When it comes to sleep deprivation, and especially insomnia, Ayurveda offers a wide range of preventative measures and natural remedies to help you get the sleep your body and mind so desperately need.
Health experts have long confirmed that lack of sleep not only makes you tired, but it can give rise to a whole host of problems, including:
- Mood swings
- Scattered focus
- Rigid thinking
- Hampered decision-making
- Heightened anxiety
- Poor memory
- Imbalanced nervous system
- Digestive difficulties
- Impaired restorative and repair functions
- Impaired brain development
- Decreased ability to learn/retain information
- Poor task performance
Ayurveda Understanding of Insomnia
Clinicians have determined that insomnia manifests in two forms:
- Lack of sleep, or Anidratha
- Broken sleep, or Alpanidratha
In general, Ayurveda views insomnia as an aggravated Vata condition associated with Vata-type characteristics and issues. These factors include nervousness, anxiety, an overactive mind, excessive worry, irregular eating habits, irritated digestion, lack of steady routine, and surplus movement.
This perspective is backed up by modern brain research which shows that people suffering from insomnia have increased levels of cortisol and are in a heightened state of arousal. On the other hand, Ayurveda attributes broken sleep (Alpanidratha) to an impaired Pitta condition.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Insomnia
As per Ayurvedic protocol, system imbalances are corrected by inviting in opposing qualities or energies. In the case of insomnia, balance is restored by adopting lifestyle habits and eating foods that are grounded, warm, still, stable, and heavy.
In addition, Ayurvedic remedies for insomnia include stress management, yoga asanas and breathing techniques, meditation, detoxification programs, essential oils, and herbs. One of the most popular and effective Ayurvedic treatments for insomnia, for example, is massaging the head and feet with sesame oil.
Ayurveda Dietary Recommendations for Insomnia
A healthy diet of dosha-friendly foods goes a long way in getting a good night's sleep, while undigested foods create toxins that disrupt the body's natural metabolism, paving the way for sleep irregularities.
Here are some of the Ayurvedic dietary recommendations for treating and preventing insomnia:
- Eat daily at regular times
- Do not eat a heavy meal within three hours of bedtime
- Take a walk after dinner to aid digestion
- Reduce salty and spicy foods
- Try sleep-inducing foods such as a sliced banana sprinkled with cumin, ghee, butter, or a cup of celery juice mixed with a teaspoon of honey
- Drink warm milk prior to bedtime
- Bonus Ayurveda Tip: Add a pinch of nutmeg to your milk if you are a Vata body type; add a pinch of cardamom if you have a Pitta body type; for Kapha doshas, add a pinch of dried ginger
Ayurveda Lifestyle Habits for Curing Insomnia
If better sleep is what you are seeking, try these tested, tried, and time-honored strategies suggested by Ayurveda:
- Establish a regular morning and nighttime routine
- Eat, sleep, and exercise at regular times (to personalize your exercise regimen, look up dosha-friendly workouts and find out which exercises best match the needs of your constitution)
- Eat a dosha-friendly diet (in accordance with your Vata, Pitta, or Kapha body type)
- Avoid excessive mental, physical, and emotional stresses which create nervous system imbalances and rob your body of its natural rhythms
- Practice stress-reducing techniques
- Practice yoga to create a state of restful wakefulness and restful sleep
Ayurveda-Yoga Postures for Treating Insomnia
The benefits of a regular yoga practice are well known, including its stimulatory effect on the nervous system, its relaxing effects via postures that relieve tension, stress and fatigue, its aid in eliminating toxins, and its overall mind-body rejuvenation effects.
More specifically, certain yoga asanas increase blood flow to the brain's sleep center, helping to regulate the sleep cycle. Likewise, yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) increase oxygen flow in the body, not only improving sleep quality but enabling you to fall asleep more easily and actually need less sleep.
To create healthy sleep patterns and treat sleep deprivation, here are some of the practices the experts recommend:
- Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation Sequence)
- Paschimottasana (Seated Forward Bend)
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
- Pranayam (Controlled Breathing)
- Brahamari pranayam (Humming Bee Breathing)
- Chanting OM (AUM)
Ayurvedic Herbs for Treating Insomnia
For thousands of years, the ancient practice of Ayurveda has been treating herbs as medicine. Today, Ayurveda continues to be at the forefront of holistic and alternative treatments, while the global use of herbal remedies has increased exponentially. Not only are herbs 100% natural, but they are effective, easy to use, have few side effects, and are cheaper than their pharmaceutical alternatives.
In Ayurveda, specific herbs are prescribed based on a person's body type or dosha, as well as environmental and lifestyle factors and the seasons. In the case of insomnia, the herbs recommended possess properties that are relaxing, revitalizing, tranquilizing, tension-releasing, and other curative qualities.
Here are some of the Ayurvedic herbs recommended for preventing and treating insomnia:
- Brahmi: One of the most widely used herbs to treat insomnia, fatigue, tension, and depression
- Vacha: A mind-calming, sleep-inducing herb which relaxes the nervous system and helps calm emotional stress and tension
- Tagar (Indian Valerian): A strong herb to be mixed with other herbs; clears toxins, relaxes the nervous system, rejuvenates
- Sarpagandha: A tranquilizing, toxin-removing herb used to cure hypertension, anxiety, insomnia, and obesity
- Ashwagandha: Recommended for insomnia due to its relaxing and vitalizing effects
- Shankhapushpi: An age-old herb known to improve circulation, remove toxins, decrease mental fatigue, and boost the brain; used to treat depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure
Equipped with your new Ayurveda sleeping aids, we wish you a good night and pleasant dreams!
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