According to Ayurveda, our potential for good health depends largely on how we live our day-to-day life. It is our patterns of eating, sleeping, exercise and what we do daily to rejuvenate ourselves that help determine whether we maintain vibrant health throughout our lifetime.
Ayurveda recognizes the importance of our relationship with the universe around us. We are a part of nature: if we live in accord with the laws that structure the world we live in, we can keep our mind/body system functioning efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.
One key to living in tune with nature is the time that we go to bed and get up in the morning. There is a saying, “The day begins the night before.” Only by going to be early in the evening can we start the next day fully rested, having synchronized our individual rhythms with the circadian rhythms of the earth.
Modern science is increasingly supporting the idea that sleep is the third pillar of health, along with good diet and exercise. It is a vital factor in increasing our wellbeing. A recent study showed that those who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night are 4 times more likely to catch a cold than those who get 7 or more. Researchers believe that sleep helps the immune system fight off infections. Sleep has been found to play an important part in regulating the levels of T-cells which fight off infection in our bodies.
When we go to bed is as important as how much sleep we get. Ayurveda recommends that we get to bed by 10 P.M. to gain the deepest level of healing and rejuvenation from our sleep. According to Ayurveda, during the four hours before 10 P.M., Kapha dosha is increasing in nature. This increase in Kapha enlivens the qualities of heaviness and dullness in our mind and body. If we head to bed during this time, we will fall asleep more quickly and experience deeper, less interrupted sleep.
After 10 P.M., Pitta dosha starts to become enlivened. The evening Pitta-cycle is involved in metabolic cleaning. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that the physiology can focus its intelligence and energy on metabolic cleansing and rejuvenation. When a person stays up past 10 P.M., there is often the experience of a “second wind”. This is an indication that Pitta dosha is no longer being directed internally for self-repair activities. Instead, the transformational nature of Pitta is flowing in a more manifest way, creating an increase in energy, creativity and, often, hunger. (This accounts for the infamous scourge of midnight snacking.)
While many busy adults feel that they are grabbing valuable “me” time in the late hours of the night, they are actually robbing their body of its built-in mechanism to recover from the day’s wear and tear. In the long run, night owls may find themselves with deep-seated sleep imbalances and ill health.
Ayurveda recommends waking up before 6 A.M, while the quality of Vata is lively. Because it is ideal not to be startled awake by alarms, the best way to spontaneously get up early—and feel rested— is to go to bed early.
The hours before 6 A.M. are hours when all of nature is waking up. This is the time that Vata dosha is predominate in the environment. When we start our day during Vata time it means that our mind and body will experience more of the qualities of balanced Vata throughout the day— increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.
The longer we sleep past 6 A.M. the more we are asleep while Kapha is dominating the environment. If we sleep in until 7:30, for example, we are lying dull and dormant for 1 and 1/2 hours of Kapha time and we will wake up imbibed with those same heavy, dull qualities.
Many people find that they can think faster and concentrate more in the morning. Students who get up early in the morning have been shown to get better grades, which then impacts where they go to college and what jobs they get after school. Apparently morning people are better at anticipating problems and trying to solve them. They have been found to be more proactive.
Other studies have demonstrated that if you wake up early you will feel more positive and confident. Published research linked rising early and synchronizing one’s circadian cycle with the time the sun rises and sets to feeling happier than those who wake up late.
This simple adjustment in bedtime and rising-time in routine can make a huge impact on our health. If you are in need of extra “me” time, it is much better to go to bed by 10:00 PM and wake up an hour earlier in the morning. Early morning may, in fact, be the best time to work effectively during the day. Your brain will be rested and your nervous system will have abundant energy after a good night’s sleep