Do you have trouble falling asleep, or waking in the night? Ayurveda has many tips for creating deep sleep!
One sleepless night is something that we can easily get away with. But, a whole string of sleepless nights that are of the restless, toss and turn and ‘I just wish I could get to sleep’ variety are very debilitating and depleting.
I’ve experienced these. For me this started as a young teen and has come and gone throughout my life ….especially when I allow my life to become too busy.
Not having enough sleep makes everything much harder. It leaves us feeling wrung out and incapable of making decisions, cranky and, of course, just plain exhausted.
We all we know that sleep gives great nourishment and rejuvenation not only to our brain but to our whole body. Modern studies show that lack of sleep can increase inflammation, reduce immune function, create many gastro-intestinal problems and suggests that “individuals with sleep abnormalities are at greater risk of all-cause mortality and serious adverse health and economic consequences”. 1.
In Ayurveda we recognise that sleep is our time of rejuvenation, and the subtle digestion of our mental and emotional processing.
Whilst sleeping, we digest the food we have eaten that day. Our body shifts into the ‘house cleaning mode’ of detoxing the blood and other tissues and preparing our waste for elimination in the morning. On a subtle level we also digest our experiences. The impressions we have ingested through the day which reside in our mind, our emotions and even our subtle Pranic body.
Poor sleep creates mental constipation and congestion as surely as poor digestion clogs our body’s channels and function.
Good deep sleep promotes Ojas production and preservation in the body. Ojas is the essence of vitality and consciousness. It is the gel or golden goodness that supports strength, stamina, and good immunity, slows aging and gives a glow of vitality!
From an Ayurvedic perspective insomnia is caused by having too much of the light, erratic, cold and mobile qualities of the wind (Vata) element elevated in the body, mind and emotions
This makes sense as these qualities are the opposite of what we would equate as qualities of a good sleep which are heavy, warm, calm and stable.
Often the Pitta, fiery energy, is also at play. Its kinetic energy, or driving force can keep us up and working later than is good for us!
If you are experiencing poor sleep, having trouble falling asleep, or waking through the night you are probably experiencing the effects of high Vata and low Ojas.
You may already know what is creating this scenario in your life but read on to see if there is anything you may be missing and tips of how to create regular deep sleep!
Some things you may not realise are jeopardising your sleep.
Staying up late – I know…obvious right!! But, the later we stay up the harder it is to wind down. Ayurveda says that the Pitta energy rises at approximately 10pm. This gives us that seconds wind of doing energy despite already feeling tired. Ideally we want our Pitta energy to be internal at this time to do the ‘bodily house cleaning’ between 10pm and 2am. When we stay up past 10pm it is much harder to fall sleep and we are doing our body, (and mind) a disservice.
Listen to your body and honour your tiredness. Don’t push on, but go to bed as early as your body is asking. There is always tomorrow for tasks and early morning is often a more productive time than late at night!
Screen time – “We now know that the blue wavelength light from LED-based devices (phones, tablets, computers) increases the release of cortisol in the brain, which makes us more alert, and inhibits the production of melatonin, which is needed to fall asleep”.
Between 6pm and 10pm is a Kapha (earthy) energy time. Kapha energy likes connecting and family time. Switch off the screens and play a family game or chat about your day with those you live with!
Some substances – It is common in our society to use coffee to get going in the morning, and alcohol to wind down at night. Both alcohol and coffee disturb our ability to have a good night’s sleep. Gradually reduce these substances in your days and please seek help if your coffee or alcohol intake is negatively affecting your life.
- Coffee… Yes, even one coffee in the morning can adversely affect your ability to fall asleep 12 hours later. Women metabolise coffee at a slower rate than men do.
- Alcohol tends to be used for relaxation and reward after a hard day but it too can affect good sleep. It often creates wakeful times between 1-3am (the liver’s processing time!)
- Too much chocolate can also make it hard to fall asleep. Even the good quality dark chocolate… darn it! Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine which acts similarly to caffeine.
Stress, worry, and high cortisol – there are many studies that cite how high cortisol, our stress related hormone, adversely affects good sleep.
Eating late – when we eat late ie after 7pm in summer and 6pm in winter then it can disturb our sleep. Eating an earlier and lighter dinner that is easy to digest will help promote good sleep and help to feel lighter on waking in the morning!
Try these Ayurvedic tips for creating deep sleep night after night!
– eat an earlier lighter dinner-a walk outside after dinner helps to settle the body and mind-reduce screen time in the evenings.
– leave a one hour gap between screen use and bed time-fill this time reading books, connecting with family or friends or spend some time in meditation/sitting in silence and connecting with your breath
– write a to do list for the next day…empty your mind of the whirling thoughts and worries
– lights out by 10pm – honour your tiredness-warm milk before bed – milk contains tryptophan which aids in the production of serotonin, a hormone that supports good sleep!
– massage your feet before bed and pop on some old socks to keep the oil off your sheets. A foot massage is grounding and feels wonderfully indulgent! Try adding some grounding and soothing essential oils like lavender, sandalwood or rose.
– practice meditation or simply sitting in silence and bringing your attention to the breath-to calm the mind. Breathe low into your belly to activate your vagus nerve and calm your nervous system. Try lying down, resting your hands on your belly and breathing low into the abdomen creating smooth and rhythmic breaths.
-if you can’t sleep, rather than tossing and turning, do gentle forward bends making sure that your forehead is resting on some support. Try kneeling in bed with torso resting on your thighs and head resting on pillow. Stay for a few minutes breathing smoothly and rhythmically.
-in general avoid stimulating spices such a chilli and garlic as these will stimulate the mind and reduce intake of coffee and alcohol.
If these tips still don’t help, then consider scheduling a free chat to see how I can help you create deeper sleep.