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Insomnia: An Ayurvedic Approach

Sleep is an essential phenomenon for the maintenance, recuperation and restoration of both body and mind for all living beings.

Insomnia is the inability to get sleep throughout the night in a recurring manner. In Ayurveda it comes under Vata nanatamja roga and is called Anidra or Nidranash.

Ayurveda has mentioned Aahara (food), Nidra (sleep), and Bramhacharya (celibacy) as three Upastambha (sub pillars). These triad are very important to live a healthy life. Among these, Nidra (sleep) is an integral part.

According to Ayurveda, the state when mind and body go to rest, it is said that the living body is asleep. When the mind is afflicted by tamo guna during the night, the Kapha dosha increases and natural sleep is inflicted. Kapha dosha is responsible for growth and development of our body tissue and increase immunity to fight against diseases.

In the state of anger and depression, Vata dosha increases which leads to Insomnia (Anidra).

Improper sleep leads to:

  • Fatigue, Laziness
  • Confusion
  • Headache, Body ache
  • Indigestion
  • Difficulty with tasks and learning
  • Anxiety
  • Researches show that inadequate sleep can increase risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases.

Causes of Insomnia:

  • Stress, anxiety
  • Medical condition
  • Change in environment of work schedule
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Several psychiatric and physical illnesses have strong relationship with Insomnia


Ayurveda says people having Vata Pittaja Prakriti and Rajasika Prakriti are more prone to suffer Insomnia.  

According to Ayurveda, anxiety vitiates Vata and Pitta. Pitta increases the heat which, in turn, reduces sleep. Lack of sleep further augments vitiation of Vata, which builds a cumulative effect on the body.

Home remedies and preventive measures:

It is believed in Ayurveda that the health issues can be taken care of by the right combination of food, lifestyle and herbs. There are some ways in Ayurveda to combat Insomnia:

  • Abhyanga (full body massage), Padabhyanga (foot massage) and Shiro abhyanga (head massage with oil should be practiced.
  • Diet which is sweet (Madhur) in taste should be consumed.
  • Milk & ghee (clarified butter) also help in alleviating Insomnia.
  • A lot of herbs are described in Ayurveda literature which give relief in Insomnia:
    • Ashwagandha
    • Jatamansi
    • Brahmi
    • Gotukola
    • Shankhpushpi
    • Pippalimool
    • Sarpagandha
    • Tagar (Indian Valerian)
    • Shirodhara (with herbal oil or milk) is a rejuvenating therapy which has proven beneficial in sleep disorders. In this therapy, oil or milk is dripped on the forehead of the affected person for a certain time. This gives relaxation to the body & mind.

Yogic Practices, Pranayama & Meditation

One should follow Yoga Asanas & Pranayama as a daily regime to combat with stress and anxiety.

Following Pranayama and postures are helpful in Insomnia

  • Chandra bhedan Pranayama
  • Bhramri
  • Ujjayi
  • Shoulder stand pose
  • Forward bending pose
  • Downward dog pose
  • Corpse pose
  • Child pose
  • Meditation

Bed time rituals:

  • Take a bath with warm water.
  • Avoid having tea, alcohol and coffee as they are stimulants affecting the sleep.
  • Have a glass of warm milk.
  • Stay away from screen one hour before sleep.
  • Listen soothing music.
  • Breathing exercise (left nostril) & Meditation.
  • Comfortable & cool ambience.
  • Massage your feet with warm oil.
Each person is born with different constitution (prakriti), so one should always consult with their practitioner before changing their diet and habits to assure that they have ample guidance.