Sleep. You’re always getting too little of it. Or even if you’re getting enough, chances are, it’s not the right quality. Or if it’s the right quality, it’s the wrong type. There are even different types of insomnia.1 With all these different variables, does anyone have the solution to perfect sleep? At first glance, it would appear the answer is “no.” The CDC reports that 1/3 of American adults don’t get enough sleep and even when we go on vacation, 63% of us still struggle with sleep.2 3
Arianna Huffington recently wrote a book about sleep where she explores how sleep can impact multiple areas of your life: physical, mental, psychological, professional, social, and even sexual. Arianna was inspired to write The Sleep Revolution after she collapsed from sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and burnout in 2007 due to a high-stress lifestyle; her fall was so hard, that she broke her cheekbone.
Most people (luckily) won’t suffer from a catastrophic breakdown like Arianna; rather, they’ll find they fall into bad sleep habits, such as “catching up” on sleep during the weekend after getting too few zzz’s during the work week. Or, they may struggle to get their bodies and minds back on a good sleep schedule when we “fall back” or “spring forward” for Daylight Savings. Regardless of the cause, addressing sleep issues will help you live a more balanced and healthier life. Moreover, if you are currently on a healing journey, restorative sleep is a crucial component to your long-term success.
In American culture, we look for a quick fix for anything that ails us – including sleep. As of 2014, there were over nine million Americans using prescription meds to get a good night’s rest. While this is certainly concerning, the alarming statistic is around emergency-room visits related to those prescriptions: in a four-year period, there were twice as many people hospitalized because they had “overmedicated.” This study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration, did not even address the fact that sleeping pills, like Ambien, are dangerously addictive; they also interfere with your meditation and daytime clarity as well.4
So, what can you do get a better night’s rest? Take a page out of your energy healing handbook.
Ayurveda for sleep
Ayurveda is the world’s oldest healing system and literally means “the science of life.” Originating in India, Ayurveda considers sleep one of the three essential parts of good health (the other two are proper diet and balanced sexuality). In fact, sleep is so central to optimal health in Ayurveda that the word for “natural sleep” is Bhutadhatri – a combination of the Sanskrit word Bhuta (your physical body) and Dhatri (mother). Bhutadhatri nourishes one’s body like a mother nurtures her child.
Below are three Ayurvedic sleep remedies to help you achieve health physiologically, psychologically, and neurologically:
1. Indulge in a cup of warm spiced milk
Turns out, the old wives’ tale of drinking warm milk to fall asleep has merit. Take that warm milk one step further by adding a spice like cardamom, cinnamon, or nutmeg, and you will have a good night’s sleep in a warm mug.
This Ayurvedic sleep remedy is based around the mother-nurturing concept: milk is the first thing that we consume after birth, and drinking warm spiced milk as a part of your bedtime routine will have a nurturing effect on our body and mind. Science has also shown that there are components in milk that support the quieting of the nervous system, which in turn promotes restful sleep.5
2. Just breathe
Before you head to bed, practicing your breathing exercise can have a powerful effect on your energy – and your ability to fall or stay asleep.
Pranayama is the control and extension of the breath that activates your Prana (your life force energy). To begin your Pranayama breathing exercise, start by focusing on and connecting to your heart. Once you have made a connection, inhale deeply and chant “om” on your exhale. The “o” sound should be three times as long as the “m” sound. Repeat until you feel nourished and ready to fall asleep.
3. Go to bed no later than 9 or 10 PM (and wake between 4 and 6 AM)
Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Who knew Ben Franklin was a follower of Ayurveda?
When you sleep from 9 or 10 PM to 4 to 6 AM, you are giving yourself a natural boost of sattva to start your day (sattva is Sanskrit for optimism/clarity). An important part of Ayurveda psychology, sattva is best described as the amazing happiness you feel just from being alive, which children so easily embody.
And be sure that one of the first things you do in the morning is step outside for a moment and take in the early morning light. Daylight sets you up to be more awake during the day. (Note: if you live in the north where daylight hours are limited in the winter months, invest in a quality light box that you use upon waking to simulate daylight.)
As a part of your early to rise routine, get your physical exercise in before noon. It’s better to wake up early enough to go to the gym before work rather than going in the evening if you are over the age of 25.
Drinking warm spiced milk and practicing Pranayama is often the easy part of a natural sleep remedy. It’s the going to sleep at 9 or 10 PM (and waking at 4 to 6AM) that most people struggle with…after all, life today, with all of it’s online distractions, has no such schedule.
So, what else can you do to get a good night’s rest?
Work with nature, not against it
While we are all special flowers in our own right, nature is rather impersonal and plays by the physical laws of the universe (and not your night owl tendencies). Your body is part of nature and there’s no sense in fighting against your innate programming (spoiler alert: you’re not going to win this round).
You are programmed to go to bed when it gets dark and wake when it’s light. Your biological rhythms – controlled by your internal body clock – affects everything from body temperature and appetite to hormones and sleep timing. These biological rhythms tie back into the three pillars of Ayurvedic health: sleep, proper diet, and balanced sexuality; if one area of your health is off, the others will suffer as well.
So, the secret to getting your zzz’s isn’t a magic pill or potion; once again, ancient energy healing wisdom, combined with being in touch with your body and Mother Nature, and getting to bed at a decent hour, delivers a sleep solution that will put you on the path to living your best life.
So, here’s to restful sleep!