Ayurvedic Wisdom for Restorative Sleep

by Kottakkal Support March 08, 2024


Ayurveda has long known the health benefits provided by restful restorative sleep. In fact, sleep is one of the three pillars of life, along with food and fertility. These three pillars create life for all beings on earth. Restful restorative sleep is necessary for both cognitive and physiological functions. When we are fully rested, our immunity, happiness, focus and decision-making skills are optimized. And the opposite is true, without proper restorative sleep the stress on our sympathetic nervous system causes a state known as wired and tired.

Many people are not aware they are wired and tired, because the sympathetic nervous system is tricky and hides the fact you are tired. The person will no longer feel the natural urge to sleep at a normal time. Our hormones are linked to a sleep-wake cycle that is driven by the rise and fall of the sun and moon. This is known as the circadian rhythm which activates our daytime hormones at sunrise and our nighttime hormones at sunset. All life on earth is synchronized to the circadian clock.

Our circadian rhythm acts like a conductor for our sleep-wake cycle. This internal clock, located in the brain is influenced by sunlight and activates various hormones to promote natural sleep.

Our Hormones Follow the Sun

  • Sunlight exposure: During the day, sunlight triggers the suppression of melatonin, a hormone that signals sleepiness. This keeps us alert and energized.
  • Melatonin production: As nighttime approaches, the circadian rhythm prompts the pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin. This hormone gradually elevates and induces the feeling of drowsiness and prepares us for sleep.
  • Body temperature: Our internal temperature also plays a role. The circadian rhythm dips body temperature slightly in the evening, further promoting sleepiness.
  • Cortisol Production: As the sun rises, the daytime hormone cortisol increases and activates brain activity, respiration, hunger, digestion, body temperature, etc. Cortisol levels naturally decline in the evening, creating a hormonal shift conducive to sleep.

By aligning these internal signals with the earth’s natural light-dark cycle, our circadian rhythm creates a smooth transition from wakefulness to sleep, promoting a consistent and restorative sleep pattern.

What is Restful Restorative Sleep

The best way to know if you are getting restful restorative sleep is to check in with how you feel. In general, getting too little sleep (less than 6 hours) is related to a vata imbalance and too much sleep (over 9 hours) is related to a kapha imbalance. There is no set rule however most people feel refreshed after 7 or 8 hours of sleep. When you wake up, you should feel alert and refreshed with no grogginess and ready to start your day. If you wake up feeling tired and groggy it is a sign of kapha or vata imbalance. If you wake up with aches and pains or sinus congestion this is also a sign of kapha or vata imbalance, especially if occurring on a regular basis.

Kapha, Vata, and Pitta Sleep Patterns

In Ayurveda sleep patterns are explained through the three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha has a unique sleep pattern and when we become aware of our sleep pattern we can adopt self-care practices that support sounder sleep. Here we explain the different sleeping tendencies of kapha, vata, and pitta.

Kapha dosha represents the water and earth elements and kapha people naturally have deep sound sleep that can become excessively too long.

  • Deep and Sound Sleepers: Kapha people tend to be deep sleepers, often falling asleep easily and staying asleep for long periods. They may even enjoy napping and have a strong preference for a comfortable sleeping environment.
  • Oversleeping Tendency: While Kapha individuals enjoy deep sleep, there is a risk of oversleeping due to the heavy and grounded nature of the dosha. This can lead to kapha imbalance and difficulty waking up in the morning.
  • Kapha Time (6-10 AM): Kapha dominates the time between 6 am - 10 am, which means the qualities of kapha are strongest during this time. This can make waking up early challenging for kapha types, as their natural body type aligns with this time.

Ayurveda suggests that kapha people actually need less sleep than vata or pitta people. The key is to achieve a balance by striving to enjoy deep sleep without succumbing to oversleeping that will cause the person to feel groggy and unmotivated.

Vata dosha represents the air and space elements and vata people naturally have a lighter and irregular sleep pattern.

  • Light and Restless Sleep: Vata types tend to be light sleepers, easily awoken by noises or internal disturbances. Their minds can be active even during sleep, leading to vivid dreams they may not recall.
  • Irregular Sleep: Vata can be paradoxical when it comes to sleep. Vata people often want sleep but actually function better with the most amount of rest. They are easily exhausted and most prone to becoming wired and tired. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is a challenge for vata people.
  • Waking During Vata Time (2-6 AM): A distinctive feature of vata sleep is the tendency to wake up between 2 am and 6 am, which coincides with the vata time of night when the qualities of vata are at the highest. Falling back asleep can be difficult during this time.

Overall, Vata sleep can be less predictable compared to the other doshas. Ayurveda recommends creating a vata pacifying self-care routine that calms the light airy energy that vata people have.

Pitta dosha represents the fire and water elements and pitta people naturally sleep soundly, however they easily wake up but easily fall back to sleep.

  • Moderate Sleep Requirements: Pitta people typically require a moderate amount of sleep compared to vata and kapha. They sleep soundly and easily wake up to go to the bathroom and easily fall back to sleep.
  • Sensitivity to Heat: Due to Pitta's hot nature, overheating can disrupt their sleep. They often prefer a cool environment and lighter covers to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
  • Prone to Night Owl Tendencies: The pitta time at night is between 10 pm and 2 am, and if staying awake past 10pm their minds are reactivated and will no longer feel tired. It is important for pitta people to wind down and fall asleep before 10pm to optimize the best restful and restorative sleep.
  • Vivid Dreams: Pitta's fiery energy can manifest in vivid intense dreams which wakes them up.

 While Pitta types can naturally sleep soundly, maintaining a regular bedtime of 10pm is crucial for a balanced and restorative night's rest.

Ayurvedic Practices for Sound Sleep

  1. When the sun is setting that’s also time to wind down. Dim the lights in your home and participate in relaxing activities like gentle yoga, drawing, painting, journaling and light-hearted talking with family or friends. After sunset avoid stimulating activities like work, computers, phones, stressful conversations, violent TV and the news. The artificial lights can throw off the body’s circadian rhythm that produces the necessary sleep hormones.
  2. Do abhyanga (self-oil massage) as part of your daily routine! Abhyanga helps calm vata, which is the main dosha out of balance when sleep deprived. Oil massage is incredibly relaxing for the nervous system and creates a sense of comfort and wellbeing. Kadiliphaladi Oil or Kshirabala Oil are very helpful for supporting the nervous system. Do abhyanga two hours after a light dinner and about one hour before bed. Allow the oil to soak into your skin then take a warm bath or shower using a mild soap to remove any residual oil. Make sure to stay warm but not too warm for proper sleep.
  3. Meditation supports all three doshas and is especially helpful for a busy mind. It is the ancient timeless way of calming excess thoughts. After abhyanga and dressing warmly, turn off the lights and practice deep, slow breathing to promote a restful night.
  4. Eat a lighter dinner. Towards the end of the day digestion is the weakest, especially after sunset the body’s ability to digest larger meals is less. Dinner is the meal to eat food that is easily digested like soups, grains, beans and cooked vegetables.
  5. Right before bed heat up a cup of milk, either cow or almond is best. Add ½ teaspoon of ghee, and a dash of nutmeg and cardamom powder. The nutmeg and ghee induces sleep, and the cardamom helps digestion. Another choice is chamomile lavender tea which is very relaxing and promotes sleep.
  6. Avoid caffeine, sugar and stimulants of any kind. If you are suffering from vata imbalance and are chronically sleep deprived then avoid stimulants. Caffeine especially should be avoided because it blocks adenosine, a neuromodulator in the brain that accumulates throughout the day to produce the feeling of tiredness.
  7. During the day make sure to get a little exercise, it does not have to be running a marathon, playing sports or lifting weights, though if you enjoy that then great! It is important to move your body and walks in nature, yoga or swimming are relaxing.
  8. Go to bed before 10 pm. Our deepest sleep happens between the natural window of 10pm and 6am! Sleeping during this time follows the natural circadian rhythm and will maximize your body’s ability to rejuvenate and repair. Eight hours of sleep is the optimum amount for good health, though it can vary depending on your dominant dosha.
  9. Once you are in bed, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Mindfully focus on releasing all the tension felt in your muscles and mind. Try to make your breath even by inhaling to the count of six, and slowly exhaling to the count of six. This simple breathing exercise relaxes the body and mind.

Ashwagandha Supports Sound Sleep

 The Latin name for Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera.

  • Withania is the genus name and does not have a direct meaning other than its scientific classification assigned to this group of plants.
  • Somnifera comes from Latin and translates to "sleep-inducing". This indicates the historical use of Ashwagandha for its sleep-promoting qualities.

Ayurveda recognizes sleep disorders as stemming from stress, and the emotions that it causes like anxiety, worry, overwhelm and excess thinking. All these emotions lead to restlessness and an exhausted nervous system. This stresses the sympathetic nervous system and over time the person becomes wired and tired (unable to recognize tiredness). Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb and has the power to support stress hormones and promote relaxation.

Herbal Support for Restorative Sleep

Ashwagandha Arishtam supports and balances vata dosha. The main herb ashwagandha supports men's reproductive health, along with muscle, nerve and bone strength. Ashwagandha is a nervous system rejuvenator that helps balance the mind for both depression and anxiety.

Aswagandha Churnam supports and balances vata dosha, promotes sound sleep, and strengthens brain function and the nervous system. It has antioxidant properties that support both the immune and hormonal system. For supporting the nervous system, combine 1 tsp of ashwagandha powder with one cup of warm milk.

Aswagandha Tablet supports and balances vata dosha, promotes sound sleep, and strengthens brain function and the nervous system. It has antioxidant properties that support both the immune and hormonal system.

Brahma Rasayanam contains the herbal formula dasamula (ten roots), which balances vata dosha, nourishes the nervous system and brain, and helps improve memory and sleep. And most importantly, it helps lift the spirit while reducing the effects of stress.

Brahmi Ghritam balances vata dosha, the main herb brahmi supports brain and nerve health, improves focus and concentration, and sound sleep.

Brahmi Caps balance vata dosha and the herb brahmi is a well-known herbal tonic that supports memory and concentration while promoting a calmer mind and sounder sleep.

Manasamitra Vatakam supports and balances vata dosha and the nervous system. The main herbs vacha and shilajatu help strengthen and nourish the nervous system, memory, concentration, and helps to promote sound sleep.


Kottakkal is committed to offering the highest quality Ayurvedic Healthcare. We offer two ways to have an Ayurvedic consultation. 1. Free 15-minute Consultation with our Ayurvedic practitioner, Julie Wardwell, for when you need a product recommendation for a basic health problem. 2. In-depth Consultation with our Ayurvedic doctor, Vaidya Vishwanath Guddadar for when your condition is chronic with multiple symptoms.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Kottakkal Ayurveda products and information are not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. If you have serious, acute, or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the advice of a trained Ayurvedic professional, call (800) 215-9934 or email us at We will provide you with information to consult with Ayurvedic professionals. Always check with your doctor before taking herbs when pregnant or nursing.


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