Sleep is an essential part of life. It is part of our rest and repair cycle; activity and rest are the nature of life. Some of us have to try to get more of it, while some of us can’t get enough of it. Some of us have a very healthy relationship with sleep, whereas others have to work a little harder. Either way, a good night’s sleep can make or break your day and has a significant impact on your overall quality of life.
Your ability (or inability) to get restful sleep at night is one of the most important contributing factors to your overall health and wellness, according to Ayurveda. With good sleep, you’ll feel prepared to take on the day and all that life may throw at you. Without it, you may feel a little challenged and compromised.
But here’s the good news: by following a simple Ayurvedic routine in the evening, you can help your mind and body wind down for a much more sound sleep—and a better tomorrow!
Finding Sleep in the Chaos of Day-to-Day Life
For many of us, it can be difficult to unwind at night—especially after a long day of answering emails, attending meetings, taking phone calls, taking care of kids or pets, and battling traffic on the way to and from our jobs. Finding the “off” switch once you enter your personal sanctuary—home, at the end of the day—can be challenging.
The advent of technology and electronics that multitask our schedules is great in one way: they provide some efficiency and ease in checking off those ever-increasing priorities from our to-do lists. However, they can also spur a disconnect between mind/body/spirit, and potentially aggravate Vata and Pitta dosha—turning us into scattered, unfocused versions of ourselves (especially in the all-but-inevitable event that something digitally malfunctions!).
To counteract this chaos, the Ayurvedic Evening Routine is an invaluable practice after a busy day. New routines can be challenging to integrate and maintain, so try not to get overwhelmed—that would defeat the purpose. Just stay flexible and take it easy, integrating each practice step by step until you’ve developed a balance that feels right. The goal is to relax and recharge.
All right, let’s get down to business!
The Ideal Ayurvedic Evening Routine
- Rejuvenate with Asana and Meditation
After work, school, or picking up your little ones—once home—start by silencing, or turning off, all electronic gadgets. Settle down, and consider doing a round of yoga asanas. They are the ideal form of mind and emotion-calming exercise for all body types and ages. Asanas balance all three doshas, tone the muscles, and rejuvenate our bodies. After asanas, it’s great to practice pranayama (an Ayurvedic breathing technique) and meditation. Pranayama and meditation balance all the doshas, especially Vata. Twenty minutes of Transcendental Meditation®, or your preferred meditation/practice, is a great way to start and finish your day.
Learn more about TM at www.TM.org.
- Nourish Your Body
Prepare and eat a light, easy-to-digest dinner at least three hours before bedtime. Your sleep can be disturbed by your body digesting a meal that you eat too late, or too much of, in the evening. The result is that your sleep is not as restful and you do not efficiently digest your meal — leading to possible long-term imbalance. Favoring a light dinner — such as steamed vegetables and dhal, or soup — is ideal. If possible, avoid heavy meats, aged cheeses, and fried foods. Here are some great Vata-pacifying recipes to try. Sip hot water or Organic Calming Vata Tea throughout the day and with meals. Adding Organic Vata Churna, or our Pitta or Kapha Churnas, to evening meals aids digestion and helps bring balance, especially when the weather is cold and dry.
- Enjoy Leisure Activity
After dinner, favor low-key and relaxing activities: take a leisurely walk, read a book, listen to relaxing music, draw or color, watch a light-hearted movie, etc. Computers/electronics, social media, or watching the nightly news can stimulate your mind and actually cause stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is antagonistic to melatonin, the relaxation hormone, and also the hormone associated with sleep. So, when cortisol goes up, melatonin goes down, and that can be a problem, because you may not be able to stay asleep at night. Dim the lights, mimicking Nature as much as possible. Too much artificial light in the evening can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and affect the production of melatonin. Melatonin plays a crucial role in our body by triggering sleepiness and keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels healthy.
- Wind Down with a Warm Drink
Before bed, try a boiled cup of milk made with a touch of ginger and sugar, Organic Vata Tea, Organic Rose Petal Spread, or raw honey. (If using honey, add it after the milk has cooled to a warm — not hot — temperature to maintain its beneficial qualities. Any heated or cooked honey, according to Ayurveda, is considered to be very hard to digest.) Or try Slumber Time Tea to help disengage the mind from the senses and promote falling asleep easily.
- Prepare for Sleep
Rubbing sesame or coconut oil on your feet, ears, and even head at bedtime can go a long way towards physically relaxing your body. It may sound strange, but give it a try! It has an amazing, calming effect that Ayurveda recommends for improved sleep.
Consider diffusing Calming Vata Aroma Oil, Slumber Time Aroma Oil, or one of our dosha-balancing formulas — whichever one smells the best to you that evening — as these will further soothe, relax, and assist in falling asleep.
- Sleep Herbals
Support good sleep with the power of herbs, which enrich the natural functions of your body. Deep Rest is formulated especially for those who wake up in the early morning hours and have trouble falling back asleep. Blissful Sleep is for those who have trouble falling asleep. Worry Free, taken a few hours before bed, can calm an active mind and soothe those of us feeling frustration at the end of the day. Taking Stress Free Emotions a few hours before bed is also a great choice.
- Get to Bed Early
When possible, go to sleep before 10:00 p.m. Going to bed prior to 10:00 p.m. allows your body to settle while still in the evening cycle of Kapha — 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. (Kapha time is from 6:00-10:00, both a.m. and p.m.; Pitta time is 10:00-2:00, both a.m. and p.m.; and Vata time is 2:00-6:00, both a.m. and p.m.)
For those who often wake up feeling hot or stuffy — keep the bedroom cool while sleeping. Crack the window slightly, or turn down the heat a few degrees. Or try diffusing Cooling Pitta Aroma Oil at bedtime.
Early to bed, early to rise (ideally before 6:00 a.m., but not later than sunrise), allows us to feel relaxed, calm, and refreshed. We’ll be ready for the day with renewed vitality. To carry the effects of these practices with you all day, here’s a great Morning Routine to Kick-Start Your Day!
We all seek balance, purpose, and fulfillment in our lives. When you take the time to treat yourself wonderfully and prioritize your well-being, you reap untold benefits—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your body will thank you!
Keep on topic
© 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.