The Secret Sauce for a Good Night’s Sleep

This will be the first in a series all about sleep! I want to start with the main ingredient and then follow up with more specific information and tools to apply this to your life and get the benefits.

So what is the secret sauce?

The Gunas!

The whats?

The 3 gunas are a concept in yoga philosophy that refer to different states of activation. Healthy balance between them is the road that leads to a great night’s sleep.

This describes a highly activated energy state. You may refer to it as “go-go-go,” or “fight or flight”. It is the energy of change, mobilization, movement (even just spinning your wheels). It is a judgement-free label so it may refer to experiences that you may find positive like exercising or being productive OR it may refer to stress responses like running from danger or rushing before a deadline. Without rajas we would never go anywhere or do anything. Rajas gives us the energy to start a new project (but probably not follow through.) We display rajas we we have “too many things on the go.”

This describes much more static state. You may refer to it as vegging out and it can be seen in the freeze/fawn response. Tamas may be seen in someone who overly passive or overly stubborn, both of which represent a lack of change. We may display tamas energy when we are overwhelmed, exhausted, unwell, ruminating, grieving, burned out or require stillness. You may have had a moment of tamas in the past if you were waiting to be helped or feeling helpless. You may have seen this in children who slip and fall then lie very still until someone comes to pick them up.

Gunas on a bad day…

When Rajas goes out of balance, you may find yourself unable to sit still, feeling agitated or anxious, consuming too many stimulants, always keeping busy, staying up late waking up early and lying awake at night with your mind racing.

When tamas goes out of balance you may find yourself dragging your feet through the day, procrastinating, avoiding life in general, consuming too many depressants, feeling depressed or hopeless, doom scrolling and being physically inert. This may result in oversleeping or not tiring yourself out enough to be able to fall asleep.

Rajas or tamas going out of balance can lead to destructive or self-destructive behaviour.

Last but not least,


This is what I like to call “peaceful engagement.” You may have felt the energy of sattva when you were “in the flow”, “in the zone” or just generally feeling at ease while moving through life. You may also call this a state of homeostasis, balance or the Goldilocks Guna. Sattva emotions include joy, gratitude, appreciation, love and curiosity. We feel sattva every time we sigh or laugh. Even if we’re letting out a sigh or awkward laugh from stress, the body is trying to bring us closer to sattva. Sometimes in life, sattva is as close as pausing and taking a deep breath and at other time’s it feels so far away it may as well be impossible. Sattva gives us clear perspective, mindfulness and allows us to be truly aware of life so that it doesn’t pass by in a meaningless blur. Being a bodhisattva is sometimes loosely used to mean someone who is working towards gaining inner peace. This isn’t quite the traditional Buddhist meaning, which refers to someone who is working towards Buddhahood, but is a way to incorporate this concept into our every day lives.

Well this is all very interesting, but how do I turn down the boring chaos of life and turn up the sattva?

Through balancing the nervous system!!

Okay also, not very helpful… how do I do that?

Stay tuned for more posts on the topic with clear tools, but for today I will leave you with questions for introspection:
Where do you feel the most rajas in your life?
Where do you feel the most tamas in your life?
Where do you feel the most sattva in your own life?

Keep an awareness for each of these qualities to pop up and get curious as to what’s going on and why they are happening. (Bonus! Introspection is a quality of sattva.)

Good luck with your Gunas!

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