Beginner’s Guide to Insomnia Treatment in Ayurveda

In today’s fast-paced world, sleep disorders have become increasingly prevalent, with insomnia being one of the most common among them. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep despite having the opportunity to do so. It can significantly impair daily functioning and overall well-being if left untreated. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of insomnia, including its causes, symptoms, treatments, and health tips to manage and improve sleep quality.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It can manifest in various forms, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or waking up too early and being unable to return to sleep. Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term), with chronic insomnia lasting for three or more nights a week for at least three months.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can have numerous underlying causes, including:

  1. Stress and Anxiety: Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, or traumatic events can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to insomnia.
  2. Poor Sleep Hygiene: Irregular sleep schedules, excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, and exposure to electronic devices before bedtime can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to insomnia.
  3. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions such as chronic pain, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, or neurological disorders can interfere with sleep and contribute to insomnia.
  4. Medications: Some medications, including certain antidepressants, stimulants, and medications for high blood pressure or asthma, may have side effects that disrupt sleep and contribute to insomnia.
  5. Environmental Factors: Noise, light, temperature, and other environmental factors can impact sleep quality and contribute to insomnia.

Symptoms of Insomnia

The symptoms of insomnia can vary depending on its severity and duration. Common symptoms include:

  1. Difficulty falling asleep
  2. Waking up frequently during the night
  3. Waking up too early and being unable to return to sleep
  4. Non-restorative sleep
  5. Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  6. Irritability, mood swings, or difficulty concentrating
  7. Impaired performance at work or school
  8. Tension headaches or gastrointestinal distress

It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent sleep disturbances or insomnia symptoms, as they may indicate underlying health issues that require treatment.

Insomnia Treatments

Treatment for insomnia typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, behavioral therapy, and, in some cases, medication. Some common treatment approaches include:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a highly effective treatment for insomnia that focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to sleep disturbances. It may include techniques such as relaxation training, sleep restriction, and stimulus control.
  2. Sleep Hygiene Practices: Adopting healthy sleep habits can improve sleep quality and help alleviate insomnia symptoms. This includes maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bedtime, and limiting screen time.
  3. Medications: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to help manage insomnia symptoms. These may include over-the-counter sleep aids, sedatives, or antidepressants. However, medication should be used cautiously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they may have side effects and the risk of dependence.
  4. Addressing Underlying Issues: Treating underlying medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, can help alleviate insomnia symptoms. Healthcare providers may recommend therapy, medication, or other interventions to address these underlying issues.

Health Tips to Improve Insomnia

In addition to formal treatment approaches, making lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits can significantly improve sleep quality and alleviate insomnia symptoms. Some tips to promote better sleep include:

  1. Establishing a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate the body’s internal clock and promotes better sleep.
  2. Creating a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Engaging in calming activities before bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, can signal to the body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  3. Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and cool. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and remove any distractions such as electronic devices or noisy appliances.
  4. Limiting Stimulants and Electronics Before Bed: Avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep. Additionally, limit exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, or televisions, as the blue light they emit can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
  5. Engaging in Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep by reducing stress and anxiety and helping regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it may interfere with sleep.

Why do you need a good deep sleep?

Good sleep is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. It plays a vital role in various physiological and cognitive functions, and inadequate or poor-quality sleep can have significant consequences on physical, mental, and emotional health. Here are some reasons why good sleep is important for health:

  1. Restoration and Repair: During sleep, the body undergoes essential processes of repair, restoration, and rejuvenation. Cells and tissues are repaired, and the immune system is strengthened, helping the body recover from daily wear and tear and fight off infections and illnesses.
  2. Cognitive Function: Sleep plays a critical role in cognitive function, including memory consolidation, learning, and decision-making. Adequate sleep is essential for optimal cognitive performance, concentration, problem-solving abilities, and overall mental clarity.
  3. Emotional Regulation: Sleep plays a key role in emotional regulation and mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Getting enough sleep helps regulate emotions, reduce stress levels, and improve overall emotional well-being.
  4. Physical Health: Good sleep is associated with a lower risk of various chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt hormonal balance, increase inflammation, and negatively impact metabolic function, contributing to the development of these health conditions.
  5. Weight Management: Sleep plays a role in regulating appetite and metabolism. Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of hunger hormones, leading to increased appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and obesity.
  6. Immune Function: Adequate sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. During sleep, the body produces cytokines and other immune cells that help fight off infections and pathogens. Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
  7. Heart Health: Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep duration have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Good sleep is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and overall cardiovascular function.
  8. Longevity: Numerous studies have shown a strong association between good sleep quality, sufficient sleep duration, and longevity. Getting enough high-quality sleep on a regular basis is associated with a reduced risk of premature death and improved overall longevity.

Good sleep is essential for maintaining optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. Prioritizing sleep and adopting healthy sleep habits can have profound benefits for overall well-being and quality of life.

Insomnia Treatment in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, Anidra or Nidranasha is a condition correlated with insomnia. This is due to Vata dosha prakopa (aggravation of Vata dosha) and Kapha kshaya and Tamo kshaya (decreased kapha dosha or decreased tamoguna). This is explained as a disease in Vataja Nanatmaka Vikara (80 diseases of independent Vata dosha) in the classics of Ayurveda.

Along with Vata dosha Vruddhi, Pitta dosha prakopa also contributes to Anidra or Nidranasha. In some diseases like Vata Prakopa, Vatarakta (gouty arthritis), Vataja Prameha (diabetes due to vata dosha), Urustambha, Shiroroga (diseases of the head), Dhatu kshaya (depletion in the quality and quantity of Dhatu), etc. Anidra is mentioned as an etiological factor while in Jwara (fever), Apasmara (convulsions), etc. diseases it is seen as a pre-monitory symptom.


The dietary causes or Aharaja Nidana viz, excess consumption of ruksha (dry), laghu (light), teekshna (spicy), etc. food items, excess consumption of alcohol, caffeine, lifestyle etiological factors like excess indulgence in vyavaya (sexual activities), excess vyayama (physical exercise), untimely sleep, suppressing or controlling the sleep, excess exposure to television, mobile phones or any other electronic gadgets that emit harmful rays, (asukha shayya) sitting or sleeping in an uncomfortable position for a long time, psychological causes like bhaya (fear), chinta (worry), krodha (anger), etc. improper administration of therapies viz, vamana (emesis), virechana (purgation), nasya (installation of medicine in the nose), raktamokshana (bloodletting therapy), etc. elderly age group or Vayo vruddhi that is predominant of Vata Prakopa, etc., diseases that are psychiatric in nature like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. chronic diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, liver cirrhosis, malignancies, etc., and trauma are the etiological factors of Anidra or Nidranasha.

The Vata dosha gets aggravated due to the above-described causes that in turn will cause vitiation of Pitta and Kapha dosha respectively. Pitta gets aggravated while Kapha dosha gets depleted. Since Tamo guna (quality of Manasa Prakruti – a psychological factor) is predominant in Kapha dosha and contributes to the occurrence of sleep, it also gets decreased due to increased Vata dosha. Thus, leading to Anidra or Nidranasha.

Signs and symptoms

Shirogaurava (feeling of heaviness in the head), Jadyata (laziness), Angamarda (generalized body ache with heaviness), Jrimbha (yawning throughout the day), Bhrama (giddiness), Glani (tiredness or physical exertion), Tandra (stupor), Apakti (indigestion), Netragaurava (feeling of the heaviness in the eyes) are the symptoms of Anidra or Nidranasha.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Insomnia

Nidana Parivarjana (avoiding the etiology) is the first line of treatment, avoiding foods, lifestyle, and psychological factors that cause Anidra.

Insomnia Treatment in Ayurveda include Abhyanga (massage of the complete body) Shiroabhyanga (massage of the scalp or the head), Padabhyanga (massage of the feet), Utsadana (complete body rub with the help of medicated paste), Udwartana (complete body rub with the medicated powder), Netra Tarpana (eye pooling with the medicated oil/decoction/ghee), Karnapoorana (ear pooling with the medicated oil/decoction/ghee), Shirolepa (head pack with the medicated paste), Mukhalepa (face pack with the medicated paste), Shirodhara (pouring of medicated oil/decoction/buttermilk over the forehead in oscillatory movements), Shiropichu (placing the cotton dipped in medicated oil over the anterior fontanelle), Shirobasti (holding the medicated oil over the head), Samvahana (a form of treatment in which tactile movements are made over the head or the body).

The above insomnia treatment in Ayurveda help induce sleep in the person, relieve the aggravated Vata dosha and increase the Kapha dosha and Tamoguna.

The medicines that are administered in Nidranasha should possess the qualities that increase Kapha dosha and decrease the aggravated Vata dosha. Some drugs to mention are Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina), Jatamamsi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Tagara (Valeriana waliichi), Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) etc. either in the form of compound formulations or single-drug therapy can be administered in cases of Anidra.

Diet and lifestyle measures

Madhura and Snigdha bhojana (food that is abundant with sweet and oily dishes), Shali with dadhi (rice with curds), godhuma (wheat), ksheera (milk), mahisha dadhi (curds made of buffalo’s milk), draksha (grapes), ghrita (ghee), taila (oil), food products of guda and masha (jaggery and black gram), mamsa and mamsa rasa (meat and meat soup) of gramya ( animals of humid area), jangala (animals of arid regions), anupa (aquatic animals), etc. food items can be practiced that are helpful for good sleep.

Meditation, the practice of yoga asanas like tadasana, sukhasana, and padmasana, listening to pleasant music before going to sleep, sleeping in a room or place that is illuminated with minimal light, presence of mild breeze, calm, the bed and the cot is comfortable to sleep, usage of fragrance substances that are pleasant to mind and body, following regular patterns of sleep and wake, mild physical exercise or brisk walk before sleep are some of the lifestyle modifications for a sound sleep. 


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can significantly impact quality of life if left untreated. However, with the right combination of lifestyle changes, behavioral therapy, and, if necessary, medication, it is possible to improve sleep quality and alleviate insomnia symptoms. By adopting healthy sleep habits, addressing underlying issues, and seeking professional help when needed, individuals can take control of their sleep and enjoy the restorative benefits of a good night’s rest.

Ayurveda explains the condition called Anidra or Nidranasha which is delineated with insomnia. Anidra is caused due to Vata prakopa and Kapha dosha and tamoguna kshaya. This is mentioned as an independent disease of Vataja nanatmaka vikara. Nidranasha is an etiology and symptom in many diseases. The treatment for Anidra aims to reduce the aggravated Vata dosha and increase the decreased Kapha dosha and tamo guna. Abhyanga with shiras and pada, Netra and Karna poorana, Shirodhara, Samvahana, etc. are some of the treatment measures.

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