What is Sleep?
It’s the absence of being awake, that promotes good cognitive and physical health. Our temperament and quality of life are two main things that are determined by our sleep routine. A healthy sleep regimen is referred to as having good sleep hygiene. Almost one-third of 24 hrs is spent sleeping, and without it, it’s not possible to maintain the pathway within the brain that lets us learn and create memories. It is an important refreshment to the brain, which helps in brain functions like communication between the nerve cells. It affects almost every part of the body including the heart, lungs, metabolism, brain, immune function, and also mood. It is the time
period when cells and tissues undergo repair and eliminate toxins. It supports the immune system and also balances hormones.

According to Ayurveda, sleep is an important key factor and a un – neglected thing, which contributes to the ability to survive and thrive, an individual. Many factors like happiness, sexual powers, strength, nourishment, knowledge, etc. are dependent on the quality of sleep. An imbalance in it may destroy happiness and life. Staying awake at night causes dryness within the body and vitiates Vata Dosha. Also, sleeping during day time causes moisture content within the body and increases Kapha Dosha. A loss of sleep will lead to pain in body parts, heavy head, yawning, exhaustion, giddiness, indigestion, and vata origin. It may further risk upcoming diseases like high blood pressure, delusions, headaches, heart diseases, mood issues, weight gain, obesity, increased stress, diabetes, impaired immune system, weakening of digestion, decrease in creativity, and so on.

What are hormones?
Hormones are the chemical messengers which are responsible for mood, anxiety levels, fertility, appearance, weight, and energy. An imbalance in hormone levels may cause disruption of a system within the body. Usually, hormonal conditions are seen in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, post-partum, perimenopause, and menopause. Excessive hair growth, acne, skin breakouts, urinary tract infection, anxiety, irritability, migraines, frequent headaches, problem in sleeping, fatigue, water retention, oily and dry skin, endometriosis, mood swings, weight gain, depression, etc. are the problems associated with disturbance in hormonal levels. Thus, it
becomes necessary to maintain a balance.

The common reasons for hormonal imbalance are – improper nutrition, adrenal exhaustion, stress and anxiety, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, intake of drugs, and stimulants, and most essentially, lack of sleep or its disruption.

The term “Dhatu Agni” is given to hormones in Ayurveda. It is carried by the blood and thus, considered a component of Pitta Dosha. The food intake and routine bring change in Rakta Dhatu i.e. blood. Ayurveda rests on the principle of balancing the tridoshas namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Every individual has a unique constitution of these Doshas which determines the Prakriti of an individual. The correction in the imbalance of Doshas helps to attain hormonal balance by eliminating the root cause. Sometimes stuck emotions deeply impact the health of an individual, and Ayurveda focuses on curing the same. As it is a medicinal science in which not only physical but mental and conscious health are considered and thus, indirectly addresses hormonal imbalances.

Hormones and sleep:
Sleep impacts hormones and hormone levels impact sleep (a vice versa relationship). Sleep impacts almost every hormone in the body including those related to stress and hunger. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for the balance of hormones like cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone, hunger hormones like insulin, leptin, melatonin, thyroid hormone, and growth hormones. Melatonin is the hormone that is released during sleep i.e. it controls sleep patterns. During deep sleep, growth hormones are released which are essential for cellular-level repair and growth.

An adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. If not so, missing sleep may lead to a decrease in immunity, frequent infections, an increase in illness, spikes in appetite, more calorie consumption, and weight gain. All these are the cause of excess accumulation of Kapha Dosha, which leads to blockage on Ama within the body. Once Ama is stored, it opens the door to many diseases. Also, hormones are disrupted due to inadequate sleep. While staying awake, cortisol is released. If cortisol is produced for a longer time, it means that the body is producing more energy than needed; which leads to higher levels of ghrelin hormone and less leptin (both these hormones
are responsible for fullness, fat storage, blood sugar levels, and hunger).

Further, more sleep is also not good. It lowers the cognitive function of the brain. It may also lead to grogginess, daytime fatigue, reduction in metabolism, impaired focus, and disturbed sleep cycles.

Hormones are affected by diet, environment, and weather. They further affect hormones, digestive fire, and the mind. Ayurveda defines insomnia as Nidra-Nasha, which is due to the accumulation of dirt and impurities. Ayurveda shares that sleep is more essential than diet, but a proper diet is necessary for deep sleep. In case of improper sleep, Doshas get accumulated in the body and lead to physical and psychological conditions. Thus, it is important to follow a rhythmic lifestyle in order to maintain homeostasis within the body.