Most of us know the feeling of grogginess and lethargy that comes the day after a poor nights’ sleep. We feel uninspired, find it hard to concentrate and by the afternoon, we’re probably feeling a bit grumpy.
But a chronic lack of sleep, that is, our norm becoming a night of tossing and turning, unable to switch off and only getting a few snatched hours of broken sleep, can lead to a number of health problems.
Sustained poor sleep leads to bad decision making, mood swings, problems with our memory and an increased risk of accidents. In addition to this, not getting enough quality sleep can lower our resilience so we’re more susceptible to picking up coughs and colds.
If you’re suffering from a lack of deep, nourishing, restorative sleep, then you may benefit from adopting some Ayurvedic rituals to help you drift off, and stay asleep, helping you to wake feeling refreshed and ready to face the day.
Be mindful of evening activities
A busy life may mean that you struggle to fit in exercise, but where possible, try to exercise early on in the day. Exercising in the evening will stimulate your senses, which can keep you awake until the small hours.
A principle belief of Ayurveda is that diet and sleep are intimately connected. Eating a heavy meal in the evening will keep you awake, as the body works on digesting your food, rather than switching off and relaxing. If you can, switch to eating your main meal at lunch time, when your agni, or digestive fire, is at its strongest, and having a light snack in the evening.
Choose the right bedtime drink
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and energy drinks all contain caffeine, a stimulant that will keep your mind active, stopping you from falling asleep. So, they’re best avoided in the hours before bed. The same can be said for alcohol, which creates heat in the body, preventing restful sleep.
Instead, drink a warming Ayurvedic drink of warm milk (cow’s milk or almond milk) mixed with a pinch of nutmeg. Nutmeg contains magnesium which helps to quiet the nervous system and prepare us for sleep. Or try a Good Night Tea which contains herbal extracts of lavender, chamomile and valerian root, which all help to promote restful sleep.
An evening massage is a wonderful activity that helps to relax us, sending us off into a deep sleep. We don’t all have the time for a full body massage each evening, or a partner to do so, but massaging our hands and feet as a bedtime ritual can be just as beneficial.
Use a Vata Balancing Oil before bed and gently massage your own hands and feet, or share the experience with your partner. The hands and feet both contain balancing pressure points called marma, that when stimulated, help relieve stress and promote calmness.
Get into a good routine
Disturbed sleep is often a consequence of disturbed routines, such as working late, eating later, erratic bed times and not switching off from all the tasks we need to get done the following day.
The Ayurvedic practice of dinacharya, or having a daily routine that we stick to, can help promote restful sleep. This means going to sleep and waking at roughly the same time each day and eating at regular meal times, even at the weekend.
As part of your dinacharya, try taking a sleep supplement with warm water before bed. Sleep Sound contains gotu kola leaf extract which is used in Ayurvedic medicine to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression, which can in turn help to ease insomnia.
I hope these tips help, and that poor sleep becomes a thing of the past!