Depression is a framework that can cause issues with sleep. About 40% of individuals who suffer from depression suffer from hypersomnia (oversleeping), however, about 75% of individuals suffering from depression suffer from insomnia. Symptoms of insomnia include not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, waking often through the night, not feeling rested, irritability, anxiety, and increased symptoms of depression. Discover how Ayurvedic medicine for depression and insomnia can help create a more balanced life.
How Ayurveda defines Depression
…Any kind of volitional bodymind movement, whether mental or physical, constitutes a kind of action, or karma. Each action or volition leaves an impression (samskāra) in the deepest part of memory, there to lie dormant for a time and then spring forth into some new, related action. This in turn will create fresh latent expressions, in a cycle of latency and action. – The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, translated by Chip Hartranft
Ayurveda recognizes depression as the disconnect between the mind, body, and spirit and an imbalance of the mana vaha srotas or the channels of the mind. The causes can be traced to traumas, genetics, environment, fear, and doshic imbalances, all of which results in a disconnect between the koshas. This space of weakness and defectiveness is referred to as khavaigunya, and when vulnerable, dis-ease sets in.
The symptoms of depression can be similar yet different among the doshas: Vata may present more anxiety and insomnia paired with their depression, Pitta may experience increased irritability and anger as well as insomnia, and Kapha may be the one to experience hypersomnia and may eat sweets to feel better (although Kapha predominant individuals can still suffer from insomnia depending on their vikruti and prakruti).
Best Ayurvedic Medicine for Depression and Insomnia
Disorders of the mind are imbalances related to rajas and tamas. When one is exposed to energies and influences that are sattvic in nature, they do not suffer from dis-ease or imbalance. The treatment of depression and insomnia in Ayurveda requires the implementation of sattvic energies in the regimen of care, and may potentially include:
Implementing daily meditation, especially in the morning and evening, can greatly reduce insomnia and lessen depression. Meditation is a reset for the mind and gives space for the mind to relax, rejuvenate, and connect to calmness. In Ayurveda, understanding and relaxing one’s own mind is important when directing towards balance and inner fulfillment. The world is full of unhealthy influences that can distort the natural state of the mind, causing illnesses and imbalances, and meditation helps to reverse that distortion.
Panchakarma entails the deep detoxification and cleansing of a person’s body and consciousness. It helps the individual reach a state most near their prakruti. Each person’s panchakarma treatment will look different. The importance of panchakarma may involve snehana, vamana, virechana, bastis, abhyanga, svedhana, shirodara, and more. Panchakarma should be performed by the appropriately licensed or certified individuals according to one’s state or country, preferably an Ayurvedic physician and Ayurvedic practitioner. The treatments are specifically tailored to each individual’s case.
A sattvic diet includes fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, organic grains, limited dairy products (always prepared accordingly), herbal teas, and plenty of water. Adding a teaspoon of Chyawanprash to one’s daily diet also contributes to sattvic eating. A sattvic diet also includes getting enough fresh air! The individual would be suggested to avoid spicy, salty, fried, frozen or fermented foods, as well as avoiding excessive meat or alcohol. Incorrect food combining should also be avoided, like combining milk/yogurt with meat.
The company you keep can greatly influence the mental state. This can include friends, family, coworkers, and most importantly, your environment. The environment with which you live and work in will influence your mental health and can bring about dis-eases like stress, anxiety, depression, and affect your self-esteem and self-worth. Making sure to create healthy boundaries, or making shifts in your life where needed to protect your healthy mental state is very important.
Specific herbs can help alleviate insomnia and treat depression. Although herbal remedies should be prescribed specifically for one’s dosha and conditions, these herbs are often used for sleep issues, calming the mind, and helping with depression:
- Tagar (Valerian)
- Vacha (Calamus)
In Ayurveda, psychotherapy is referred to as satvavajaya, and includes the methods of yoga, pranayama, mantra, chanting, and talk therapy. Incorporating a daily yoga practice helps increase serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and blood flow in the brain, which helps to regulate sleep patterns and elevate mood. Pranayama helps to calm the mind, balance the nervous system, provide cellular regeneration, and provide strength to the organs, mind, and spirit. As well as mantras, chanting, and talk therapy with a professional, studies have shown that a significant improvement in sleep patterns and depression have been found with Ayurvedic Psychotherapy.
While we can help provide a framework with Ayurvedic medicine to help treat depression and insomnia, it is recommended that you consult with your Ayurvedic Physician or Ayurvedic practitioner to ensure and develop the correct treatment plan specifically for you.
Mental health is the most important factor in health and wellness and provides a framework for a healthy and enjoyable life. It should be a standing priority when working towards optimal health.
Ceanna Saatsaz is a Licensed Master Esthetician, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, and Certified Professional Herbalist from Seattle, WA.