Work has been keeping you anxious, tensed, and you have been running short on your eight-hour beauty sleep. Worse, it has started showing up on your face and eyes, as you go about your day in a daze. When your body does not get the right quality of sleep, your prana or life energy remains low, affects your productivity, and overall health. Sleeplessness over a prolonged period of time can lead to Insomnia. Sleep deprivation results into impaired judgment, negativity, slowed cognitive abilities and even weight gain, and heart related disorders in some cases.
The late night hyperactivity that many of us engage in is the opposite of what is naturally supposed to occur in the body, according to Ayurveda. 6 PM to 10 PM is the Kapha period according to Ayurveda, when the body starts settling down and feeling tired to prepare us for a reinvigorating sleep.
Hyperactivity is a direct result of our hyper-stimulating culture, where we have trained ourselves to defy the night with bright lights and blue-light emitting electronic screens. The stimulation of light, which in nature (depending on the season) dwindles around 7 pm, decreases melatonin production, disrupts the circadian rhythm, and creates difficulty in falling asleep. While our home lighting can indeed keep us awake, the biggest culprit is blue light, which is emitted from electronic devices that blocks secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Instead of turning to alcohol or popping pills, try Ayurveda for improved sleep without bargaining with your physical and mental health. Ayurveda, an ancient science of healing and longevity, has simple yet very effective herbal remedies to help you get quality sleep, even if the number of hours you sleep remains fewer than you'd want.
You can have the concoction at night after dinner. While cumin (Jeeraka in Ayurveda) has a good amount of melatonin which improves your sleep cycle, it is also anti-congestive and is rich in essential oils which helps in treating cold and flu. The presence of riboflavin, vitamin B6 and niacin in cumin regularizes brain function too.
To add some sweetness to the preparation, we add licorice (Yashtimadhu) which is a healthy digestive agent as well as being a great taste provider. Licorice detoxifies and cleanses the body, improves strength and immunity, is useful in treating abdominal tumors, bloatedness, diarrhea, worm infection and skin diseases. In the ancient days, licorice was used in many herbal formulations to dilute the unpleasant taste of the other herbs present in the medicine.
Milk is known to contain tryptophan which produces serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a calmness-boosting hormone which provides us restful sleep. In Ayurveda, milk is called the elixir par excellence. Milk also regulates Kapha dosha in the body that is needed for proper sleep.
Before hitting the hay, you can have a spoon of honey mixed with 10 grams of Triphala powder. Triphala (three fruit combo) is a popular Ayurvedic formulation that consists of extracts of three power fruits – Indian gooseberry (Amalaki), Beleric ( Bibhitaki) and Black Myrobalan whole (Haritaki), which are rich in antioxidants. The formulation is good for the respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive and nervous systems.
Indian gooseberries are good coolants that reduce Pitta dosha. Haritaki is an effective detox agent and balances all the three doshas. Honey, contains tryptophan, is scientifically proven to improve and give you longer restorative sleep cycles.
Having a spoonful of honey about an hour before bedtime ensures sufficient glycogen production, so the body does not release stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in the morning right after you wake up. This preparation stabilizes sugar levels in the body. This preparation releases melatonin needed by the body for recovery and rejuvenation of body tissues during the resting period.
If you have been having a mentally taxing day and your brain has been on an overdrive, your head may still be abuzz and in all probability, you are sleepless from the brain activity. On such days, you need to eat or apply natural ingredients or foods that increase the Kapha in the body for you to be able to nod off. In such cases, sugar cane juice is a great option. Sugar cane is nourishing and a natural coolant. It increases Kapha dosha slightly and calms down the Pitta in the body.
Insomnia is one of the Vata disorders caused by an aggravated Vata dosha, owing to irregular sleep pattern, poor dietary habits, stressful worklife and lack of routine. Ayurvedic experts recommend full body massage with essential oils that are slightly heavy structured and balance the Vata like sesame oil, avocado oil, Clary Sage (used in aromatherapy, works on the hypothalamus, brain’s primitive part and relieves anxiety, fear and stress). Instead of looking for oils that suit your skin and ones that don’t, and going through the pain of looking for pure extracts in the market, you can simply pick out the carefully crafted EO blends like Shankara’s Calming Body Oil from the Sleep Collection.
This ultra-nourishing body oil is the perfect remedy for relaxing at the end of a long day. Filled with essential oils that help soothe emotions and relax the body, while delivering the benefits of rich nutrients, antioxidants, and intensely moisturizing ingredients.
Ayurveda experts recommend a 15 to 20-minute head and foot message before dinner. The massage will relax your body, remove the fatigue and stress that hinders good quality sleep and prepares the body for an undisturbed 8 hours of sleep. Shankara’s Nourishing Foot Oil has essential oils and extracts of calming herbs. It is rich with the essence of sunflower, jojoba, grapeseed, lemon basil, dashmoola, neem, cardamom, camphor, lemongrass, manjistha, lavender, ginger, olive leaves and Ashwagandha.
A popular, low cost and effective mind body intervention known for reducing stress that hinders continuous restful sleep is Yoga. You can try these 5 restorative yoga poses to release the stress from each fibre of your body, calm the mind and allow the mind and body to slip into a deep and restful phase.
a) Child Pose
b) Legs-up-the-wall pose
c) Supine Spinal twist
d) Standing forward bend pose
e) Corpse pose
After a long day of activity both mental and physical, now it is time to rest and let the body cells relax. It is very important to end the day with a guided meditation of Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep). Even if you have worked out or practiced Yoga, it is recommended that you end the session with Yoga Nidra. Without proper rest after the work out, you miss out on the most important experience of exercise which is the deep spiritual rest that your body gets, after having exhausted the Rajas Guna in the body through focused activity. Even if you are unable to sleep, listen in to Yoga Nidra, follow the instructions and let yourself glide into a good night's rest.