Restful Sleep in the Right Amount
Many of us remember when we were younger how easy it was to sleep. We could basically sleep anywhere. As we age, a good night’s sleep isn’t as easy to come by. We have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep without interruptions, and typically have less time in deep, dreamless sleep. It is a common myth that as we get older, we need less sleep.
Everyone knows the importance of sleep, but many people don’t know how to get it or how much is the right amount. In Ayurveda, maintaining balance of mind, body, and spirit is what leads to getting a perfect night's sleep. When you become imbalanced in some way is when insomnia is experienced.
Ayurveda teaches that every cause has an effect, and this applies to sleep as well. When you are not sleeping well, very simply explained, there is something that is the cause. It can sometimes be easy to pinpoint an unusual night of sleeplessness - for example, if you had a late afternoon cup of coffee or stayed on the phone or computer late at night. However, when dealing with longer term insomnia, it can be a little trickier to determine what’s causing it.
Addressing the Causes
In order to get a quality night’s sleep, the important factors to understand are;
1- the environment you sleep in
2- the health of your mind
3- the state of your body
Keeping the room dark and the temperature slightly cooler helps create a natural state for you to rest. Calming the nervous system with herbal teas and stillness helps the body to prepare for rest. Lastly, your body needs to be supported by having adequate exercise and a strong digestion by following your individual doshic diet.
Trouble Falling Asleep
If the issue that you have is that falling asleep is difficult, then it is likely that you have a pitta/ fire or vata/ air imbalance. It is likely your mind is overactive/ over stimulated and you aren’t calm and ready for sleep. In this case, you need to wind down from your day properly and “turn off” the mind.
Establishing a routine at night is key to preparing and falling asleep quickly. Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and turn off all electronics about an hour before bed. Create a routine of going to bed around the same time so your body gets use to this routine. Before bed, do a meditation practice, read a spiritual book, or listen to some calming music or mantras. If your mind is still in overdrive, destress by getting yourself in a positive mindset by doing a Yoga Nidra practice.
Note: If you continue to be stressed without relief from calming activities, please discuss with your health care practitioner.
Difficulty Staying Asleep
It is normal between sleep cycles to wake up, and often we don’t even realize we do it because we fall back asleep so quickly. However, if you wake up and can’t fall back asleep it is due to a Vata imbalance. This imbalance is often due to an issue with digestion or too much liquid in the bladder. If the food you had last before bed is slow to digest, this can cause your body to wake up and move around. Similarly, if you have too much to drink before bed, needing to go to the bathroom can cause you to wake in the night.
In order to prevent this, have your last meal 3-4 hours before bedtime. Also, reduce the amount of liquids before bedtime. You can also use Ayurvedic herbs like triphala which can aid in digestion and help you sleep better at night, as it cleanses the intestines and calms the effect of excess vata/ air element.
Can’t Wake Up in the Morning
If you struggle to wake up in the morning, this is a sign of Kapha imbalance. If you feel sluggish and heavy when you wake up, you need to reset the balance of Kapha by reenergizing the body and mind. Causes of sluggishness can be from eating late the night before or too much thinking during sleep.
Getting daily exercise like playing sports will help a lot with sleep issues. Also taking a brisk walk, taking a yoga class (doing your own home practice), or going to the gym 3-5 times a week will raise the level of vata and pitta so the body becomes energized and lowers the level of kapha/ earth energy.
Ultimately good sleep is about getting the right amount of rest and not about how many hours you stay in bed. Some days 5 hours is enough and sometimes 8 is needed. It really all depends on the level of your stress, anxiety, lifestyle, work schedule and the condition of your body and mind.
Get to know yourself better and be observant of your body and your mental state. This way you will be able to take the right actions and create the right environment for optimal rest and the perfect night’s sleep.