This year, the National Sleep Awareness Week sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation falls from April 1 through April 7. Results of a poll conducted by the Foundation in 2001 reveal some disturbing statistics and trends:
- America is increasingly becoming a society that lives to work, not works to live
- 40% of adults report getting so little sleep that resulting daytime drowsiness interferes with productivity several days in a month
- Over half of adults surveyed said they had driven while drowsy in the last year
- Almost 70% report having one or more sleep problems several times a week
Physical, mental or emotional stress — job worries, budgeting and finances, relationship pressures, work deadlines, tests and exams, for example — are at the top of the list of factors that can rob you of sleep. Pain and physiological circumstances such as menopause or pregnancy for women, travel across time zones, young children, excessive noise and snoring partners can all contribute to inadequate or poor-quality sleep.
Why Sleep is Important
Both ayurveda and modern medicine are in accord about the importance of sleep as a means to recharge and rejuvenate the physiology.
The short-term consequences of inadequate sleep or poor-quality sleep are often obvious — loss of productivity and reduced mental capacity the next day, lethargy and drowsiness leading to lack of focus and concentration, lower physical energy and impaired appetite and digestion, lackluster emotions and reduced zest for life, and lifeless skin and bags under the eyes, to name just a few. Research studies indicate that the brain actually uses sleep time as a time to categorize and store information, so that individuals who sleep after a period of intense study are often able to remember more of it later than people who do not take the time to sleep.
The long-term effects of ongoing sleep deprivation are sometimes less obvious, but just as, or more, damaging to health and well-being. Impaired natural immunity means less resistance to infections and disease (studies have linked sleep deprivation to obesity and high blood pressure, among other things); lowered mental and emotional stability that can damage relationships and ongoing work performance (sleep deprivation is linked to chronic depression); and a disruptive sleep-wake cycle that can throw the body's systems out of balance.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
According to ayurveda, and according to many modern researchers as well, the number of hours of sleep an individual needs can vary widely. Some adults can get by with 5-6 hours of sleep on an ongoing basis, while others may need 9-10 to really function optimally the following day. Listening to your own body and mind during the day for a couple of weeks can tell you how much sleep you need each night.
Also, the quality of rest is crucial. According to ayurveda, the most restful sleep occurs when the mind is completely detached from the senses.
Get The Rest You Deserve
Severe and ongoing sleep deprivation and disorders such as sleep apnea warrant a visit to a qualified health care professional. Physicians qualified in Maharishi Ayurveda can help design a diet/lifestyle/supplements program based on an ayurvedic pulse diagnosis and your individual circumstances and needs.
If you have occasional difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night, or you wake up feeling unrefreshed, diet and lifestyle changes may help resolve the problem.
Cut back on caffeine
Especially in the evening, substitute relaxing herbal teas for caffeinated drinks or alcohol. Slumber Time Tea from Maharishi Ayurveda is a blend of herbs and spices formulated to help you relax. For a heartier beverage, try a small cup of warm milk about an hour before bed. If you're feeling irritable or frustrated, add a spoonful of Organic Rose Petal Spread to the milk.
To cut back on caffeine during the day try Maharishi Ayurveda Raja's Cup. It is a coffee substitute that actually tastes like coffee but does not contain any of the usual suspects. Made from ayurvedic herbs. No grains such as chicory or barley. No carob!
Enjoy caffeine-free Maharishi Ayurveda Raja's Cup any time of day — after meals, at breakfast or before bed. No artificial colorings, flavorings or preservatives — all natural, non-irradiated.
Maharishi Ayurveda Raja's Cup has been shown to have approximately two hundred times more antioxidant power than vitamin C or E! (Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, Vol. 43.)
Eat light at night
Most Americans tend to eat lunch "on the go" and then eat a heavy meal late at night. "Not a good idea," says The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. Eating a heavy dinner at night taxes your digestion at a time when it's winding down, and this will lead to ama build-up as well as difficulty in settling down to sleep. Ama (digestive impurities) blocks the channels of the body and creates an environment conducive to disease.
Teach your body to woo sleep
If you establish a regular sleep-wake cycle, going to bed at about the same time each night and waking up at the same time every morning, your body and mind will help you by automatically winding down as that bedtime approaches. According to ayurveda, going to bed by 10:00 p.m. and waking up by 6:00 a.m. at the latest is ideal. Do not sleep during the day if you have trouble sleeping at night.
Turn off the tube
A significant number of Americans report watching television right before bed; some even fall asleep watching TV. Your mind and emotions should be focused on calming, positive activities as bedtime approaches. Avoid news or entertainment that can shock or disturb the mind and senses. Instead, listen to soothing music (Sama Veda, or Gandharva Veda music appropriate for the time of evening, are especially designed to calm the senses on a deep level) or practice deep breathing.
Count your blessings, not sheep
In the same vein, The Council advises taking the time each evening to reflect on the people and things in your life that bring you joy and bliss. Anxiety and anger are poor bed companions. Two subdoshas that are directly related to sleep quality and quantity are Prana Vata, which governs the mind, and Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions. Take the Worry Free tablets or the Blissful Joy tablets to help keep these subdoshas in balance.
Herbs that heal
It's all a matter of following the ayurvedic routine. If the human body were to not need sleep, it would have been designed that way. Learn to say no to demands that force you to take shortcuts on the basic needs of your body and mind. You'll find over time that if you take care of your physiology, you can accomplish just as much, or more, than if you strain to work all the time.
© 1999, 2021 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.