26 Feb How to End Insomnia — Plus an Ayurvedic Evening Routine
Does your morning ritual involve multiple rounds with the snooze alarm button followed by copious amounts of caffeine to turbo charge the day and clear the cobwebs from your brain? Insomnia, or the inability to sleep, can be detrimental to your health and happiness.
Sleep is Important
There is a direct connection between sleep and our physical and emotional health. During sleep our body repairs and heals itself; the mind and emotions become balanced. When our sleep patterns are regulated, our minds become sharper, we are more productive, we have more energy, our metabolism processes food better and we feel more joy.
Ayurveda says that when we don’t get sufficient quantity and quality of sleep, ama or toxins increase, our moods and emotions become unstable and our judgment becomes impaired. Western studies have shown links between chronic lack of sleep and increased blood pressure, weight gain, low libido, diabetes, depression, heart attacks and decreased lifespan.
Why Can’t I Sleep?
The system of Ayurveda, doesn’t focus on treating symptoms. Instead, it seeks to find the root cause of imbalances. By treating the root cause, the imbalance can be permanently eliminated. Western studies show that over 90% of disease or imbalances are cured and prevented by diet and lifestyle. In terms of diet, Ayurveda considers not only what you eat, but also: when you eat, how much you eat, what combinations of food you eat, etc. In terms of lifestyle, Ayurveda considers your sleep habits, exercise habits, relationship patterns, life stressors (i.e., boss, partner, family, school, parents, children, deadlines, financial), etc.
There may be many different reason for sleepless nights or even the type of sleeplessness (i.e., trouble falling asleep versus falling asleep easily then waking at 2am with racing thoughts). Some people may even have the opposite problem of sleeping a lot but not feeling rested. An ayurveda practitioner will do a thorough assessment to determine the cause and then recommend specific remedies.
In general, most sleep problems can be linked to vata-vitiating lifestyles choices and habits that don’t promote our natural sleep-wake cycle. Late night eating, stress, anxiety, racing thoughts and late bed time are the main causes of sleeplessness. Seasonal disturbances (i.e., longer days of summer and longer periods of darkness in the winter) and old-age (when our bodies enter the vata stage of life) may also impact our ability to sleep.
Treating symptoms is a temporary solution
Millions of people turn to sleeping pills as a quick fix to their insomnia. But sleeping pills do not replicate the natural state of sleep, so one does not receive the restorative benefits. From an Ayurvedic perspective, taking sleeping pills is not a good choice because they don’t address the root cause, they can undermine the immune system and they can be highly addictive.
Similarly, some people feel that a glass or two of wine (or other alcoholic beverage) after work can take the edge off the day and help them fall asleep. Again, from an Ayurvedic perspective, alcohol is not an ideal choice as it doesn’t address the root cause, it doesn’t replicate the natural state of sleep and can have unwanted side effects.
Treating the cause brings lasting results
The holistic system of Ayurveda has been used successfully for thousands of years to prevent disease. Ayurveda believes that living in sync with the natural cycles of nature promotes balance with our internal clocks and all the things they regulate (i.e., sleep-wake cycles, hormones, digestion, body temperature, etc.).
End Insomnia…Follow This Ayurvedic Evening Routine
Ayurveda offers general guidelines on how we can live in the natural flow that will let us experience optimal health. Try this evening routine for a week and feel the difference for yourself:
- Eat a light dinner before 6pm. A light, vegetarian meal consisting of dal, lentil or vegetable soup, rice, seasonal steamed vegetables and/or a chutney. Eating a light dinner promotes proper digestion and elimination, weight maintenance and sound sleep (since your body isn’t trying to digest heavy food all night).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol after dinner. Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle and the quality of sleep.
- Power down. Turn off all electronics – TV, computers, tablets, phones, etc. – an hour before bed time.
- Drink warm milk. About an hour before bed, have a glass of warm milk (i.e., cow, almond or rice milk) with a pinch of nutmeg. This will promote sleep and provide added calories (in case your dinner was too light!).
- Massage your feet with oil. Gently massaging the soles of your feet with oil (sesame or coconut) is said to help ground your energy.
- Meditate to quiet the mind. Similar to when we shift our car to “park” when we are finished driving, at the end of the day, we can use meditation to shift our mind to the present moment. Meditation helps digest thoughts from the day – thoughts that could keep you awake if not adequately processed prior to lying down.
- Get to bed before 10pm. Ayurveda divides the day into dosha times. From 6pm-10pm it’s “kapha” time which is slow, heavy and dull – perfect for sleep. So if you are starting to feel snoozy in the early evening, take your body’s cue and get to bed. From 10pm – 2 am it’s pitta time. This is fiery energy that effects the mind and digestion; as we slip into this zone, our minds will become more alert and we may start feeling hungry!
- Rise by 6 am. Sleep requirements will vary for different individuals for various reasons. In general, vata dosha needs more sleep (8 hours is ideal) and pitta dosha needs less sleep and kapha needs the least amount of sleep. If you meditate a lot, you may need less sleep; also in the summer you may need less sleep.
This is a simple, yet powerful evening wellness routine. You can support the evening wellness routine with some of the many healthy recipes from The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook.
Diet and lifestyle changes are the best place to start and the Ayurveda system is authentic and time-tested. If you need help implementing a daily wellness routine for your unique set of circumstances, an Ayurvedic practitioner is trained to create a customized plan to help you on your journey. Food, meditation, yoga, exercise, pranayama are all powerful medicine that can heal the body, mind and soul. For most complaints, you will see immediate improvements. And over time, permanent benefits.
Lois Leonhardi is a certified ayurveda wellness practitioner, yoga instructor and author of “The Essential Ayurvedic Cookbook”. She trained under Dr. Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and in Pune, India. She has over 20 years of training in holistic studies (ayurveda, yoga and meditation). Lighthearted and compassionate, she listens to your concerns and creates realistic personalized programs to help you de-stress, detox and restore balance naturally. Sharing the wisdom of the mind-body connection and how to use food as medicine she reveals the secrets of how to slow the aging process, increase energy and bolster immunity giving you the tools to heal yourself, feel better and look great. www.yogawithlois.com. instagram.com/yogawithlois/ facebook.com/LoisALeonhardi
This article is intended to be educational and not a substitute for the skill, knowledge and experience of a qualified medical professional dealing with the facts, circumstances and symptoms of a particular case. Because each person and situation is unique, the author urges the reader to check with a qualified health-care professional before following any advice in this article. It is the responsibility of the reader to consult a physician or other qualified health-care professional regarding his or her personal care and before trying any home remedies in this article.
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