Sleep Apnea: Causes & Remedies – an Ayurveda 411

“Living Yoga” is a state of being calm and staying calm, of being kind and loving. It’s where you finally realize that virtuous intention results in virtuous karma. It’s when you align your thoughts, words and deeds to a higher purpose which allows you to fulfill your heart’s desires, while contributing positively to the universe.  It means aligning yourself with Nature, because when you do, you become more balanced, and have more time for practice and study. As a result of this yogic living, suffering becomes less of an option in your daily life.

One of the most important things you can do to Live Yoga is to have a daily routine and every day should begin with a good nights rest!  For people with sleep disturbances, this can be a huge challenge, no matter how much asana and meditation you do. Sometimes, no matter how many Maha Mrityunjaya you recite, sleep is difficult and disturbed.

A major disturbance in the Force occurs when we experience Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea is common in children and occurs in some adults and at high altitudes. It’s a brief interruption of breath during deep sleep, which can last for a few seconds or minutes. The National Institute for Health tells us that it can happen up to 30 times per hour! The breath interruptions are accompanied by choking or snoring when breathing begins again.  This can be taxing to the cardiovascular and respiratory system and may increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. It can be physically exhausting and lead to drowsiness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating due to lack of restful sleep.

According to Ayurveda, sleep apena is caused when Prana (a sub-dosha of Vata / Vayu) is being blocked by Tarpaka Kapha (a sub-dosha of Kapha).

Prana is the subtle essence of Vata / Vayu and is governed by Space (see this blog for the 101 on Space).  The function of Prana is to fill space and it is the vitality of life; the awareness which rides on the breath and is responsible for respiration.

Prana governs ingestion; it moves in and down from the cranium (head) to throat, heart, trachea, lungs, and diaphragm. It moves thought, feeling / emotion, sensation and perception.  When completely motionless, blissful awareness blooms.  It’s kinda important…

Tarpaka Kapha is a sub-dosha of Kapha.  In Sanskrit, Tarpaka means ‘to nourish, to retain, to record’.  It also refers to contentment.  Its qualities are thick, sticky, slimy, and soft.  It nourishes brain cells and is located mostly in the white matter of the brain, but also the spinal cord, myelin sheath (which surrounds and protects nerve cells), as well as in the sinuses and nasal passages for lubrication.

Too much Tarpaka Kapha in our sinuses and nasal passages cause snoring, sleep apnea.

Tarpaka Kapha disorders can cause other disease such as stroke paralysis, brain tumors, and Parkinson’s disease.  Concussion, contusion or a blow on the head can affect Tarpaka Kapha and cause memory loss or a change in personality.

Tarpaka Kapha also affects our mind and psychology:

Thoughts are a vehicle of Tarpaka Kapha.  A thought is a biochemical and neuro-electrical package that is carried throughout the sticky web of Tarpaka Kapha.

The relationship between Prana and Tarpaka Kapha is like a writer documenting their autobiography on film.  Prana is the writer, the movement of awareness, the instrument that documents the outer-world (what we see and perceive) to the sticky film of memory, which records every experience coupled with its emotion, now embedded on the endless film of our white matter’s Tarpaka Kapha.

Too much Tarpaka Kapha can lead to difficulty living in the ‘here and now’.  It can be difficult to stop clinging to past events that may have had a negative impact on us, coloring our sticky web of Tarpaka Kapha.

Step 1 to modifying this is to understand the relationship between thought and its vehicle and begin to send positive messages to our cells.  ‘Energy follows thought and moves on the waves of the breath’ – the great safe Vyasa tells us this…so send healing thoughts with every breath.  Breathe in the clarity and nourishment of Prana and as you exhale, see, sense or feel it moving to the tiniest cell nucleus, sending vitality, unconditional love and nourishment.

Step 2 is to understand that within Tarpaka Kapha, there is a space beyond time and aging, which is reached through sensitive awareness, getting past the subtle impressions and samskaras.  This allows us to live in a quality of consciousness – the heaven on earth - seeing that change cannot happen in the past, nor can we change our past, so the timelessness of ‘now’ becomes our new perception.  With gentle practices of awareness and letting go, we can allow ourselves to become un-stuck from the old experiences lurking in our conscious and unconscious memory.  Meditation may stir old memories up; you can work with a Therapist and/or Yoga Therapist to help process out old traumatic experiences.  Working with an experienced Teacher can help you with the practice of vichara and breaking the samskara/vasana/karma wheel.

Ayurveda 101 for better sleep:

  • Rub dosha-specific oil to the soles of your clean feet and scalp, which promotes restful sleep. Vata – sesame oil. Pitta – sunflower oil. Kapha – corn oil
  • Do some light spiritual reading while sitting up in bed
  • Meditate – clear the mind with some pure breathing, then allow thoughts to bubble up, with no judgement, enabling your innate Intelligence to address them for you
  • Go to bed at the same time each night: Vata should in bed by 10pm, awake at 6am. Pitta – in bed by 10pm, awake at 5:30am. Kapha constitution wants more sleep, but needs less! You can stay up later, but try to wake well before 6am with a bit of exercise or nature walk for a running start to your day. Be careful of sluggishness and drowsiness when waking during the Kapha time of day, which is 6-10 (AM and PM)
  • Eat your final meal at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Turn off all screens and electronics 30 minutes before bedtime

Specific to Sleep Apnea, Ayurveda recommends that we manage our Kapha by reducing cold drinks, sweet foods, reduce overeating / late night eating and use a treatment of pippali:

~Take ¼ tsp pippali with 1 tsp honey + 1 tsp ghee on an empty stomach each morning and evening.
*Pippali can be inflammatory for Pitta, so be mindful of skin rashes, acne, and loose stools.
~Alternatively, you can use trikatu churna (equal amounts pippali, black pepper & ginger) in the honey/ghee mixture.

~For additional support, instill 5 drops of warm brahmi ghee or plain ghee in each nostril morning and night before going to bed.

~Try to sleep on your left side and use a hot water humidifier (not an ultrasound humidifier).  If struggling with obesity, eat a Kapha reducing diet, consult with your physician to help establish a daily gentle exercise, and consult your Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor for certain herbal remedies.

Imbalances can be brought under control by working with diet and lifestyle to bring ourselves back into harmony with our True Nature.  The body has an amazing capability to heal itself - Yoga & Ayurveda help us get out of the way! It’s the most natural way of life you can imagine and has been around for well over 5,000 years.

Sweet dreams Dear Friends!

Comments (3)

  • anon

    your article is excellent. I had severe sleep apnea and I cured it almost 100% by following kapha diet for a while and then switching to pitta diet since my constituent is pitta-vata. Thanks for sharing this. is there any way I can email you my questions?

    Oct 17, 2018
  • anon

    Congratulations for having cured Sleep Apnea !!!!!!!!! I am Ruchir Shah from India, I am overweight and recently diognised with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Please guide me which diet you went for to cure OSA. Thanking you, Regards, Ruchir.

    Nov 04, 2018
  • anon

    I was diagnosed 2 years ago at age 63. Symptoms were tremor in right leg, loss of handwriting ability, and soft voice. I also have difficulty rising from a seated position and have balance issues. I started out taking only Azilect, then Mirapex, and 6 months ago Sinemet. Several months ago I started falling frequently, hence the reason for Sinemet. I tried every shots available but nothing worked. In June 2018, my neurologist and I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to Natural Herbal Gardens natural organic Parkinson’s Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this treatment, the Tremor, falling frequently, stiffness, body weakness, balance issues, depression and others has subsided. Visit Natural Herbal Gardens official website ww w. naturalherbalgardens. com. This treatment is a breakthrough for all suffering from Parkinson’s, don’t give up Hope. Keep Sharing the Awareness, herbs are truly gift from God.

    Nov 12, 2018