A good night’s rest is the elusive goal we all seem to be chasing. The busyness and anxieties of modern life follow us to our bedrooms, often as the phones and tablets on our bedside tables or the television at the foot of the bed. As the minutes tick by, it’s hard to let go of the day that was, or to stop planning for the day to come.
Adding to the stress are the never-ending studies reporting just how bad not sleeping is for us. Reduced productivity, lowered immune systems, weight gain, general crankiness – even early death! It’s enough to keep anyone up at night worrying.
There are the usual common sense tips to improve sleep – avoid caffeine and alcohol, don’t look at electronics before bedtime – but Ayurveda also offers some time-tested remedies to ensure a peaceful slumber.
1) Find Your Rhythm
Ayurveda is all about balance and respecting the natural rhythms of our bodies and environments. In olden times we rose with the sun and slept when it went down; our bodies instinctively seek more sleep in the winter when the nights are long, just as we are more lively in the summer. To create the conditions optimal for sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a sleep mask if the room is too bright. Many Ayurvedic practitioners recommend going to bed no later than 10 pm, but the most important thing is to find a daily routine that works for you – and then stick to it! It isn’t just about bedtime, but also when you wake up, eat, and exercise. Paying attention to the big picture of your daily schedule helps you keep everything in balance.
2) Grandma was right about warm milk
A glass of milk does help you sleep. In this case, try it with a pinch of turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom, and perhaps a teaspoon of honey. Ayurveda believes that stress depletes the body, leading to a further cycle of lack of sleep and more stress. Drinking warm milk helps replenish your resources. Almond milk makes a great substitute for dairy.
3) Foot Massage
This is an important daily ritual in Ayurveda for calming the mind before bed. A simple 5 minute massage with oil does wonders for relieving stress and getting you ready for sleep, not to mention making for happy feet. Coconut or sesame oils are recommended to restore the body’s balance, so try Sahajan’s Ritual Body Oil which contains both.
4) Just Breathe
Yoga is the sister practice of Ayurveda and it wisely places tremendous importance on breathing. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth lowers the heart rate. Try a few deep breathing techniques while lying in bed – like doing long slow inhales, holding your breath for 8 seconds, and then exhaling completely. Repeat a few times while focusing on releasing tension throughout your body. Let your thoughts drift away and soon you’ll follow them to dreamland.