One can survive for days without food, but not without good sleep! According to Ayurveda, to good sleep is one of the most essential requirements for physical and mental health.
Sleep is the time, when your body repairs and heals itself. Good sleep, which includes sufficient sleeping hours is the best remedy along with nourishing warm diet to push away sickness, flu, and tiredness.
Sleep was actually made easy for us to get all the rest and recuperation that we need. But, the hustles and bustles of modern life have made us lose those natural regulatory mechanisms, our circadian rhythms.
Yet, for some sleep doesn’t come easy as well. Ayurveda states that as we make a shift from middle age to our wise years, we also naturally lose sleep. Vata Dosha dominates the later phase of life. It becomes sensitive to any imbalances or any changes.
Ayurvedic physicians and gurus were well aware of these cause and effects. And hence, they prescribed daily and seasonal regimens to get hold of this primary pillar of health – “Good Sleep”.
Sleep as it should be!
Sleep (Nidra) itself is defined as a natural and periodic state of rest for the mind and body. In this state, the eyes are usually closed and consciousness is completely or partially lost. Also, there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.
Sleep occurs when the seat of chetana (consciousness) is covered by tamo guna (one of the elements of the mind responsible for ignorance). It is a non-deliberate absence of thought waves or knowledge.
A healthy person sleeps around the same time at night. Good sleep lasts for about the same duration every day. Ayurveda regards this sleep as ratrisvabhava prabhava (naturally occurring at night).
Sleep is essential to our Survival!
Sleeping is as much a part of life as being awake and going to work. It is as important as eating, as drinking water, as bathing. In short, sleeping is an essential part of life!
Here are just a few benefits of sleeping well:
- You will wake up feeling refreshed and invigorated.
- Good sleep helps your complexion stay fine.
- It promotes long life (jeevitam).
- Your metabolism is revved up and your body functions better.
- Proper quantities of sleep promote sukh (happiness).
- Sleep promotes gyaanam (knowledge and intellect).
- It improves the growth and strength of the body.
- Sleep also restores the natural equilibrium of bodily
Ayurvedic Guidelines for Good Sleep
Now that you’ve gotten to understand the benefits of sleep. You’ve also seen the problems that come when you don’t get enough. It is high time you knew what to do to optimize your sleep health.
First, you should understand that there is a difference between the quality and the quantity of sleep that you get. What you should be more concerned about is the quality of sleep you get. So, let’s get on how to sleep better.
1. Follow Ayurvedic Night Routine to wind your day up
Here is a list of activities that form part of an Ayurvedic night time routine. Whether you perform all of these activities or select a few, it will be helpful for better sleep.
- Establish regular sleeping hours. It will put your circadian rhythms in sync and support a natural sleep cycle.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and pranayama at bedtime. It helps to balance Vata dosha, calm your mind down, and provide much needed prana – life giving force to rejuvenate during sleeping hours.
- Drink a warm glass of milk, with cardamom or nutmeg before you go to bed. Take the milk at least 30 mins before you sleep. The herbs promote good sleep. Calcium and Magnesium in milk help in generation of sleep hormone.
- Perform gentle massage of your scalp and soles of your feet with warm coconut oil or sesame oil.
- Use essential oils such as Lavender oil with diffusers to calm your mind.
- Listen to soothing music or chanting to calm your mind.
- Gratitude and positive thoughts! Close your day with the thought of the best thing of the day and be grateful for what you have. It will keep your worries away and calm down your mind.
- Don’t eat heavily before bed. Your heaviest meal should be lunch.
2. Relax, Relax, Relax
Stop worrying so much. Else, you’ll get yourself so worked up that you can’t sleep. It becomes difficult to fall asleep when your mind and your body are in overdrive.
On the other hand, you ease your body into sleep mode when you relax. Sleep is, after all, a state of relaxation. So, relax, and sleep will be more than willing to do the rest of the job for you. You can do these to relax:
- Breathing Exercises and Pranayama: Pranayama supplies ample of oxygen to your body and mind such that it is an instant relaxation technique. When you practice pranayama regularly before bedtime, it improves both the quality and quantity of sleeping hours.
- Read a book: Books are underrated these days. They are helpful to relax if you want to sleep. Pick a book with a light topic that won’t get you too excited and read. Before you know, you’re writing your own books in the dreamland.
- Practice some light yoga asanas before bedtime.
- Meditation can also help you fall asleep.
3. Count your blessings before sleep
This is also a form of meditation. What does it mean to count your blessings in this sense?
You can do this by going over the events of the day. There might be some things that happened in the day that are troubling you in the subconscious.
When you reflect on the day’s events, you can pick out such, and then reconcile them within yourself. Pick out the high-points of the day while you are at it. Note the small achievements that you made throughout that day.
This will cause feel-good hormones to be released. You will find that you relax further after this. This is also a good way to clear your head before sleeping.
4. What are you doing tomorrow?
Plan out the next day before bedtime. It doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule with time allotments. This plan is just to help you envision what you need to do for the next day.
If you have a map of what the next day will be like ready in your mind, you can relax better and go to sleep.
5. Get Sufficient Sunlight
The body uses sunlight to regulate circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms simply mean our sleep-wake cycles.
The light from the sun is picked up by the body and converted to signals. These signals tell the body that it is light, and it is not time to sleep yet. However, in the dark, the signal is also picked up, and hormones are produced too.
These tell the body that it is dark, and it is sleep time. These events are meant to happen in cycles, in the order of light (stay awake) and dark (go to sleep). If you do not get enough sunlight, that cycle is broken.
People who have to resume work early in the morning have difficulty getting sufficient sunlight. They leave home before the sun is up, and they are in the office before the sun is up.They remain cooped up in the office all day. It’s sundown when they finally get out.
How then do they get sunlight? It is unhealthy!
Ensure you get some sunlight in the morning. Do not dry out yourself in the hot sun in the noon or afternoon time.
The sunlight helps to remind the body of its cycles.
Your body gets the light and knows it is the day. At night, as the light recedes, your body follows suit, so you can sleep.
6. Away with the unnecessary lights
A lot of the gadgets and devices we use today have blue light in them. Talk about the light from your phone, your computer, your TV set, etc.
When you keep your face pressed into these lights at night, you are telling your body that it’s still light. Consequently, you can’t fall asleep.
Keep your phone away, turn off your TV/computer before bedtime. Else, your body will be tricked by the light. If at all you need to do somethings at the last minute, use a blue light filter. But then again, you should not do any last minute’ work before bedtime.
Also, turn off light bulbs and lamps around you. Darkness is an enabling environment for to sleep better.
The Temperature in your room matters too
You can’t rest well if it’s too cold or too hot. There is an ideal temperature for sleep, and that is about 20℃or 650F.
Ensure that the temperature of your room is well-regulated. Mind the season you are in currently and adjust your heater or other air conditioning system accordingly. It might help to wear a pair of socks if it’s particularly cold out there.
7. It’s about Cycles and Consistency
You just have come across the phrase ‘sleep-wake cycles’ in this article a few times. The word ‘cycle’ is used for a reason.
Your body tries to maintain a cycle, so you should help it along. Have consistent sleep and wake times. It will surprise you that, after a while, you won’t even need an alarm clock to wake you up anymore.
The body loves rhythms. You will find it easier to fall asleep, have a better quality of sleep, and wake up invigorated.
8. The night is meant for sleeping, not the day!
Many people sleep during the day as a way of repaying their backlog. Unfortunately, this practice is not the best. While it is normal that babies and little children sleep during the day, adults should not do this.
If nothing else, daytime sleep disrupts your sleep-wake cycles. You will find it harder to fall asleep at the night. Sleeping in the day has several other undesirable effects.
It vitiates the Kapha Dosha, causing:
- The oiliness of the body.
- Staimitya (feeling as if the body is covered with wet leather).
- Even more sleepiness.
It disturbs the Pitta Dosha also, leading to:
- Increased sensation of heat.
- Loss of digestive power.
- Anorexia(loss of appetite).
- Halimaka (a serious type of jaundice).
Vata Dosha is not left out either. An imbalance of this Dosha causes symptoms of:
- Body-ache all over
You can see why you should not sleep during the day. If you must take a daytime nap, keep it under 20mins, and keep it regularly too.
10. Set the stage for a good sleep
The sleep stage is your bedroom. Make it as conducive as possible for sleep. Start by keeping non-relaxation activities out of the bedroom.
If you need to work at home, set up a small office workspace. Make it such that your body is conditioned to recognise your room as the sleep space. So much so that you can even feel waves of drowsiness wash over you each time you step into your bedroom. Even when your intention is not to sleep.
Get a comfortable bed and use your favorite bedspreads. Something that feels good on your skin. Something relaxing. Introduce sweet and relaxing aromas into your bedroom. Lavender is a good choice, but that depends on what you like.
11. Exercise at the right time
Exercise is important, and you should exercise every day. However, the time to exercise is not two hours before your bedtime.
Perform your exercises during the day. Exercise stresses you and causes the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. You can’t sleep if you are stressed.
Now, if you exercise close to your bedtime, the levels of cortisol in your blood will still be high by your bedtime. As a result, you will not be able to sleep.
Perform all vigorous activities well before bedtime. The only exercises that should be done before close to bedtime are light and relaxing ones like yoga, a light walk around the house, etc.
12. Alcohol and coffee will keep you from sleeping
Alcohol and coffee will prevent you from sleeping. They are stimulants. Do not take these, especially close to the bed.
Caffeine is a stimulant and it is addictive. Intake of caffeine keeps your body active even when your brain and other systems are fagged out. And it takes a lot of time to clear it out of your blood stream.
If you take a large cup of coffee at about 6pm, you’ll be surprised to know that the effects of it would not have worn off by bedtime. Hence, you are kept awake, counting the seconds as the morning dawns.
If you have insomnia particularly, you want to avoid this.
13. Understand your own pattern and routines
Get to know your own sleep patterns. It is not compulsory to wake up unhealthily early. Most people think you are on your way to big success if you wake up so early.
What is important is that you understand what works for you. Instead of striving to wake up earlier, why not optimize your time and do everything you need to do during your waking hours.
That way, you can sleep better when the time for sleep comes. After all, you will be assured that you have no backlog of tasks.
Remember, it is the quality of sleep that matters, not the quantity. Also, if you are having trouble falling asleep, don’t let it stress you out. Don’t think: I need to sleep, why can’t I?
Rather, think “I’ll just lie down here and relax.”
The goal is relaxation, not sleep.
At this point, “Sweet Dreams”.
Get hold of our detailed guide to good sleep with Ayurvedic principles here.
Day One or One Day…You Decide! These Ayurvedic guidelines to sleep better will work well for you if you stick to them and follow consistently.
Don’t rush it though! Take baby steps…and start with one thing at a time. Give yourself and your body time to adjust to the change that you are bringing in.
Once, you are cool with the new thing, move on to the next step.
And that my friend is the secret to success and push back all the resistance!