (best of all to eliminate them from your diet as much as you can) - have a 20-25 minute power nap during the day if you are tired
- eat a Vata balancing diet (see previous post on Vata balancing foods)
- practice Yoga, meditation, practices that calm that wind down
- accept that you are going to have less sleep during the night, condense it to less time in bed and get up and meditate, practice Yoga Nidra
After all this, what do you think you sleep like? I am for sure a Lion, my best schedule is in bed between 10-10.30 pm and waking up 5.30 am, naturally. My husband is a Lion who took on a Dolphin quality with age, his best routine is 10-10.30 pm - 4-4.30 am.