During deep, restful sleep, our body recovers from stress and we wake up feeling refreshed, clear-minded, and energized. To restore our innate capacity to sleep soundly, Ayurveda suggests that we focus on creating a lifestyle that includes optimal nutrition, exercise, a regular meditation practice, and a daily routine. Restful sleep is the natural result of making choices that support physical and emotional balance throughout the day. In Ayurvedic terminology, insomnia is an imbalance of the Vata dosha. Vata is the principle of movement and is light, changeable, active, and quick.
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Do you frequently wake up throughout the night, unable to drift back into a restful slumber? Do you feel exhausted when you get up in the morning, wishing you could crawl back under the covers for another hour or longer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be like one of the millions of people who suffer from sleep disturbance. Why Do We Need to Sleep? We need sleep to rejuvenate our bodies as well as our minds. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system.
Sleep also plays a role in memory and learning. Not sleeping well not only affects our quality of life but may also increase mortality and is associated with a number of serious medical issues including high blood pressure, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and mood disorders. If you have chronic insomnia lasting more than one month , it may be important to be seen by a healthcare practitioner.
Why Does Sleep Get Disrupted? Sleep is also often disturbed during major life events or transitions, which trigger a stress response. In addition, sleep disorders can result from medical or psychiatric conditions and from medications or other substances used to treat these conditions.
In any case, when we have trouble falling asleep or we keep waking in the night, our sleep cycles get interrupted and we are deprived of the healing effects of sleep. The Quick Fix Is Not Always the Best Answer Very often the easy solution to poor sleep is medication, and in the past six years, the number of prescriptions given for sleeping medications have more than doubled.
However, both prescription and over-the-counter medications have downsides. In addition, many people feel that they become dependent on these substances in order to sleep. I recently had a medical consultation with a guest at our Perfect Health program who had been struggling with poor sleep since the death of her husband three years ago.
Our body has natural rhythms of mental and physical activity known as circadian rhythms. So when the sun rises, our body naturally becomes more alert and active, and as the sun sets, our body increases its level of natural chemicals such as melatonin that start to slow us down and prepare us for sleep. Electric lighting has now made it possible for human beings to work well into the night, and many people now have lifestyles that run counter to the rhythms and cycles of nature, thus creating an imbalance in the body.
Ayurveda recommends a bedtime around 10 p. This gives us eight hours of rest although some people need more or less than the general rule of eight hours.
Ideally, you should wake up feeling refreshed and without the need for an alarm clock. If your sleep times are significantly different from this guideline, try shifting your bedtime closer to your goal by about fifteen minutes each week. To help your body align with a sleep-wake natural cycle, be sure to get outside for a dose of sunlight that our bodies need.
Ten to twenty minutes of mid-day sun exposure can help to cue our biological clocks as well as help the body to produce vitamin D if your arms and legs are exposed and you are not wearing sunscreen In addition, it is important to reduce exposure to light at night.
It is thought that being exposed to too much light at night is the environmental equivalent of ingesting caffeine before bed, so dim the lights and turn off the screens at least two hours before you want to go to sleep. Consider using special light bulbs in your bedroom that block blue light. What About Naps? If you are having a hard time falling asleep at a reasonable hour, then naps are likely to further disrupt your sleep cycle.
Occasionally we need additional sleep — a short nap or sleeping in — but making this a regular habit may not necessarily be beneficial. If you do choose to take a nap, make it short less than thirty minutes and do not nap after 4 p. Daily physical activity is important, and research has shown that it may help improve sleep; however exercising after 6 or 7 p.
Eating heavy foods or late night meals can also disturb sleep. Minimize External Stimulants Very often when we are not sleeping well, one of the first things we do to combat daytime sleepiness is to reach for an external pick-me-up, usually in the form of caffeine. However, studies have shown that even if you reach for your latte in the morning, it may still cause sleep disturbances hours later at night.
These effects increase at increasing doses, so decreasing your intake will definitely help. To avoid any potential withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, reduce your intake gradually. In addition to coffee, which contains an average of mg of caffeine per cup, there are many other sources of caffeine to be aware of, including tea white, green, black, and oolong , decaffeinated coffee, colas, some non-cola sodas, chocolate, energy drinks, guarana, and yerba mate.
Some over-the-counter weight loss pills, pain relievers, and cold medications may also contain significant amounts of caffeine. How Alcohol Effects Sleep Another common substance that is used in a misguided effort to rest is alcohol.
While alcohol may seem to calm the nerves and help you fall asleep, consumption of alcohol can actually cause further sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states, altering total sleep time, and altering the time required to fall asleep.
It is best to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and avoid drinking alcohol within two hours of bedtime. One must also be aware that certain medications can have stimulant-like effects or sedative effects that can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and contribute to insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Setting the Stage for Restful Sleep Aside from avoiding excessive light at night, reducing TV time close to bedtime also helps to minimize mental stimulation that can cause our minds to become too active or agitated.
Make your bedroom a haven for rest and relaxation. Is your room cluttered with books, work, and other things for you to do? Having a habit of doing work in bed makes your brain associate being in bed with continued activity, not rest. Use your bed only for resting and lovemaking to end the association with continuing activity of your mind when you are trying to get to sleep. But even without purposefully bringing mental activity into the bedroom, our minds may still be preventing us from getting our much needed rest.
According to some sleep experts, stress is the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties — be it job-related stress, relationship issues or health challenges. It is therefore important to tend to your emotional health before bedtime. Relaxation techniques such as journaling, meditation, breathwork, and guided imagery can help to quiet the mind and let the worries of the day fall away.
Soothing Aromas and Herbs Using relaxation techniques as part of a regular bedtime ritual calms both body and mind and helps regulate our internal clock. Starting off with a warm shower or bath can help as we sleep better when we are cooling off. An unwinding self-abhyanga massage, paying particular attention to the head and feet, is another wonderful practice that can put your body at ease as well as producing feel good natural chemicals that combat anxiety and depression.
Adding aromatherapy can further help the mind relax. Use calming aromas such as lavender, chamomile, or sandalwood essential oils in your bath or in other scented products such as candles or massage oils.
Consider brewing some calming herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, or passion flower which may also be taken as an herbal extract.
The Ayurvedic sleep remedy of taking warm milk with cardamom and honey may be helpful because the ingredients have soothing and nourishing properties as well as the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to the calming neurotransmitter serotonin.
Tryptophan is also found in other foods such as nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, and meat. A number of other natural remedies, such as the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha, may be helpful. Always talk to your healthcare practitioner about the benefits and risks before taking any natural remedies. It is important, however, not to try to force yourself to sleep. There is nothing relaxing about peering at the clock all night, wondering if you will ever get to sleep. If you are unable to fall asleep within fifteen to thirty minutes, get up and out of bed.
Lying in bed wide awake can further exacerbate sleep disturbances because it reinforces the association between being in bed and being awake. Instead, go and do something relaxing until you naturally feel sleepy and then return to your bed. If incorporating these suggestions does not help, you may want to consider a consultation with a sleep specialist to make sure there is no other disorder that is preventing you from getting the rest and rejuvenation that you need.
Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, fitness, or other health program. Share This Article.
Do you frequently wake up throughout the night, unable to drift back into a restful slumber? Do you feel exhausted when you get up in the morning, wishing you could crawl back under the covers for another hour or longer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be like one of the millions of people who suffer from sleep disturbance. Why Do We Need to Sleep?
Restful Sleep: The Complete Mind/Body Program for Overcoming Insomnia
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