Circadian Rhythms & Ayurveda: Week 1 Of My 30 Day Birthday Challenge

Circadian medicine (western research), Dinacharya (Ayurveda), Chinese clock (TCM) – modern research or ancient systems, all these describe physiological processes within a 24-hour period.

Now that I’ve made it through the first week of my 30 Day Birthday Challenge, I want to recap a few insights. And while I’ve been working on achieving all goals more or less simultaneously – I shall talk about those in another post! – today I want to sum up a few tools and techniques that I’ve been using to achieve my time-related goals.

NB: If you’re looking for tips how to fight stress-induced insomnia or for a countdown to a healthy night’s sleep, these earlier post classics are for you (and I still follow these tips myself very successfully – of course always tweak what you learn to fit your personal health / life situation):


The 30 Day Birthday Challenge:
Time Goals

Hello. My name is Nath, and I’m a time-waster.

Time is all we have, all I have, and I’m behaving very generously when spending it. That’s why goals related strictly to time, maybe even “time management”, are in fact four:

Goal #5. Try to align my daily life to the Ayurvedic clock for one month. Is it as power-boosting as they say it is? How does it feel? Is it doable? Does it work!?

Goal #6. Establish regular mealtimes, with at least 4 hour food-free breaks between them.

Goal #7. Stop overscheduling my time. *sigh* Seriously, I’m such an idiot for waking up each morning hoping that this day might last 25 hours or longer!

Goal #8. Up the ante working out: work out regularly instead of fitting in a session between two hectic appointments.

After longer consideration, I have decided that goals 6-8 were not to be seen as a “linear” to-do list of goals but that they were rather dependent on my Ayurveda experiment and were easier to achieve if I were following some general time system. And here’s how my Ayurveda-inspired day routine went so far!

My Ayurveda Sleep Lab:
Time Is On My Side (Again)

Ever since my first, Traditional Chinese Medicine inspired “Sleep Lab” experiments in 2013, I’ve been reading about Circadian rhythms and ultimately, got quite fascinated by the Ayurvedic clock or daily routine known as Dinacharya.

My apologies to all Ayurveda wizards in advance: I know that what I talk about here is simplified and shortened. However, I have never claimed to be a guru. I sincerely appreciate the system and understand wholly that I could fill a whole new blog with the topic alone.

While many of Dinacharya’s detailed steps are too complex and too precise/ elaborate for a cookie cutter, one-fits-all and doable solution (for my taste and understanding of individual health situations), the general definition of a day’s course is very interesting, with lots of clues for mealtimes, bedtime, times when you’re at your efficient best.

Each day consists of six four-hour cycles, making it one day and one night cycle for each of the three doshas – three Ayurvedic elements. Aligning our daily grind to this ancient Ayurvedic clock promises fulfilment and health and unicorns.

Modern science, in particular our latest understanding of our hormonal system, backs up key ideas of the Ayurvedic clock, and a book that I really recommend here is The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried (it’s written specifically for women, and I haven’t found a similarly well-written and unbiased oeuvre for men, sorry guys! Please let me hear in the comments if you know a great book).

Now, how do the dosha cycles roll?

Each day starts at theoretical sunrise when the earthy and heavy kapha dosha reins from 6 am to 10 am. That’s why Dinacharya suggests you should wake up before the kapha cycle, in other words, waking up before 6 am is a breeze, while waking up after 6 is a burden. Who knew!
Workout and labour-intense work are considered ideal during kapha time, and I think we all know the satisfaction of checking off a hearty to-do list before ten in the morning! 😉

Pitta is 10 am to 2 pm, fiery and hot, and best for digestion (that’s why you should never skip lunch!).

Vata, airy and dry, starts at 2 pm until 6 pm, before then it’s kapha time again.
The afternoon vata cycle is considered ideal for stillness, meditation and being aware. What do you crave? What do you wish for? What can you do to start your daily unwind routine?
Stress avoidance is key.
…Now go and practice that on a busy day in the office! Needless to say, this is the cycle I struggle with the most, one week in. However, I quickly resolved to doing all the planning in advance which gives me more calm for the execution of the tasks. And this is how Ayurveda saved me from overscheduling. Wait. Almost.

Here’s a visual dosha cycle reminder that I’m using:Ayurveda-DoshaCycleAccording to Ayurveda, going to bed before 10 pm is vital for a good night’s sleep – and it should be particularly easy during the kapha cycle. This is when we are naturally sleepy.
It gets tricky to fall asleep after 10 pm, when the fire of pitta takes over and we feel energised again.

This might be the reason why I used to think I was a strange type of owl: I was always really sleepy around 9 pm, but staying up after ten, I felt a second breath and could easily burn the midnight oil, staying wide awake until the morning! And let’s be honest here, we love to sabotage this natural cycle by eating a heavy and late dinner, drinking a glass of red, or by binge-watching something exciting… Fear The Walking Dead season 2 anyone? 🙀

I want to highlight again that I was more than excited to learn that our modern-day understanding of how hormonal cycles work – melatonin, cortisol etc. – aligns very much with this ancient wisdom.

Yeah, But Does It Work?
Week 1 Results

I’m very happy so far, and despite all drawbacks that happened on the way, it’s been a damn good idea to run the challenge.

While I haven’t reached perfection yet, going to bed at 10 pm is already working, falling asleep about half an hour later works too. And waking up – without any alarm call! – seven and a half hours later feels reeeeeeally good. Mealtimes are on time; and I haven’t skipped any workout just because I forgot it’s time to call it a day in terms of work (I love my work, so it’s only natural to get into a flow… until its ebb leaves me… stranded… at midnight!)

If you’re wondering now how memorising all that is making my daily routine any easier, that’s exactly what I was asking myself when I first came up with the idea of the 30 Day Birthday Challenge! How can I keep up with the Ayurveda clock while going about my (busy) day?

Interestingly, help didn’t come from the App Store this time, although there’s probably an app for anything. Help came from me discovering an interesting watch concept: the Slow Watch.

A Slow What?
Slow Watch, First Impression

The Slow Watch is a watch with a 24-hours dial and ony one hand – the hour hand.

slowwatch-firstimpressionMy curiosity has yielded me the chance of testing a Slow Watch model of my choice during my 30 Day Birthday Challenge, and I’ll give you the full scoop about it later this month. Today I just want to comment that it’s been tremendously helpful.

It felt utterly natural to see the whole day on one glance – not two halves of a day and not symbolic digits; almost as natural as having an agenda with a week on a spread, and I can’t work with any other layout.

Using the watch to keep track of time has proved more helpful than any device, any electronic calendar with alerts ever. Back in 2015, for example, I actually grew tired of the Time Out Free app I really liked first because it eventually had started to feel more like yet another item on my to-do list.

The Slow Watch doesn’t mesmerise you with seconds or confuse you with minutes. It thinks in straight, delicious 15 minute time chunks which is a bliss. You basically can’t measure any shorter time period which helps you – or me, anyway – to stay focussed even during hectic and stress. (I’m restraining myself from putting any exclamation marks in here, but I’m so extatic about my goals’ success that I hope you can feel them vibrate in the text 💚)

Now stay tuned for my next 30 Day Birthday Challenge report and please: make sure to ask me anything about time management in the comments, I’ll be happy to share what I know, and there’s also more to come.

7 Comments on “Circadian Rhythms & Ayurveda: Week 1 Of My 30 Day Birthday Challenge

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  2. Really, a great read and as you know the I am totally with you with goal 6 and 7. This is something I have to focus on again and I am sure both in combination with a great sleep can do so much for us. So, this will be great week, I am sure.

    • Thank you! I must say, I’ve become sleep-conscious during the challenge 🙂 Means: I realise how the day rolls toward its end, and how my body reacts with slowing down (if I let it). No more zombie / thriller tv shows bingeing at dinner! 😉

  3. Love it! Fortunately I usually sleep well but that’s not to say I can’t make improvements, I shall be trailing you by a week Nath. Great post.

    • Thank you, Rose! As a psychologist told me Friday (I attended a sleep show), “sleep is the invisible treasure”. Good for you to be aware of it! 🌹