As we put 2015 to bed, and look towards the possibilities of the new year ahead – Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby. (We can talk about sex too, later though!)
Who loves sleeping?? I do – but I haven’t always. Millions of Americans have trouble sleeping, and there are lots of people who dread going to sleep at night.
How Ayurveda can help you sleep deeper:
Q: So many Americans are tired. What can people do to improve their quality of sleep in the new year?
A: Following an ayurvedic routine and eating the best foods for your body type are the most important things you can do to improve your quality of sleep. The ayurvedic routine includes going to bed by 9:30 p.m., during the Kapha time of night, so your sleep takes on that deeply restful quality. Just this one recommendation will improve your sleeping patterns immensely.
Q: What if you’re in bed before 10:00 p.m. but you just can’t fall asleep?
A: Additional things you can do are a partial abhyanga before going to bed, on your lower limbs, hands and feet, using non-staining oils. Pay particular attention to nail-beds. A warm bath also relaxes the body and helps calm Vata dosha. Aggravated Vata (characterized by whirling thoughts) is usually the cause of not being able to fall asleep easily. If you don’t have enough time, even a quick massage to the feet, head and hands can go a long way to releasing the stress from the day and easing the mind and body into sleep.
Also, watching TV or working on the computer at night makes it difficult to fall asleep. This is very stimulating, and messes up the melatonin cycles in the brain. Exercise during the Kapha time of the morning and doing your Yoga asanas and Salutes to the Sun also help balance the mind and body so when it’s time to sleep, it comes naturally.
Yoga Nidra is an excellent meditation practice to do before bed. It is done lying down, creates space for deep healing and rest, and is incredible for insomnia.
You may be plagued by worries when you lie down to sleep, by the things that are beyond your emotional, physical or financial capability to solve, which tend to bother you before bed. In this case it helps to make a separate mental file of each problem, and then hand the problems over to Nature to take care of while you rest. This includes worries about the global tensions, the fear of terrorism, or anything personal that is bothering you and keeping you from sleeping. By handing over the things that are beyond your capability to handle, you give your mind and body a sense of ease, a different kind of relaxation. Many people have had a good result from doing this.
Q: Are there any essential oils that help with sleep?
A: Yes. Everyone can easily and inexpensively improve the quality of their sleep by using Lavender Jasmine, Sweet Orange or Chamomile essentials oils on a cotton ball next to your bed. These essential oils of herbs help promote deep, restful sleep by balancing Vata and Pitta doshas.
If you still have trouble falling asleep, and your mind is racing when you put your head on the pillow, massage a little dab into the soles of your feet. The quality of sleep will also be much more restful, and you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed. This is so essential for anyone with a Vata imbalance, as sleep is one of the main ways to balance Vata dosha.
Q: What about restless sleepers who wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep?
A: For people who wake up in the night between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. feeling energetic and restless and unable to fall back sleep again, Ayurveda recommends to drink a cup of warm milk (having boiled it first to enhance digestibility). For people with Pitta disorders, it’s important to eat enough for dinner. If you’ve eaten much earlier in the evening, the warm milk also helps sleep by preventing hunger.
Q: And what about those people who actually get enough sleep but wake up feeling exhausted?
A: This may be due to a Kapha disorder. For this type of sleep imbalance, it is important that you wake up well before the sun, before 6:00 a.m. Then you will immediately feel the energetic, light quality of the early morning. If you sleep late, until after the sun is up and the Kapha time of morning has already begun, you will instead feel the lethargic, duller qualities of Kapha dosha. It’s also important to eat an early, light dinner such as soup or kitcheri, because eating a heavy meal late in the evening will make your sleep duller and less restful.
Excerpts from Maharishi Ayurveda
Happy New Year to all – and to all, many Good Nights!
Stay tuned for future Ayurveda Wisdom (most) Wednesdays.
Share, Like, Comment, and Subscribe to this blog!