As an Ayurvedic practitioner, you are likely to come across clients who have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It can be an extremely frustrating malady and it ultimately leads to unpleasant health problems. It doesn’t help that modern life is very Vata-provoking, from all the hours in front of screens to how fast cars go to the high demand in the workplace.
Luckily Ayurveda, being the timeless art and science that it is, has many different things people can do to bring their sleep cycle back into balance. If you haven’t already, read Part 1 of our sleep series where we go into detail on why good sleep is necessary, what creates insomnia, and the different types of sleepers, whether Vata, Pitta or Kapha.
In this article you will find 9 practices that promote restful sleep that rejuvenates and enlivens, followed by 6 herbal remedies that greatly support deep, healthy sleep! The practices portion of this article can even be given straight to your clients as they are TriDoshic.
9 Practices for Sound Sleep
When the sun is setting that’s also time to be winding down. Dim or turn off the overhead lights and participate in relaxing activities like gentle pranayama, Yin Yoga poses, drawing, painting, journaling and light-hearted talking with family or friends. Evening is the time to avoid anything overly stimulating like work, social media, computers, phones, stressful conversations, violent TV and the news. Phones, computers and artificial lights can throw off the body’s circadian rhythms that produce the necessary sleep hormones.
Make abhyanga a part of your daily routine! Abhyanga primarily calms Vata, which is one of the main Doshas out of balance when insomnia is present. Oil massage is incredibly relaxing for the nervous system and creates a sense of comfort and wellbeing. Balahatadi Oil, Kadiliphaladi Oil and Karpuradi Oil are all very effective in relieving insomnia. Do this self-massage with the oil in the evening a couple hours after dinner. After the oil has soaked in for at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour), draw a warm, relaxing bath to rinse the oil off. You can also rub the bottoms of your feet with one of these oils right before sleep and then put socks on for a deep rest.
You probably knew this one was coming – meditation! Meditation is at the foundation of balancing all three Doshas and promoting a peaceful waking life as well as restful sleep. It is the ancient and timeless way of clearing out the junk from your subconscious and conscious mind. Try meditating at least fifteen minutes in the morning and ten to fifteen minutes right before you turn off the lights. Practicing deep, slow breathing and certain Pranayama exercises can also promote a restful night.
Eat a lighter dinner. Lunch should be the biggest meal of the day because the sun is highest in the sky and Pitta Dosha is dominant, so digestion is the strongest from 12pm to 2pm. But as evening comes on and the sun sets, the body’s ability to digest larger amounts of food lowers. Dinner is the meal to eat food that is easily digested like soups, kitchari and cooked vegetables. Avoid eating meat, bread or fruit for dinner because of their digestive difficulty.
Right before bed heat up a cup of organic milk and have it warm with a teaspoon of ghee, nutmeg and cardamom powder. The nutmeg and ghee will help put you right to sleep, the cooling nature of cardamom helps to digest the milk and cinnamon is delicious! A cup of chamomile tea to drink if you don’t want milk and lavender essential oils to smell are also effective bedtime rituals.
Cut out caffeine, refined sugar and stimulants of any kind. If you are suffering from Vata derangement resulting in insomnia then for at least three months it is best to cut these things out of your diet, or at the very least only consume them before noon. Caffeine especially should be avoided – it blocks adenosine, a neuromodulator in the brain that accumulates little by little throughout the waking period that produces the feeling of tiredness.
Exercise! It doesn’t have to be running a marathon, playing sports or lifting weights, though if you enjoy that then great! It’s just important to move your body for some time each day. Swimming, Yoga asanas and walks in nature are nice choices too.
This one may be difficult, but it’s best to be in bed with the lights off between 9pm and 11pm at the very latest. Our deepest sleep happens between the natural window of 10pm and 6am! Being asleep during this time will help your body rejuvenate and repair the fastest versus a sleeping schedule of 12am to 8am, for example. A minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sleep is the optimum amount for good health, though that varies depending on your constitution. Read more about that here.
Once you are in bed, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try to make your inhales and exhales match – slow and deepen your breathing to inhale to the count of 6, then slow down and exhale to the count of 6. This simple Pranayama practice is very relaxing and focusing.
6 Herbal Remedies to Relieve Insomnia
The more severe the insomnia then the higher the dose for each remedy. For example, your client would take two Manasamitra Vatakam Tablets in the morning and evening instead of one.
The ghritams are especially helpful for Vata and Pitta types, and in many cases should not be given to those with excess Kapha, except in very small doses and for a limited amount of time, two to four weeks for example.
- Daily abhyanga with Karpuradi Tailam. This is a good option for your clients who are suffering from stress, anxiety and headaches as well as insomnia. Kapha dominant people will also benefit most from this oil because of its ability to relieve chest congestion and improve blood circulation.
- Daily abhyanga with Valiya Chandanadi Tailam. This oil will especially help those who complain of an overactive mind when trying to fall asleep as well as your clients with other mental health issues such as memory loss and schizophrenia.
Contributing Editor: Dr. JV Hebbar
ALL VIEWS AND INFORMATION SHARED HERE IS ONLY FOR THE SHARING OF AYURVEDIC KNOWLEDGE. PLEASE DO NOT TRY OR PRESCRIBE OR TAKE ANY OF THE REMEDIES AND SUGGESTIONS HERE WITHOUT TALKING TO YOUR REGULAR, QUALIFIED DOCTOR. KOTTAKKAL AYURVEDA AND NO OTHER PERSON ASSOCIATED WITH KOTTAKKAL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR UNWANTED SIDE-EFFECTS OR CONTRAINDICATIONS IN YOUR HEALTH. THANK YOU!