Our sleep affects our health and our general mood throughout the day. If you’re tossing and turning, are restless, snore, or feel sleepy during the day, then you may be having problems getting the deep sleep you need.
Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old Science of Life based on the ancient wisdom from India, says that there are three different kinds of sleep disorders, one for each dosha, or Ayurvedic mind/body type. When you have trouble falling asleep, that is typically because of too much Vatadosha. If you fall asleep, and then wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, that is indicative of a Pittadosha imbalance. When you can sleep through the night, and have trouble waking up in the morning, or still feel sluggish during the day that shows an overabundance of Kaphadosha.
There are lots of reasons why we may have trouble sleeping, and no matter what they are, Ayurveda has solutions to help us get that good night’s rest.
Here are 5 tips you can use, starting tonight:
1) Avoid caffeine, especially after noon. Instead of coffee, Ayurveda suggests that you treat yourself to a delicious warm milk drink about an hour or two before bedtime. During the day the fire of the sun helps us to remain active. At night, the cooling energy of the moon helps us to relax. But when we are in front of screens, and under artificial light, our bodies aren’t prompted to relax. We need more of that moon energy, called “soma” to settle down. Milk, or milk substitutes like almond milk, is somogenic (i.e. soma inducing or relaxing and soothing). Simply heat milk with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon to taste, blend the mixture along with 1 or 2 pitted dates and drink.
2) Eat a light meal between 5 and 7 pm. Ayurveda says that our digestion is strongest between noon and 1 pm, so lunch should be the largest meal of the day. This will give you time to digest the day’s food properly before you go to sleep, so that your body can rest more soundly.
3) An hour before bed, relax. Avoid stimulating activities such as working on the computer, or watching the nightly news. Instead, have a nice bath, or listen to music. This is a great time to do some slow, gentle yoga stretches. Take slow, deep breaths to help settle the mind and body. You might also do a warm-oil self-massage, called Abhyanga. Leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes, and then follow with a warm shower. This helps to soothe the nervous system, and calm Vata. Ayurveda says that we thrive on a daily routine, so find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day.
4) Get to bed by 10 pm. Ayurveda says that 6 pm to 10 pm is Kapha time, when our body naturally wants to rest. It’s time to wind down from the day, and prepare ourselves for sleep. If we are up later than 10 pm, we get into Pitta time, a more active time of day. We get a kind of “second wind” and it’s more difficult to fall asleep. When we are asleep during Pitta time the body is able to use that Pitta energy to rest and rejuvenate so that we are ready for the next day.
5) Your bedroom should be a sleep oasis. The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. Don’t bring work or technology into the bedroom. Invest in a good, old-fashioned alarm clock rather than wake to the alarm on your smartphone. Keep the room dark or dimly lit. Your sheets and pajamas (if you wear pajamas) should be made of breathable fabrics, like cotton.
Lissa Coffey is a bestselling author and has written numerous books including “Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita.” (SongDivine.com). She offers a free introductory course in Ayurveda on her website WhatsYourDosha.com.