Your health will be weakened unless you know how to get a good night of sleep. Lack of sleep can make you feel depressed, weak, cranky, unable to concentrate and emotional. Most of us can deal with a night or two of lost sleep, but sometimes it can extend into weeks, months, and sometimes years.
Insomnia can be due to poor diet, lifestyle, over-stimulation, postpartum, travel, sleeping in an unfamiliar place, overuse of caffeine, alcohol, extreme temperatures, or the inability to stop the mind (everything seems bigger and more important at 3 a.m.).
Insomnia can occur at all ages and to all constitutions (body/mind types), but generally, it's most common in women over the age of 50 with a Vata Constitution. Like everything else in Ayurveda, how much sleep we need to feel good depends on what our doshas are.
How to Get a Good Night of Sleep
Keep a regular sleep schedule of going to bed at 10 p.m.
There are three master cycles in each day. (Each cycle of the day has certain qualities that are supportive of different activities). If you go to bed around 10 pm, your body is under the influence of the qualities of heavy, slow and stable which are supportive of sleep.
Take a warm (not hot) bath to soothe your nervous system
Also, in cold climates or winter, make sure your feet are warm. It's tough to sleep with cold feet.
Pay particular attention to your head and feet. A warm oil massage is called Abhyanga (Abby-UNGA) in Ayurveda, and it's a beautiful nighttime practice for inducing sleep.
Warm milk with a pinch of Cardamom
Warm milk with a pinch of cardamom can promote peaceful sleep. You can also add some nutmeg, cinnamon and crushed balanced almonds for a supercharged variation.
- Ayurveda considers the following herbs useful for promoting sound sleep, and relaxation:
I have had great success with 2 Ashwagandha and LifeSpa Ojas Nightly Tonic 20 minutes before bedtime. This is my go-to night time Ayurvedic superfood.
Gentle pressure on the two marma points
There are two marma points on each side of the temples. Apply gentle pressure with the essential oil of Sandalwood oil using alternating clockwise and counterclockwise movements with your index fingers.
Learn Yoga Nidra
What is Yoga Nidra? Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep”. It's a technique which enables you to enter a profound state of relaxation and restoration, and paves the way for deep sleep.
Follow your breath, and on the inhalation repeat “So” and exhale “Hum” while keeping your attention on the area between your eyebrows known as the “third-eye”.
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Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol which are stimulants.
Avoid heavy meals
Eat your last meal before 6 pm. Ideally, the last meal should be around sunset. Despite what you think, falling asleep requires energy and it's difficult to fall asleep if all your energy is tied up with digestion.
Get sunlight during the day and make it pitch black at night.
Back in the caveman days, humans got plenty of sunlight during the day, and they didn't have the artificial light and plenty of activities to keep them awake. Our brains have evolved to still operate on this schedule, so make sure to get sunlight during the day and wear an eye mask at night to make it pitch black. If you live in a climate with low winter sunshine consider a light therapy lamp.
Avoid artificial light from technology
Power down your device, cell phone, computer, or television an hour or so before bed. The light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep.
If All Else Fails….
Just lay quietly in bed with an awareness of your body. The WORST thing you can do is worry that you won't be able to function well the next day. This only adds to more anxiety. Your body can rest and repair itself from resting quietly.
Keep practicing the above recommendations and never resign yourself to insomnia even if you've had it for years. Sleep is one of the three pillars of health. The other two are food (digestion) and sex (creativity) so if you're not getting the number of hours that are required for your constitution (body/mind type) you may not feel your best.
Being awake at 3 am is usually never a happy place, but it's never too late to learn how to get a good night of sleep.
Please don't hesitate to ask me questions in the comment area below. I'm here to help you out and I would love nothing more for you to be the healthiest version of yourself.
Let me know if you need anything and I will be sure to get back within “hours” most of the time.