In today’s world, millions of people of all ages are affected by sleep problems, many with severe, chronic sleep deprivation. A round-the-clock activity-driven society has meant that many individuals habitually defer sleep to get other things done. Recent research indicates that pervasive sleep deprivation can lead to more serious health problems than just a dull clouded feeling the next morning – including obesity, high blood pressure and diminished resistance to infections.
The Ayurvedic Perspective about Sleep
According to Ayurveda, sleep is one of the supporting pillars of life. Along with diet and lifestyle, sleep is critical to good health and well-being. Quality sleep acts as a rejuvenator of the mind and body, enabling us to function at peak levels during our waking hours. Sleep is important because it enhances Ojas – considered in Ayurveda to be the master coordinator between the mind, body and the inner self.
Ayurveda does not dictate eight hours of sleep every night for everyone, but quality of sleep and quantity of sleep required are by an individual to completely recharge the mind and body are considered crucial for health, bliss and longevity.
Ayurvedic Tips for Good Sleep
Here are some ayurvedic suggestions for falling asleep easily and naturally and for obtaining a more rejuvenating quality of sleep:
- Since human beings are diurnal creatures, following Nature′s pattern of sleep and wakefulness for us means rising with the sun or shortly before, and getting into bed early — no later than 9.45 p.m. Getting up before 6 a.m. is ideal. 6-10 p.m. is the Kapha time of the evening, when sleep will come to you most easily. Follow this routine over the weekends as well.
- Arise and go to bed at about the same time each day. This helps your body and mind relax as the appointed bedtime approaches, and over time it conditions your physiology to fall asleep at that time.
- Ayurveda decrees morning the best time to exercise. If you exercise in the morning, it will help you fall asleep easier at night. Working out later in the day is not recommended as this will raise energy levels and set you up for activity rather than sleep. Exercise moderately, according to the needs of your constitution, every day.
- Do not eat a heavy dinner, and avoid spicy foods at night. Ayurveda recommends a light dinner eaten at least three hours before bed. A one-dish meal of a vegetable soup or moong dal khichree is nourishing yet not too heavy. Do not drink too much water or other beverages after 6.30 p.m. Drink a cup of warm milk at bedtime to help lull you into sleep. Lace the milk with a large pinch of nutmeg for Vata imbalance, cardamom for Pitta imbalance and dried ginger for Kapha imbalance.
- A lower limb massage last thing before you get into bed is also a pleasant, relaxing activity and helps improve the quality of sleep. Use a light, non-staining oil such as sweet almond or jojoba. Your bedtime massage oil can be spiced up with a few drops of essential oil of lavender if you like 6-8 drops for 2 oz. of base oil. Take a very small quantity of the oil in your palm and massage your lower legs, from your knees to your toes, and your lower arms, from your elbows to your fingertips, with easy up-and-down strokes.
- Keep your bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature so that you are neither too warm nor too cold. Wear comfortable sleepwear to bed (cotton is ideal). Your bedroom should be quiet, clutter-free and free of work-related material. Do not have a TV in your bedroom.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages; they impact the quality and quantity of sleep you get. Avoid nicotine as well.
- As bedtime draws near, try to get your mind and body to settle down. Avoid working or reading/watching stimulating entertainment at least an hour before bed. Calming activities such as listening to soft relaxing music or just sitting quietly and practicing deep breathing can help your mind and body wind down gradually.
- Avoid napping during the day; it makes it harder to fall asleep at night. If stress or worrying keeps you up, learn and regularly practice a meditation technique. This will help strengthen your ability to deal with day-to-day stresses and worries.
- Try a Date – Milk Shake (pitted chopped dates, milk and sugar blended together), a delicious drink, and include poppy seeds in your diet. Poppy Seed Chutney, eaten an hour before bed, will help you asleep easier.