It turns out there’s something to the old adage: early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise. According to Ayurveda, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to promote good health, happiness, and overall well-being—life’s ultimate riches.
If you tend to toss and turn at night, don’t worry: you’re not alone. Fortunately, Ayurveda offers some easy, all-natural solutions that can improve the quality of your sleep.
1. Make Lunch Your Biggest Meal
If you’re new to Ayurveda, you might be wondering, What on earth does lunch have to do with sleep? But if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Ayurveda fan, you’ll know that digestion and sleep are intimately connected.
At noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, your agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest and is better able to process a big meal; in the evening, digestion is weaker. Unfortunately, people often tend to skip lunch, or just grab a quick sandwich or salad on the go, saving their biggest meal for dinner. The problem with that? Eating a big meal in the evening can weigh down your digestion and cause sleep disturbance.
Nighttime is the body’s time to rest, recharge, and repair. It can’t do this if it’s working hard to process a big meal, or heavy foods such as deep-fried foods, a steak, etc. Therefore, it’s best to aim for a bigger lunch and a lighter dinner, ideally finishing a minimum of three hours before bedtime.
2. Have an Ayurvedic Nightcap
Forget the hot toddy; a soothing cup of warm organic cow’s milk, goat milk, or almond milk is all you need to send you off to sleep. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg, which contains myristicin—a natural, organic compound that helps calm the nervous system.
On nights when you’d prefer something lighter, you can always sip relaxing chamomile tea or Ayurvedic Slumber Time Tea, which helps disengage the mind from the senses so you can drift off to sleep. Another favorite is Organic Vata Tea boiled in your milk or almond milk.
3. Cut Back on Those Lattes
Throughout the day, try to cut back on caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, lattes, and other stimulants like sugar, which tend to overstimulate the nervous system. Raja’s Cup is a delicious Ayurvedic coffee substitute that’s also a powerful antioxidant; it fights free radicals hundreds of times more effectively than even Vitamins C or E.
Another bonus: it contains stress-relieving ashwagandha. But if you simply can’t give up your daily cuppa, try having it earlier in the day—definitely before lunch.
4. Get on a Good Routine
According to Ayurvedic texts, one of the most important things you can do to balance sleep—and your overall mental and physical health— is dinacharya (daily routine). Often, sleep disturbances come from an imbalanced routine, whether working long hours, eating at irregular times, or going to bed at a different time every night.
To bring your body back into balance, try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day. Aim to eat your meals at approximately the same time every day. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
In short: aim for a steady, balanced daily schedule to keep your body’s biological rhythms running smoothly.
5. Hit the Sack Before Pitta Time
Just as our bodies have their own natural rhythms, so do the hours of the day. In Ayurveda, we see the day as divided into two 12-hour cycles that each contain three four-hour cycles dominated by a specific dosha:
- Vata: 2-6 a.m./p.m.
- Kapha: 6-10 a.m./p.m.
- Pitta: 10-2 a.m./p.m.
Doshas are the Ayurvedic mind-body characteristics—elements that govern our bodies’ functions. They also influence our energy throughout the day.
Vata time is governed by air and space, which makes it a good time for creativity during the day and dreaming at night.
Pitta time is governed by fire, which lends itself to productivity during the day and metabolic processes during the night.
Kapha time is governed by earth and water, which means you might feel heavier or more lethargic during this cycle—day or night.
To stay in balance with these natural rhythms, Ayurvedic physicians recommend going to bed before 10:00 p.m., when fiery Pitta energy kicks in, and waking no later than 6:00 a.m., when sluggish Kapha time starts. If this Ayurvedic sleep cycle feels like a stretch, try inching your schedule in this direction till you get there.
6. Unplug and Unwind
We all love our smartphones, but too much electric energy can aggravate Vata (the dosha responsible for movement) and lead to restless sleep and insomnia.
Try to avoid watching TV and using smartphones, laptops, electronic games, and other devices after 8:00 p.m. to give your eyes and nervous system a break.
Instead, engage in grounding, soothing activities like taking a hot bath with lavender essential oil, or a dosha-balancing aroma (use the one that smells the best at any given time); reading; doing some gentle yoga stretches; enjoying downtime with family or friends; or lighting a candle and listening to relaxing music.
Start to think of the last hour or so before bedtime as sacred—your time to unwind and enjoy.
7. Give Yourself Some TLC
As part of your bedtime routine, consider massaging your hands and feet with some Vata-Balancing Massage Oil, or Youthful Skin Massage Oil for Men or Women. Both the hands and feet have many marma (pressure) balancing points that stimulate stress release and healing when touched.
There’s an old saying in India: “Disease does not go near one who massages his feet before sleeping, just as snakes do not approach eagles.”
8. Journal It Out
Life is busy, and our minds often whirl with thoughts, responsibilities, and varying stresses throughout the day. Naturally, it’s hard to turn all that activity off like a switch when we put our heads on our pillows!
One good way to free your mind up before turning in is to journal your thoughts out for a few minutes. Make a list of all the things you need to tackle tomorrow, so you won’t be worrying about them in bed. Write down some of the nice experiences you had throughout the day to remind yourself of all that is good in your life.
Using Vata Aroma Oil in a diffuser can help create a relaxed, uplifting environment while you jot down your thoughts, as can Slumber Time Aroma Oil. Again, use the one that smells the best at any given time, as your body knows what it needs to balance and tells you by being attracted to the smell that you need.
9. Enlist Ayurvedic Herbal Remedies
If you tend to have a hard time falling asleep at night, you might benefit from Blissful Sleep, a traditional Ayurvedic formula with calming amla and Indian valerian.
Alternatively, if you generally fall asleep easily enough but often wake up sometime in the wee hours of the morning, Deep Rest, along with that lighter well-cooked dinner, could help you sleep more soundly.
10. Practice Gratitude
One of the easiest things you can do if you find yourself lying awake at night is simply to practice gratitude. Lying on your back with your eyes closed, gently take stock of all the good things in your life and all the moments you were grateful for today.
Gratitude is a sattvic emotion, which means that it is light and nourishing to the mind and body—and it’s the polar opposite of stress and tension. The more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes a habit in daily life.
Wishing you sweet dreams...
We hope you found this list of Ayurvedic sleep tips helpful. If you’d like to learn more about the doshas and their role in sleep patterns, we more advice on the different types of sleep imbalances and how to treat them.
Sweet dreams from all of us at Maharishi Ayurveda!