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Dr. Murali Manohar Chirumamilla
Raksha Ayurvedalaya: The Family Wellness Center

Sleeplessness and Ayurvedic Treatment

Do you find yourself awake long after your family goes to bed? If insomnia bedevils your nights, you could find solace in the fact that you are not alone. It is estimated that one among four persons, especially those who have a hectic day schedule, suffer from insomnia. Sufferers may have trouble falling asleep at night, wake up in the middle of the night or wake up too early and can’t go to sleep again.

Look at your child. Few minutes back, he was turning and tossing on the bed. Now, he is fast asleep, reflecting perfect tranquillity on his innocent face. Why have we forgotten to sleep like a child? Because, we have learned to worry. We prefer to be more concerned.

On a typical day in our country, most of the people wake up feeling exhausted. They reach to shut off the alarm clock or window doors with sleepy eyes, to get more sleep.

Researchers have identified insomnia (lack of sleep) as a cause of serious disorders ranging from diabetes to high stress levels. The results show that it is taking a huge toll on the quality of life and the health of sufferers.

One of the reasons that insomnia is on the rise is the high stress levels and time pressures associated with modern living. The people would gladly get more sleep if they could, but the information age, which was supposed to make everything more efficient, has just made everything busier. Many people complain of insomnia, with stress during the day making them too tense or worried to be able to fall asleep at night. Lack of sleep, in turn, creates more stress on the job and at home. However, it is important to know at the outset that not all people require the same amount of sleep. Sleeping cycles vary among people and throughout a person’s life. Moreover, while one person may only require four hours of sleep, others may need ten hours.

Ayurveda is against the idea of sleeping during the day, especially during winters. In summer, however, a short nap during the day is okay. People suffering from Sprue syndrome should sleep after intake of food. Patients suffering from chronic diseases and those having fever, require more sleep. Children require more sleep than older people. On the other hand, those who put in hard physical labour, require more sleep.

All factors, that are responsible for aggravation of vaata and pitta in the human body, result from sleeplessness. Environmental and dietary factors also play a prominent role, and studies show that for unknown reasons, insomnia is more common in females than in males.

Sleep disturbances may have underlying physiological causes. Hence, treating the cause can solve the problem itself.

Some Research Facts

  • In USA alone, sleep deprivation is credited with 60 percent of road accidents—and drivers who stayed awake over hours, suffered impaired coordination, reaction time, and judgement worse than drivers who were legally drunk.
  • As far as health goes, those who sleep fewer than six hours a night, don’t live as long as those who sleep seven hours or more. Sleeping only four hours a night can cause weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • During sleep, the levels of several immune system helpers increases in your blood. Among these are helpers that protect the body from cancerous tumours. For instance, the level of TNF or tumour necrosis factor, which is one of the body’s most powerful cancer fighters, increases tenfold during sleep. On the other hand, lack of sleep reduces the level of natural killer cells, further compromising the immune system.
  • If you stay up late, your exposure to electric light interferes with certain hormone cycles, especially the secretion of melatonin. When melatonin levels fall, estrogen levels rise. Too much estrogen has, in turn, been shown to promote the growth of breast cancer. Another indicator of this link is that blind women only get breast cancer half as often as sighted women. Some studies indicate that other types of cancer are also less common among blind people.


Fortunately, lifestyle changes and herbal medicines can help treat the problem. You can try these time-tested remedies:

  • Do some exercise everyday—but never late in the evening.
  • Avoid caffeine in all forms, especially after lunch time.
  • Avoid long naps during the day.
  • Don’t choose alcohol as a remedy to sleeplessness. Even though alcohol is a sedative, it can disturb the sleep. Remember that sleep is different from sedation.
  • Drink buffalo milk. It contains rich amounts of an amino acid, L-tryptophan, which induces sleep.
  • Eat a sweet before going to bed. Sweets contain high amount of carbohydrates, which help inducing sleep.
  • Take a nice, long, warm bath before bed-time. Charaka Samhita says that bath is the best remedial measure to counteract exertion.
  • Read a book or do some repetitive, calm activity such as chanting a mantra.
  • Avoid distractions that may hold your attention and keep you awake, such as watching a suspense movie or a thrilling game.
  • Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. Create a quiet, dark atmosphere. Use clean, fresh sheets and pillow and keep the room temperature comfortable, neither too warm nor too cold.
  • Half a tablespoonful of fried cumin seed powder (safed-jeera) stuffed in banana cut length-wise is to be taken in the evenings. Alternately, inhalation of poppy seeds (gasagasaalu/afim) heated and wrapped in a cloth bag works excellently. You can even take glassful of milk with a pinch of nutmeg powder at bedtime.

Ayurvedic Remedies

Most people, unfortunately, are treating insomnia either by going to the medical shop and buying over-the-counter drugs, or by consulting their conventional doctor. Neither solution is working—over-the-counter drugs like Avil contain anti-histamines, which knock you out, but do not create a good quality of sleep or solve the underlying problem. Moreover, they weaken the immune system. Doctors tend to prescribe Calmpose-like drugs that are addictive within even a week of use. Moreover, it is not possible to induce a “natural” state of sleep with unnatural, synthetic, and in many cases, highly addictive drugs.

Ayurveda believes that the body has a deep, underlying integrity that renews, refills, and taken care of the entire human system. The disease takes its root when something interferes with this integrity. Therefore, ayurvedic remedies with plants and herbs are focused on regulating this integrity. These plants and herbs are again blended with their own natural integrity. The healing nutrients in these herbs unblock the shrotas or micro-circulatory channels through which our body moves nutrients, hormones, immune cells, and so on. Once the shrotas are clear, you are satiated with ojas or essential energy that governs and connects the body, mind and spirit. The result is a restful sleep. Sleep is one of the three pillars of ayurvedic healing, the other two being diet and lifestyle.

Ayurveda identifies three types of sleep disorders.

Type 1: This is caused by Vaata imbalance or mental stress. People, who toss and turn, unable to fall asleep because their mind is spinning, have this disorder. It results with anxiety, worry, and rushed activity during the day. Following remedial measures will help:

  • Eat more sweet, sour, and salty foods.
  • Eat three warm, cooked meals at the same time everyday.
  • Get to bed before 10.00 p.m. and rise by 6.00 a.m.
  • Avoid rushed work hurriedly done.
  • Include poppy-seed chutney (gasagasaalu) one hour before bed in your dinner.
  • Massage your hands and feet with Ksheera-bala tailam.
  • Use a relaxing aroma at bedtime.
  • Drink a cup of warm milk before bed.
  • Listen to some sweet music before bed.
  • Anti-vaata drugs like Vaata vidwansan ras are useful. Consult your ayurvedic physician before using them.

Type 2: This is caused by pitta imbalance or emotional trauma. This is intermittent awakening. With this disorder, you may fall asleep quickly but wake up frequently with palpitation, body pains, and emotional disturbances such as fear, anger, and sadness. Another pattern is that you wake up before dawn with ‘get-up-and-go’ mood, and find it difficult to go back to sleep. Following suggestions will help:

  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Eat more sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Eat enough dinner so that you do not wake up hungry.
  • Before bed, massage your feet with Mahaa chandanaadi tailam.
  • If you wake up in the night, take half-cup warm whole milk and one teaspoonful Gulkand (rose petal jam). Roses are cooling for the mind, body, and emotions.
  • If your head feels hot when you wake up in the night, mix three tablespoonfuls of coconut oil with 5 drops of lavender oil or badaam oil and massage it on your forehead.

Type 3: This is caused by kapha imbalance. Sometimes it is an early-morning awakening, sometimes it is characterised by sleeping in, but in any case, you will feel sluggish, tired, and completely exhausted even though you have had a full night’s sleep. Here is how you overcome this problem:

  • Be sure to rise before 6.00 a.m.
  • Do a morning massage with warm sesame oil or mustard oil.
  • Exercise everyday.
  • Sip warm water throughout the day.
  • Avoid eating too much heavy, sweet, sour, and salty food.
  • Eat a light, warm dinner (ideal) and season the food with fresh ginger and a small amount of black pepper.


Brahmi, jatamansi, valerian and aamla are pro-sedative, meaning that they help a person to relax into sleep:

The powder of these drugs are either taken separately or together in a dose of one teaspoonful, three times a day, followed by a cup of milk. Sesame oil boiled with these powders should be used for massaging the head and body before bathing. Now, let us look about the properties of these herbs:

Valerian root: Indian valerian, also known as tagar in Hindi, works on the nerve channels by clearing out toxins from the blood, joints, tissues, colon and nerves. Its basic role is to rejuvenate. However, valerian should not be taken on its own. For, it can have a somewhat dulling effect. It is best used as part of some herbal preparation.

Jatamansi: It is called jatamansi because it resembles jata or the tangled hair of the tapasvi or ascetic. It has been found to increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin. It is a sedative, anti-depressant, and anti-epileptic cardio-tonic and is regarded as one of the most effective remedies for neurosis. Though it normally has a sedative effect on the central nervous system and is used to tranquillise an anxious or over-stressed person, it has been observed that it can also stimulate someone who is suffering from fatigue. This is because it balances the organs and systems of the body. It can be taken as a powder, about quarter teaspoonful at a time. Or, soak it in warm water for 4-5 hours, strain and drink preferably at bedtime.

Aswagandha: This is an overall tonic for greater vitality and longevity. It enhances coordination between the mind and senses which, according to Ayurveda, is essential for good sleep. The recommended dose is half to one teaspoonful of powder taken twice a day followed preferably by warm milk.

Brahmi: It is a powerful brain food, which supports and improves all aspects of mental functioning. It is a calming and tranquillising herb. A cup of brahmi tea or powder or any other preparation with brahmi, taken at bedtime, will induce a peaceful sleep and its regular use will help to cure insomnia.

Attention Please!

Do you.....

  • have symptoms such as dullness, poor muscle tone and a lack of spontaneity?
  • have a tendency to be bored or depressed?
  • have tension, fear, and anxiety?
  • suffer from decreased cooperativeness, loss of acceptance of constructive criticism. Irritability, temper outbursts, lowered attention span, impaired recent memory, decreased sex drive, physical complaints such as headache or backache, decreased interest in personal care?
  • rely on coffee, cigarettes, and stimulants or even alcohol or drugs?
  • notice a reduction in general health and joy in living?

If your answer is “yes” to a majority of these questions, it might be an indication that your stress levels are too high and you are not sleeping enough, or deeply enough, for your health even if you do not have insomnia.


As we all are genetically different with different constitutions and patterns, we respond to treatments in many different ways. Hence Standard Ayurvedic Treatments are always individually formulated. This article is intended only for information. It is not a substitute to the standard medical diagnosis, personalized Ayurvedic treatment or qualified Ayurvedic physician. For specific treatment, always consult with a qualified Ayurvedic physician.


Dr. Murali Manohar Chirumamilla, M.D. (Ayurveda)
Plot No. 13, H.No: 16-2-67/13,
Ramamurthy Nagar (CBCID Colony),
Landmark: Kukatpally Area, Metro Train Pillar No. MYP 29.
PIN - 500 085. Telangana State


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