Several years ago, someone invited me to a late-night event on a weeknight. I politely said no. By the time I returned home and went to bed, it would have been past midnight. I knew my Ayurvedic clock would not accommodate it.
I am one of those cool kids (wink, wink) who’s asleep before 10 pm and awake at brahma muhurta, otherwise known as the “the Creator’s hour.” It begins one hour and 36 minutes before sunrise and lasts 48 minutes, concluding 48 minutes before sunrise. (There are 15 48-minute periods in an entire night; brahma muhurta is the 14th.) This is considered the best time for meditation and spiritual practice because the mind is fresh, tranquil, and free of thoughts. Going by this Ayurvedic clock, I simply couldn’t attend my friend’s weeknight event.
Winding Your Ayurvedic Clock
I haven’t always been so vigilant about being in bed before 10 pm. In my twenties, I partied late and thought weekends were for catching up on sleep. I still remember how sleeping in made me feel a little foggy and lethargic. Ayurveda explains why.
For over 5,000 years, Ayurveda
has been emphasizing the importance of dinacharya (daily routine). It is designed to maintain and connect us to our circadian rhythms or internal body clocks. Dinacharya makes us understand the best time for our daily routines, such as waking up, exercising, relaxing, doing creative work, eating, sleeping, meditating, and much more. This is necessary to maintain balanced health. But when you’re young and feel invincible or rely heavily on fitting in and being accepted by others, you don’t often pause to think about what’s not working.
[Read: “The Risks of Disrupted Circadian Rhythms.”]
Although people generally have enough knowledge about the importance of a good diet and exercise, they’re more likely to ignore the importance of sleep, which can have drastic consequences on health. Between social media, overconsumption of news and shows, late-night gatherings, and labels (“night owls are cool!”), we mess around with our body clock.
The Perils of Sleep Deprivation
You probably already know that not getting enough quality sleep affects your ability to concentrate, can age you more quickly, and may even increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Did you also know that sleep deprivation can make you more prone to accidents, cognitive dysfunction, and depression and that messing around with your sleep cycle can disrupt the hormonal balance in your body?
A 2018 study found that night owls were nearly twice as likely as early risers to have a psychological disorder and 30 percent more likely to have diabetes. Their risk for respiratory disease was 23 percent higher and 22 percent higher for gastrointestinal disease.
You get it: sleep is a powerful force and good sleep dispenses a multitude of life-changing benefits—from making us more productive to prolonging our lives. But did you know that the time you head to bed is one of the most important aspects of good sleep?
Tic-Toc: Counting Your 4-Hour Dosha Block
Ayurveda (in Sanskrit, the “science of life”) sees the day differently. According to Ayurveda, the day is broken into six four-hour blocks—one day block and one night block for each of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We need to keep our daily rhythms set to the age-old Ayurvedic clock, so we can live a mindful, healthy, and balanced life.
Let’s begin with the Kapha
time of day, because time periods always begin with Kapha dosha—6 am to 10 am. Kapha time flows into Pita time, which begins at 10 am and continues until 2 pm. Pitta
governs the time of productivity, the time that the sun is highest in the sky, and there is more heat in the natural world. The Pitta time of day fades as the Vata
time of day begins, at 2 pm. Vata time continues until 6 pm, as the day gives way to night.
Vata, which is made of the elements air and space (ether), governs the time of transition. As the cycle continues, and we move towards night, times ruled by the doshas repeat.
- Kapha: 6 pm to 10 pm.
- Pitta (the time of internal cleansing): 10 pm to 2 am
- Vata: 2 am to 6 am