I don’t know about you, but I am a zombie and a grump when I haven’t had enough sleep. For years I was stuck in a cycle of sleeping for four hours, waking up about 2am, falling back asleep about 4:30am, and then the alarm went off at 5am. Then during the day I’d hit a wall but keep pushing through, and then want to fall asleep right after dinner. It was a terrible cycle that seemed never ending. What a nightmare! (pun totally intended). Then I discovered Ayurveda.
Sleep is critical to maintain our mental and physical health. It is the time when our body and mind rest and rejuvenate. Yet today’s hectic lifestyles often interrupt our natural sleep cycle. And we’ve become so used to functioning sleep-deprived that we have no idea how amazingly great it feels to be well rested. Imagine how much better you could feel and function if you slept like a baby every night.
Ayurveda has some very simple methods to help us get our circadian rhythms back in tune with nature. Following these Ayurvedic principles changed my sleeping and my life.
- Make Sure You Move During the Day – Getting regular exercise during the day helps your sleep at night. Exercising in the morning will benefit your evening. If you have a choice, exercise before noon.
- Meditation – Meditating for about 20 minutes in the morning and again 20 minutes in the evening really tunes your brain for restful sleep. Not ready for meditation? Even just sitting for a few minutes and breathing deeply into and out of your belly through your nose will help. Five minutes a day morning and night will do wonders.
- Your Bed is for Sleep and Sex Only – Don’t watch TV or read while in bed. Your body will get used to doing the same thing every time you crawl under the covers. If you watch TV every night, your brain and body are going to be programmed for that mental stimulation instead of sleep.
- Go to Sleep and Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day – Yes, I mean even on the weekends. It is best to be in bed with the lights off by 10pm, which is Kapha Time and conducive to a good night’s sleep. Going to be after 10pm takes you into Pitta time, which is a time of intensity and your body and mind will find it hard to wind down. (Note: Banyan Botanicals has a great article on how your dosha can affect your sleep. Check it out here.) It is best to wake with the rising sun without an alarm. If you must use an alarm, have it be a soothing sound. If you need to move up your bedtime, do so in 15 minute intervals every few days so your body can get used to the change.
- Have your Bedroom be Dark and Quiet – Make your bedroom a quiet retreat. Also consider your sheets and the temperature. Many studies suggest 65˚F as an ideal temperature.
- No Major Mental Activity for Two Hours Before Bed – Stop working, get off the computer, no violent TV shows (sorry Game of Thrones fans). The blue light emitted from electronic devices tricks your brain into thinking it should stay awake, so give it two hours to dissipate from your brain.
- Wind Down with Calming Activities – Read (not a thriller), color, journal, in the two hours prior to bedtime.
- No eating Two Hours Before Bed – Digestion takes activity and the body doesn’t want to go to sleep during that activity.
- No Electronics – Keep all electronics, cell phones, computers, TVs, in another room. If you use your phone as your alarm, make sure it is a minimum of five feet from your bed and is completely silent. My phone is my alarm and I have it set on Do Not Disturb from 10pm to 5am except if my family calls, and my family knows never to call during that time unless it is an emergency.
- Self-Massage – Try a warm bath with aromatherapy candles and a self-massage with the oil and scent appropriate to your dosha. I give myself a foot massage with a special sleep blend of essential oils.
This may seem like a long list, but it really easy to implement a few at a time. Choose two per week to ease into it and pretty soon you’ll be sleeping like a baby.
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)