The incidence of sleeping difficulties is on the rise. With the very ‘vata aggravating’ society we now live in, it is no wonder that we are not getting enough solid time on the pillow. As we fill our days, and feel the pressure to be and do more (aka ‘FOMO’ syndrome) it certainly is no surprise that sound sleep quality is diminishing for most of us.
The objective of Ayurveda is to increase ojas in the body, which provides us with clarity, energy, enthusiasm, and happiness. Deep sleep, to rest the mind and the senses, is one way to increase ojas. Lack of sleep, or disturbed sleeping habits, increase ama (toxins) in the body.
According to Ayurveda, there are three types of sleep imbalances. Each is associated to the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. A Vata sleep disorder will show signs of restlessness, an over active mind, and sensitivity to noise. Other symptoms may be difficulty falling asleep, sleeping very lightly, and identification with the senses. A Pitta sleep disorder will occur when one can easily fall asleep, but awakes during the night and cannot go back to sleep for some time. They may also be disturbed by light. Finally, a Kapha sleep disorder will show up in one who sleeps very long and deep, yet has difficulty waking up and will do so with a feeling of dullness, achiness, or exhaustion.
Good quality sleep is one of the main pillars to optimum health. Sleep is when the body has time to repair and heal itself. It is also a time to rest and balance the quality of the mental and emotional body. When sleeping difficulties arise, we can become lost in a vicious cycle that spirals downhill, and which we struggle to get out of. Often we defer sleep, to prioritize other seemingly important tasks. As a consequence, we move through life performing at less than optimum levels, and yet we do not even realize it.
Although there are specific suggestions for each of the three conditions or doshas, there are a few simple Ayurvedic recommendations, which everyone can apply to their daily routine, to ensure a more restful and rewarding slumber:
- Go to bed no later than 10pm. The time between 10pm and 2am is governed by Pitta, so trying to get to sleep during this time will be most likely disturbed.
- Eat a light and warm dinner, no later than 7pm (and ideally at 6pm). We must give our digestion time to assimilate our final meal of the day. Once our digestive system has done its job, our body can then focus on healing and repairing whilst we’re sleeping.
- Avoid spicy foods for dinner, as these are aggravating for the Pitta and Vata doshas.
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm. Avoid alcohol dependence to relax (another vicious cycle).
- Wear cotton, or natural fibres, to bed. This includes your bedding also.
- Ensure your room is well ventilated and dark. Be sure to switch off all technology (properly shutting down your devices).
- Your bed is for sleeping only. Do not read, meditate, eat, or watch TV in bed. It must be a sweet sanctuary for rest.
- Massage your feet, just prior to bed, with warm sesame oil (not the cooking kind, but cold pressed sesame oil).
- Lunch should be your largest meal of the day. If you like to treat yourself with desserts, this is the best time. Not after dinner.
- Awake no later than 6am.
- Get regular exercise – preferably prior to 10am. If exercising in the evenings, try something relaxing like a long walk, or some restorative yoga.
- Create space in your day to write/journal, to walk in nature (barefoot if possible), to read, and to mindfully prepare nutritious and delicious food. Avoid using the TV or Internet as downtime, as it is generally a distraction for the mind, yet continues to exhaust the senses.
These simple suggestions can make a profound difference, not only in regards to quality of sleep, but also the overall quality of health. Ayurveda is a science that promotes prevention. Without a doubt, implementing these principles into one’s routine, even without any sleeping concerns, will result in an enhanced experience of living. Regularity is the key here. These guidelines will create tremendous improvement if followed through with full awareness and commitment.
We must take the time to reduce the Vata stimulating and aggravating influences, which are overwhelming us within society. Reducing, simplifying, and refining will ultimately bring us more stillness, and a feel of equanimity.
Do you have any tops tips that aid you in getting more shut-eye? Share them in the comments blow – you may help someone else in doing so!