While this article has Sleep Disorders boldly written in the title, it is a good read for anyone who has been having trouble sleeping. Or those who have made it a routine to skip the natural downtime with which nature has intended us to take!
Insomnia is defined as a sleeping disorder that is commonly known for its symptoms of unrest and majorly, an inability to sleep. It is more prevalent among women and older people, though it can affect anybody.
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!
Sleep itself is defined as a natural, periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes are usually closed and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. Insomnia presents a problem however!
It was actually made easy for us to get all the winks that we need, but the hustles and bustles of modern life have made us lose those natural regulatory mechanisms, our circadian rhythms.
Sleep Disorders in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, Nidra (sleep) is considered as one of the three pillars of life! It is essential for the perception of joy, proper physical growth, nourishment, immunity, fertility, memory and retention of knowledge, and long life.
In Ayurvedic medicine, sleep disorders could either be anidratha (lack of sleep), or alpanidratha (broken sleep). And of course, when either of these happens, it leads to other complications resulting directly or indirectly from the imbalances.
Anidratha (lack of sleep)
Anidratha ultimately leads to a disturbance in the Vata dosha. Insomnia can also be linked to an imbalance in the vata dosha, as individuals with the vata as their dominant dosha generally sleep less. By extension, if vata gets aggravated, then their is a good chance of getting sleep disorders.
Alpanidratha (broken sleep)
A person suffering from Alpanidratha is at increased risk of having the pitta fire grow overboard. Also, if one is struggling with Pitta Imbalance, they will struggle with broken sleep or struggle to fall asleep in the first place.
Which type of insomnia do you have?
Insomnia can be classified based on different factors:
- By Duration:
- Acute Insomnia: only lasts for a short time, and the symptoms are only transient.
- Chronic Insomnia: The symptoms don’t just go away, and can remain for months or years.
- By Cause:
- Primary Insomnia: This type is caused by itself, and there are no underlying medical or health conditions to it. It could either by due to stress of a loss, changing shifts at a job, or even jet lag.
- Secondary Insomnia: This is caused by underlying health conditions, and it can only be cured by first taking care of the underlying conditions.
- By Severity: Ranging from mild(where it causes just tiredness), to moderate, to severe(where it has significant impact on quality of life).
Other risk factors for insomnia are
- Taking caffeine, alcoholic beverages
- Being a woman, particularly during pregnancy or going through menopause.
- A genetic predisposition to insomnia.
- Experiencing significant life events.
If you’re suffering from insomnia, you might be in danger of a lot of complications.
And not only if you’re suffering from insomnia, but also if you have not been getting enough sleep for any reason. They range from short term daily effects to debilitating effects on health and quality of life in the long run.
The brain is severely affected.
In the daily activities, there is a build up of toxins in the brain. During sleep, the brain takes care of this by ‘flushing out the toxins.’ However, if a person does not get sufficient sleep, the toxins remain. These toxins hamper the effective functioning of the brain, and can compress the brain. Eventually, it leads to decreased concentration, memory loss, low reaction time. There’s also an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
The eyes become bloodshot.
Eyelids begin to droop and dark circles show up under they eyes.
Fine lines and wrinkles appear on the skin.
The skin loses water and becomes less elastic. Your skin begins to wrinkle. Sleep deprivation accelerates aging.
There’s increased appetite but a decreased metabolism.
This leads to build up of calories and fats, since more is taken in than is needed and less is broken down. Insomnia, or sleep deprivation, also messes up the hunger and satiation hormones, ghrelin and leptin. You must have felt severely hungry sometime in the middle of the night when you kept a late night before.
It reduces the efficiency of the immune system,
and leaves you more vulnerable to attacks by foreign substances in your system. Learn how to boost your immune system with Ayurveda.
Being awake is catabolic(‘it breaks you down’), while sleep is anabolic,
because in sleep, tissues are built up and repaired, revitalizing you for another day. Losing sleep robs you of this chance, and you get broken a little more everyday, and eventually, have a shorter lifespan.
Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity.
One night without sleep makes you as insulin-resistant as someone who has type-2 diabetes. Accumulation of excess nutrients can lead to obesity eventually.
Poor memory and brain damage.
With insomnia, you begin to forget things often. It has been confirmed that even one night of sleep deprivation leads to a loss of brain tissues.
If you have insomnia, this is how you can know
Insomnia could be diagnosed by a doctor, but it can also be self-diagnosed, being a fairly common condition. The symptoms that are commonly presented in cases of insomnia are:
- Grogginess and drowsiness during the day.
- Feeling physically and mentally unwell.
- Anxiety and mood disorders.
- Poor concentration and focus.
- Worry about sleeping.
- Difficulty studying, working or socializing.
- Tension headaches.
These all link up, because when you do not have enough sleep during the night, it makes sense that it should come to hunt you during the day. Due to the drowsiness, you feel confused and are unable to make better decisions or process information. In the end, your constant slip offs become frustrating, and you feel like something is really wrong.
Sometimes, all you need is just a good night’s sleep. But this is easier said than done for insomniacs, and that is why Medhya Herbals is here to help you.
Why over the counter sleeping pills don’t work and you should avoid them
Sleeping pills give a temporary relief for one night, and then they have to be taken the next time again. Eventually, your body gets adapted to them. Sleeping pills are addictive, and they are not an effective cure for insomnia. In any case, you might want to avoid them because:
- They are addictive, as stated, and make you dependent on them.
- They suppress breathing, making the breathing shallower. This is a problem for people who already have respiratory disorders like asthma.
- They disturb the body’s balance mechanism. People who take sleeping pills are five times more likely to fall.
- Increased risk of cancer.
- Weight gain, to mention but a few.
This is what you can do for a quality sleep!
Yes, sleep health, because in the long run, there’s no facet of your life that is not affected by the quality of sleep that you get. And you read that right, quality of sleep, and not quantity of sleep.
If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, the following Ayurvedic remedies can assist get that essential part of life to get the rest of it back on track;
- Pranayama: Pranayama is a set of breathing exercises that help you de-stress. De-stressing helps balance up hormones and other metabolic activities in the body that might disturb your sleep.
- Adaptogens: 1/2 tsp of Ashwangadha powder and 1/2 tsp brahmi powder mixed with 1 tsp sugar candy (Mishri) taken about 1 hour before bedtime is helpful. Alternatively, it can be taken as a tea. Boil both the powders in 1 cup water, strain, and sip as a tea.
- A warm glass of milk with 1/2 tsp of Turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder makes for a highly effective sleep remedy.
There are many more Ayurvedic remedies for healthy sleeping.
Lifestyle Habits you should adopt or drop to sleep better
- You should exercise regularly, but don’t perform any exercise after four to five hours to your bed time. This only raises stress levels and makes your body too excited to sleep.
- Get more sunlight during the day. Melatonin, the sleep signaling hormone, needs the sunlight to help you regulate your circadian rhythm(sleep-wake cycle).
- Turn off all screens at about ninety minutes before bedtime. The blue light from the screen fools your body into thinking it is still day, and keeps you awake, even though you’re tired. If you must do some important, late night work very quickly, then use blue light filters.
- Perform relaxing activities that can ease you into sleep, such as reading a book(an actual paper book, not on the screen).
Caffeine is a stimulant and it is addictive!
- 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. Don’t take caffeine towards bedtime. It takes a lot of time to clear out of your blood stream. If you take a big cup of caffeine around 6 am, it will still remain about half of it in your bloodstream at bedtime. If you have insomnia particularly, you want to avoid this.
- Keep your room temperature regulated, not too hot, not too cold. You may wear socks to keep from getting cold feet(pun intended).
- The optimal time for good sleep is between 10 pm and 2 am. Hence, you should always try to be in the bed before 10 PM.
- Have a sleep ritual, a nightly program of events that prepares your body and mind towards sleep. Humans are very adaptive, and if you read a book for 30 minutes before sleeping last night, then maybe picked out your clothes for the next day afterwards, and you do that again this night, and you are consistent with it, you get adapted to it. Next time, when that sequence of events have been set in motion, your mind is getting prepared for sleep.
- Put out all the lights, get a dark curtain to keep any light from filtering in through the window.
Dietary habits for a healthy sleep cycle.
- Embrace a diet that pacifies that vata dosha.
- Eat right for dinner, not too light, not too heavy, but preferably something light.
- Take a lot of healthy grains, plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats (in moderation).
- Cherries are a natural source of the hormone melatonin.
- Warm Milk also helps you sleep better.
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