Sleep: Balance vs. Imbalance

Sleep is your body’s simplest hack of bringing itself back to balance. Deep, restorative sleep repairs your torn tissues, helps your muscles grow, consolidates your memory, helps your nerve cells branch out, helps synthesize essential proteins and hormones, and reduces your sensitivity to pain.

No wonder you want to sleep when you are tired, worried, or in pain.

Good sleep is what makes you feel energetic, fresh, and healthy. But what you can call good sleep depends on your prakruti or innate metabolic personality. Your sleep hours, time taken to fall asleep, nature of dreams, quality of sleep, and time of waking, all depend on whether you are in balance.

In Balance

When you are balanced, that is closest to your true metabolic personality, you get the right amount of sleep and feel refreshed, light, and happy.

Light and Quick (Vata)

  • You sleep less, clocking fewer than 7 hours daily.
  • You have some difficulty falling asleep. But you wouldn’t if you didn’t think so much about the day’s events.
  • You are a light sleeper. You wake up at the slightest noise or inconvenience.
  • But on some days, you have absolutely no difficulty sleeping.

Slow and Steady (Kapha)

  • You are a sound sleeper who typically can’t do without 8–9 hours of sleep.
  • Falling asleep is quite easy. You could drift off to sleep within minutes of hitting the bed, a heavy dinner, a not-so-comfy room temperature, or a pacy thriller notwithstanding.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night is rare.
  • When you finally wake up, you like to lounge around in bed for a little while, slowly working off your sleep inertia.

Intense (Pitta)

  • You are a disciplined sleeper, who hits the bed on time and wakes up early. You get fewer than 7 hours of sleep but it’s good-quality, sound sleep that charges you up.
  • You generally take some time to fall asleep since your mind is occupied with plans for the next day. A hot climate could further delay sleep onset.
  • You don’t have interrupted sleep but you wake up early and once up, you can’t go back to sleep.

Slight to Moderate Imbalance

When you are not in balance, your sleep shows tell-tale signs. Negative tendencies associated with your metabolic personality start showing up. For instance, people who are typically slow and steady oversleep whereas light and quick people get even less sleep.

There can be several factors triggering an imbalance, such as diet, activity level, stress level, and even room temperature. The right foods, sleep-supporting herbs, and a few lifestyle tweaks can bring you back to balance.

Light and Quick (Vata)

  • You find it more difficult to fall asleep, tossing and turning in bed with racing thoughts in your mind.
  • You feel unrested, fatigued, and jumpy the next day.
  • You may get vivid dreams, with the dream mood being of fear or anxiety.

Slow and Steady (Kapha)

  • You tend to oversleep. You stay in bed for a considerable time even after waking up, because you still feel groggy and unrested.
  • You also experience sluggishness toward midday and could do with a longish afternoon nap.
  • You experience brain fog the next day and have to depend on stimulants like tea and coffee.

Intense (Pitta)

  • You get even fewer hours of sleep, with sleep onset getting further delayed.
  • You may see dreams full of action, which can make you feel unrested upon waking.
  • You try to power through the next day. But you are cranky and irritable.

Severe Imbalance

Long periods of poor sleep, overwork, and stress can make the imbalance severe. It can also upset your innate sleep mechanisms – sleep-wake homeostasis and circadian rhythm (which governs the rise and fall of chemicals in your body across 24 hours) – starting a vicious cycle. Given how essential sleep is to the proper functioning of the entire body, all core functions start showing signs of distress at this stage. You need to speak to your healthcare provider. Your recommended herbs and other supplements can support the treatment.

Light and Quick (Vata)

  • You are experiencing insomnia. It’s very difficult for you to fall asleep. Dreams are very disturbing and you keep waking up.
  • When you do fall asleep, you could be found talking in your sleep, gesticulating, grinding your teeth, or even sleepwalking.

Slow and Steady (Kapha)

  • You are sleeping at every opportunity but waking up exhausted.
  • You have developed conditions like depression, hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), or obstructive sleep apnea.

Intense (Pitta)

  • You experience chronic insomnia.
  • Since sleep disorders due to imbalance in this functional energy type are chiefly due to excessive stress, nightmares are common.

Poor sleep and insomnia plague many in the modern world. So as soon as you realize that you aren’t sleeping well, do everything possible to make the most of your body’s innate sleep mechanisms. It’s not as tough as it sounds. A proper sleep routine and some sleep-friendly foods and herbs are all you need.