It's easy to think nothing of missing a little sleep here or there, especially to be productive and get more work done. I used to believe this - and stayed up many a late night to try to take advantage of the quietness that nighttime provides.
The reality of losing sleep, however, is quite grim. Whereas proper sleep gives you the ability to receive knowledge, the ancient Ayurveda texts teach us that lack of proper sleep not only puts us in poor mental states, but also deteriorates our memory, and hampers our focus, creativity and decision-making abilities. In this sense, regular lack of sleep easily gives rise to ignorance, in terms of both thoughts and behavior.
Modern health experts agree. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) even conducted a study that found that poor sleep at night can impair our behavior just as much as being legally drunk does.
As a a teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda lifestyle, I am most passionate about promoting the sub-science of Ayurveda called Svasthavritta, which includes many all-natural, dietary and lifestyle based solutions to a variety of health challenges, including insomnia.
As someone who used to suffer from chronic insomnia, these 3 all-natural Ayurvedic insomnia solutions have all worked wonders for me and my students. 30 students in one of my pilot "Take Health Into Your Own Hands" Ayurveda staff trainings self-reported a 46% improvement in their sleep from putting these simple practices into action.
I'm delighted to share them with you, too.
1. Turn off your T.V. and laptop after 8:00 p.m.
Your mind and psyche is constantly bombarded with inputs from a variety of media sources throughout the day. By turning off the television and computer screens at night, you can do our sleep a big favor by allowing yourself to stay away from mental distractions and start to prepare for the upcoming act of sleep.
2. Do grounding activities between 6 and 10 p.m. to promote sound sleep.
Speaking of preparing for sleep at night, Harvard Business Review published an article about the importance of having a meaningful practice to help wind down your day. The science of Ayurveda has recommended this for thousands of years, via its various dinacharya (daily routine) practices.
According to Ayurveda's dinacharya protocol, you should spend the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. in the company of the people, pets, books and activities that give you a sense of peace, calmness and grounding. Just before bedtime, it's also recommended to adopt a practice that inspires you, such as reading an uplifting book, writing in your journal, going for an evening walk, listening to soothing music, or practicing meditation.
3. Give yourself an oil massage.
Another wonderful health ritual Ayurveda recommends for sound, quality sleep is the practice of oiling the soles of your feet, the top of your head, and the back of your ears with warm sesame oil. Doing so not only promotes healthy sleep; it also helps counteract the aging process and helps promote profound stress relief.
4. Sleep like a baby with spiced milk.
Spiced milk is a truly delicious treat that promotes sound, sweet sleep when drunk at night (especially when made with nutmeg). This is the only substance Ayurveda recommends consuming just before sleeping.
This special milk additionally gives your mind an uplifting feeling of clarity, balance, and peacefulness, called sattva in Sanskrit. What's more, according to Ayurveda, warm milk is the best aphrodisiac food, helps delay the aging process, reduces constipation (it has a mild laxative effect and hence is not recommended if you have diarrhea), and soothes your heart and bleeding conditions.
I used to believe I was lactose intolerant, but simply cooking this milk with the digestion promoting spices below has proven to me otherwise. Many of my students (and those they recommend this milk to) also attest to how much easier this way of consuming milk is for the digestive system.
Here's a recipe for how to make it.
2 cups organic whole cow's milk
8 cups water (optional)
4-6 saffron threads
4-6 crushed green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
Pinch of dry ginger powder (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg powder (optional, only at night)
2-4 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
Place the milk and water, if using, in a large pot over medium heat.
Crush the saffron with your fingertips as you add it to the milk.
Add the cardamom and turmeric, and the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, if using, and then increase the heat to high.
When the milk starts boiling, reduce the heat slightly and stir periodically to make sure the milk doesn't boil over. If using water, cook until the mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 45 minutes. If not using water, allow it to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain if needed.
Stir in the sugar, if using, and enjoy when sufficiently cooled.
Following Ayurveda's insomnia solutions has greatly transformed the quality of sleep I experience. Try these timeless solution, and you, too, can also start to sleep deeply, thanks to Ayurveda.
Learn more all natural anxiety and stress relief strategies in The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World’s Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion, and More.
Photos - Copyright © 2017 Liz Daly. All Rights Reserved. From The Ayurveda Way, used with permission from Storey Publishing.