“Obesity and emaciation, happiness and sorrow, strength and weakness, virility and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death are all dependent on adequate and inadequate sleep.” (ChSu 21:36)
Proper and adequate sleep helps to balance the body's tissues and doshas, both physically and mentally.
Staying awake at night leads to an increase of Vata and Pitta, resulting in lack of concentration, constipation, lightheadedness, weakness, hyperacidity, burning of eyes, hands and feet.
A healthy person should generally not sleep during the day, except in summer when the days are longer and generally hotter. Sleeping during the day tends to increase Kapha dosha and can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
1. Finish dinner by 6 or 7 pm
Going to sleep with undigested food in the gut does not lead to sound sleep and prevents the body from doing its normal evening cleanup routine because it is still working to digest the evening meal.
2. Turn off screens by 8 pm
Western research shows that the light from screens can affect circadian rhythms and therefore increase sleep issues.
Having warm, spiced milk 2 hours after the evening meal and one hour before bed can help with sleep. Milk naturally contains tryptophan, melatonin and seratonin. A pinch of nutmeg, a narcotic, also helps with sleep. Whole unhomogenized milk is the best for promoting sleep.
4. Chamomile tea
If you are not a milk drinker, or just want to skip the milk on some occassions, chamomile tea is a nice herb to help calm the mind and promote sleep.
5. Yoga nidra or meditation
Pranayama--Yogic breathing practices can help to settle the mind before sleep. Nadi Shodhana--alternate nostril breathing and Brahmari--the bumber bee breath are two that help to balance the mind and slow the thoughts, leading to a more restful slumber.
Abhyanga--self-massage with warm oil is normally recommended for a morning routine. When performed daily, this can help calm the nervous system so that sleep becomes sound. For some clients, Abhyanga before bed can also be helpful. This loving, self-care routine can help to settle the body down before sleep and promote a deep sleep. It can be especially soothing for those who have experienced nighttime trauma and struggle with settling down at night.
8. Oil crown of head, soles of feet and ears
If you don't have time to do an evening Abhyanga, oil the crown of the head, the soles of the feet and the ears before bed. Oiling the crown of the head calms thoughts. Oiling the soles of the feet calms the nervous system and drains excess heat from the body. Oiling and rubbing and tugging on the ears is incredibly relaxing and may help reduce worry, anxiety and fear.
9. In bed by 10 pm
Ayurveda tells us that the body does important digestive and cleanup work during the pitta time of night, from 10 pm to 2 am. If we are not asleep at this time, the body is unable to perform this cleanup and rejuvenation process. While Ayurveda has always recommended waking when the sun rises and going to sleep as the sun sets, Western science is beginning to support this idea as well, indicating that going to sleep early has definite health benefits.