I’ve contemplated and researched every insomniac’s trick out there. (You can catch up on my personal experience with insomnia and my 14 insomnia solutions if you find yourself with an hour to kill at 3am sometime soon.)

The only (Ayurvedic) sleep advice you need to read - sarahwilson.com
Image via The Ivy House

Eventually you have to drill things down to The Thing That Works. Of course, there are always several factors. But mostly there’s a core one that feeds the rest, or takes care of the rest when you kick into Solution Finding Mode.

I mostly find Ayurveda is all about this: drilling down, going to the root. Wonderfully, during my stay at an Ayurvedic clinic in India last month, the doctors looking after me pretty much drilled down to this root trick:

Go to bed by 10pm.

Their Ayurvedic explanation goes like this…

Different times of day have different energetic forces aligned with the doshas. (I explain the dosha deal here.)

  • 6-10am and 6-10pm is Kapha time, which is good for rejuvenating (in the morning) or slowing down (at night time).
  • 10-2am and 10-2pm is Pitta time. This is when your body’s oven is on full force (heat!). During the day your metabolism is most active, during the night your mind processes all the things you’ve encountered mentally during the day.
  • 2-6am and 2-6pm is Vata time. The most creative time of day for most of us.

So what’s the deal with 10pm?

Yes, well, going to bed by 10pm means you will be putting your head down during  Kapha time – the perfect time for drifting off into a peaceful night’s sleep. If you stay up later, you move into Pitta time and your energy will be more “heated” and make it harder for you to fall asleep.

Contemporary or Western thinking tends to agree with the 10pm rule, without really understanding why. A recent article in the New Yorker says science shows that sticking to a prescribed bed time each night can certainly be beneficial for somebody struggling with insomnia. Because if you’re “out of phase” from typical bedtimes, your melatonin levels get off kilter. The hormone that usually tells you to fall asleep isn’t produced in enough quantity, or the necessary receptors are missing.

Ayurvedic consultant Nadia Marshall, director ofThe Mudita Institute near Byron Bay, shares this: Ayurvedic belief is that the production of hormones in the body are cyclical and are a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm of nature. If our hormone secretion is out of sync with nature it’s because our daily, sleep and seasonal routines are out of sync. If we want our hormones to be secreted in a smooth, calm, cyclical way, we need our daily and sleep routines to be in tune with the rhythms and cycles of nature.

So, of course, those melatonin issues sort themselves out when you get to bed by 10pm. Which goes back to the Ayurvedic “core issue”.

Me, I’ve been doing the Bed by Ten thing for a while now and I’ve noticed whenever I slip over the threshold toward 11pm, I struggle to drift off, and yet still wake at the same time, exhausted.

Have you experienced troubles falling asleep? Does a 10pm cut-off work for you?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • When I moved over to LA I stayed in my ‘jet lag’ sleep routine for a month which was asleep by 10pm, sometimes 9.30 and up at 6am. I felt amazing, and trying to get back into it!

  • Dolly Levi

    I’m having trouble sleeping at the moment. I can’t get to sleep, when I do I wake up around 2am then, wake up feeling like shit at 6am. I think I need to burn some Sage and start going for an afternoon stroll.

    • And shut off earlier from technology…it works!

      • Penny

        So true- I have been logging my bedtimes and wake-up times and it’s those nights when I am social media binging (ergh why do I do this? Such a time sucker and confidence eroder) that I hit the hay wayyyy after 11pm….consequently I can’t get out of bed until 8am, have to rush like buggery to work and feel unprepared and overwhelmed all day. I need 9 hours kip and I need to make that a priority no matter what. 10pm would be my ultimate cut-off bedtime too, if I am to get up early and make my days real.

  • Emily

    As a chronic insomniac I place my treatment firmly in my sleep specialists hands. So far my treatment has included a sleep study (free through the public system but it took 6 months to happen), which ultimately eliminated other causes of insomnia, ie restless leg or sleep apnoea. So I have primary insomnia and now take nightly doses of gabapanten. I’m still working up to the maximum dose and it is a good drug, (no side effects and not habit forming unlike sleeping meds). In combination I am doing an excellent online program by the Cleveland Wellness Centre called Go! To Sleep. This utilises a number of strategies including mindfulness and sleep restriction, and you have to log your sleep nightly for 6 weeks. Prior to finding my sleep specialist I had tried everything…acupuncture…herbs…meds…hypnotherapy…relaxation…more meds! You make it, I tried it. The beauty of the Go! To Sleep program is that it is evidence based and teaches you about common things insomniacs do that actually perpetuate their sleeplessness (like going to bed when you are not 100% sleepy, because you feel you ‘should. My sleep is still quite a see saw, but at least I’m getting SOME and am much less stressed about sleep meds. Hopefully by the end of my 6 week sleep restriction program I’ll be successfully ‘scheduling’ sleep every night and feeling able to take a sleeping tablet here and there without getting stressed about it. Hope this helps.

  • Daniel L

    I love Ayurveda!!! You are always publish an article at most appropriate time 🙂 I am just working on adjusting my biorhythm again to go to bed at 10pm, which is definitely the sweetest spot for me… It worked always in the past and everything else was in harmony much more when I had regular cut-off at around 10pm…Everything that you wrote in this post today is spot on !
    Happy the first day of the Spring and enjoy it a lot 🙂

  • M

    Re. Recent vegetable identification competition – I hope you didn’t post a turnip or a swede into Tasmania as that would breech our state’s quarantine laws…!

  • Sasha

    Thank you for sharing so much helpful information. I look forward to reading all your posts and appreciate your honesty and generosity. The question I have for you is not related to this post but I am writing it here in the hope that you will see it. I met you when you spoke at the Melbourne Writers Festival. I thoroughly enjoyed all the deep and meaningful things you shared but my question is related to something more superficial. I am sure people tell you this all the time but….I was struck by how absolutely beautiful your skin is. You are even more radiant and gorgeous and YOUNG looking in person. Now I know you’ve said quitting sugar helped your skin, and I assume genes has something to do with it too, and I know you use oils to cleanse and moisturize, but do you have any other secrets you can share? Do you wear sunscreen on your face/body?? I have grown afraid of the sun because everyone says it ages the skin but it seems you are often outside in the sun surfing, walking etc and your skin is better than most teenagers’. If you have any tips for those of us less blessed I’d love to hear them (and I’m sure others would too. Nothing like vanity to keep us motivated to eat well and exercise. I know it’s sad to say but there’s some truth to it). Thanks again for all your work Sarah – thanks to you I have now been sugar free for over a year and it’s made a world of difference.

  • Sophie

    I so need to do this. I notice that between 9.30-10pm I feel so tired and just want to sleep. But I only get my kids to sleep between 8.30-9 and finally have some precious time to myself, and have hours of things to catch up on. I push through it, stay up until 11 or 11.30 and of course am chronically sleep-deprived. My challenge is to let go of things that I have to get done. Not quite sure how to do that though.

    • Kate Harrison

      I’m the same Sophie! My kids also don’t drop off until 8.30-9pm, so the precious window of time before bed is all I have on my own at home to enjoy! It takes a lot of motivation to choose to go to bed, over being happily involved in my evening hobbies without the kids voices penetrating my thoughts.

  • Molly

    i have just been getting into this 10pm is bed time, i was staying up til such silly times, waking at 6am and yadda yadda you all know the feeling…but only this week i introduced the 10pm and no later to bed and omg wow! has done wonders, im asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, im sleeping more solidly, and im up happily at 6am to start my day with 2 kids and a husband who are up at the crack of dawn! and i have the energy to exercise.

  • MezMoz

    I struggled with insomnia for over a decade until I came across Guy Meadows and The Sleep School. He advocates Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and for me it worked. Once I gave up the struggle to sleep and trying to fix my insomnia I was able to sleep. I highly recommend his book – especially if you’ve tried everything else.

  • JN08

    Are quest bars OK to eat?