Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Ayurveda’s Three Pillars of Health. I wanted to share some of the information from the chapter on sleep, and some of the recommendation you can try to support a good nights’ sleep!
Ayurveda’s second pillar of health is sleep, called nidra in Sanskrit. In my experience people understand why sleep is important. I think we’ve all had an experience of sleep deprivation (whether for fun reasons or not so fun) and we know that we are not at our best the next day. Our brains are slower and foggy, and our bodies are more achy and don’t respond the same, and we’re shorter on patience and the ability to problem solve.
We are at our best with the appropriate amount of sleep.
Modern day many people suffer from sleep disturbances and insomnia. This is something I see a lot in my Ayurvedic practice. I’m happy to say that Ayurveda has a lot of recommendations to support getting better and deeper sleep. Perhaps try some of them to see if they support you in getting a good nights’ sleep on a regular basis!
1- Consistent Bedtime: Having a consistent bed time (and wake time too) is a great way to get the body and mind into a stable rhythm that will support deep restorative sleep.
2- Keep your Bedroom Dark for Sleep: The body, being an amazing construct, actually has certain functions that are triggered by light and dark. When it’s light out, the body produces more cortisol, one of the stress hormones that activates and stimulates the body. When it’s dark out, the body reduces its cortisol production and increases the production of melatonin, which invites the body to move from alertness to sleepiness.
3- Bedroom for Sleep or Sex Only: if we want our sleep to be deep and restful, then we want to create a peaceful and relaxing environment in the room itself.
4- Minimize Screen Time before Bed: Turns out that screens (this is all technology from cell phones to monitors to TVs) are very stimulating for the nervous system. When the nervous system is stimulated, cortisol is released, which we know stimulates and awakens the mind.
5- Finish Dinner 2-hours before Bed: Eating too close to bedtime means the body is digesting instead of resting.
6- Avoid Stimulants and Stimulation before Bed: Stimulants, such as alcohol, activate the nervous system instead of calming it down for rest. A variety of stimulants have the same pattern as alcohol. If it’s the unwinding routine that benefits you, try it with something else like your favorite tea.
7- Enjoy a cup of herbal tea or warm spiced milk: Wives tales, yes. Effective, also yes J A cup of warming herbal tea, like chamomile or tulsi, can relax the nerves which prepares you for sleep. A cup of warm spiced milk (whatever milk you drink – cow, sheep, almond, cashew, or hemp) also works very well.
8- Self-Foot Massage with Warm Oil: This is a very traditional Ayurvedic recommendation that is delicious. Take some oil, anything you would eat you can put on your skin. Take a bit of oil in your hands and rub it between the palms to warm the oil. Mindfully massage the oil into your feet.
9- Pre-Bedtime Routine: We’ve talked already about how routines are stabilizing for the body, and grounding for the mind. Establishing a “pre-bedtime” routine can be powerful in training the body-mind to get ready for sleep.
I have many clients practice gentle yoga, meditation, journal, listen to relaxing music, or take a warm bath. You can include any of the items on this list, or things that you know will help you go to sleep at night. Everyone’s bedtime routine will need to be unique to them.
10- Yoga Nidra Meditation: With clients who have long standing insomnia problems, I recommend they listen to a Yoga Nidra meditation before bed. Many fall asleep during this type of guided relaxing meditation. With Yoga Nidra you would setup the recording to play, as you relax into bed. The idea is to follow the meditation, which bring you into deeper states of relaxation. The hope is that eventually you would fall asleep.
My hope is that this information serves to getting a good night’s sleep, so this pillar really supports your health in a profound and stable way.