A good nights sleep does wonders! And conversely, a night - or a string of them! - of less quantity, poor quality sleep can leave us feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.
Sleep is so important to our health and longevity that Ayurveda identifies sound sleep as one of the classical three pillars of health that are described to us in one of the main texts, the Astanga Hridayam. So for those of you who could use some better sleep, here are a few tips toward better rest and the rejuvenation that we seek to have from good quality sleep.
Aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep works well for most people. Some people can do well with as little as 6 or as much as night, however both too little and too much will catch up over time. With too little sleep, our ojas - the storehouse of vital energy and immunity that we have - depletes, and with too much we start to feel dull, heavy, lazy and develop kapha-type issues like congestion, stiffness, and more.
How do you know you're getting the right amount of sleep? It will be some where in the 7 - 8 hour per night range for most healthy people, and you'll be able to fall asleep easily, sleep through the night, and wake up easily feeling refreshed and ready for your day!
Tips for Better Sleep
See which of these resonates most with you to start. Work with that, and when it becomes a part of your routine, add in another until you're sleeping soundly and feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in the morning
Sleep by 10p and wake by 6a (or, 1.5 hours before sunrise!)
At 10p pitta dosha becomes prominent in our physiology, emphasizing the transformation and healing that allows us to integrate our day (physically, mentally and emotionally) and repair the organs and body systems (particularly the pitta organs like the liver, gall bladder, etc). Pitta is a fiery energy that we want working internally during the night. When we stay up past 10p, that pitta energy can turn into bursts of external activity and getting hungry (which makes it much harder to get to bed!), when ideally it would be focused inward.
Rinse in a warm shower
Water has been used for ages for its ability to purify. Rinsing in warm water in the evening washes the day away and clears the energy of the body and mind which makes easier, deeper sleep more accessible.
Nutmeg is a natural sedative. Including nutmeg in your dinner or a soothing evening drink (like chamomile tea, or warm milk) will soothe the nervous system and entice you into sound sleep.
Warm sesame oil massage on the feet
Sesame oil is the best plain oil for grounding and calming vata dosha. Warming sesame oil and massaging it into the soles of the feet calms the nervous system, slows the breath, and tucks vata dosha - the energy of activity and movement - in for the night! You can even leave the oil on all night. If you don't want to get your sheets oily, putting on an old pair of socks will protect them.
10 - 15 minutes of restorative yoga poses, deep breathing, or meditation
All of these stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, so including any one of them into your evening routine will help the body make a shift into sleep.
Wrap a rolled (or folded) towel around the top of your head and ears
This requires you lay on your back, at least to get to sleep. If you roll over in your sleep, no problem! Lay on your back and make a tube with a towel, small blanket, or scarf. Rest the center of the tube against the top of your head and tuck the sides against your ears and into the curve of your neck and shoulders. This contains prana vayu, one of the subdoshas of vata that is situated around the head. It's a great tool for stilling the movement of the mind, reducing anxiety, and inducing relaxation.
A weighted blanket
This changed my life. When vata dosha is high, we are too light in either or of the body and mind. Vata is light, and is pacified by heavy. Hence, weighted blankets do wonders to ground the nervous system and vata dosha and promote sleep.
Breathing in bed
Watch your breath as you lay in bed. When the mind wants to jump in with thoughts of the day that passed, the day ahead, or freak out about how you can't fall asleep (I've been there too!), gently bring it back to observing your passive, relaxed breath. Even if you don't fall asleep, keeping the body and mind still will still provide some rest and you'll do a whole lot better the next day.
If you still aren't getting good sleep, a consultation can help sort out what is going on with you uniquely and help you get to a place of sleep that rejuvenates you. Be in touch any time for more support. And, enjoy easier, deeper, sleep!