Sleep is in the top 3 most important aspects to having a healthy life. However, it is common as we live these fast-paced lives our sleep often becomes erratic, which can lead to many health and energy issues. After a day of stimulating activity, your body needs to slow down and have deep sleep so your mind and body can recharge and reset. It allows us to pay close attention, remember new information, and multi-task. When we do not get enough sleep we can have digestive issues, irritability, poor focus, drowsiness, and low energy. As you sleep your body works to repair and renew itself in a few different ways:
- The liver detoxifies and eliminates accumulated toxins.
- The body strengthens your immune functioning.
- It repairs and regenerates tissues and cells.
- It balances hormonal and metabolic processes. Two hormones in particular, leptin and ghrelin, which help to regulate appetite and metabolism.
- It supports how we process and store memory by turning short-term memory into long-term memory.
Allowing this time for your body is just as important as drinking water, eating food, and exercising. Sleep deprivation, in most cases, can be very obvious. However with our fast paced lives, it can also be subtle too and become just background noise that we dismiss too often.
Do you have issues falling asleep? Maybe you fall asleep quickly but have issues waking up in the morning and feel drowsy and like you haven’t gotten enough hours in. Do you wake up throughout the night and feel like your quality of sleep is lacking? Maybe minor aches and pains keep you up as well. Do you fall asleep and have vivid dreams? Do you remember any of your dreams? All of these things are signs that your sleep cycle is off. It can also feel like an incredibly difficult task to return to a balanced cycle. Maybe you don’t even know what a balanced cycle looks like?
If you find yourself going to sleep later and waking up later and later in the mornings, your circadian rhythm is becoming imbalanced. In Ayurveda, your circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) helps establish when your body is ready for restorative sleep. So here are some ways to restore your circadian rhythm back to a balanced state.
- Set your alarm for the same time each morning. A consistent wake time is key to maintaining a structured routine for the rest of your day, and keeping a regular/ schedule will help you sleep better at night.
- Eat your meals at the same time each day, especially breakfast and lunch. Eating meals acts as a time cue and can also help keep your biological clock calibrated, which is important for sleep.
- Work out around the same time each day and avoid being sedentary for long stretches of time. If possible, exercise outdoors so you can get bright light exposure
- Get bright light exposure during the day, especially in first hour or two after waking. Our body clocks are set by morning bright light exposure, particularly when received around the same time every day. Additionally, bright light promotes alertness, which may be helpful if you find it difficult to get started in the morning
- Avoid using light-emitting electronic devices (like laptops, tablets, smart phones) for at least 1 hour before your set bedtime. Melatonin is suppressed by light exposure, so a dim evening environment is important in allowing your body to naturally produce melatonin and prepare for sleep.
- Ayurveda suggests going to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. This is an optimal time to fall asleep because 10pm is when the body begins the restoration of tissue, detoxification, and other bodily processes. If you are awake during this time, your body will not be able to properly execute these functions, creating imbalance.
- Avoid daytime sleeping. Napping during the day interrupts blood flow, digestion, and liver function.
Your dreams play a role into your sleep patterns and lifestyle. In Ayurveda, your dreams are your connection to your mind, body, and spirit. Between different hours of the night, the body is processing emotions, experiences, memories, etc. The way your process is based on your dosha, which will inherently influences what you dream.
- Imbalance vata dreams are colored by fear or anxiety. This can include falling, flying, locked in a room, death of a loved one, etc.
- Pitta imbalanced dreams are aggressive and can including fighting, confrontations, failing an exam, being naked in public, or being in a school environment.
- Kapha type dreams are either serene or very rarely remembered. They might involve snow, finding money, satisfying desires, being late, dying, enjoying good food, and romance. Nightmares can be symptoms of deep issues such as stress, family drama, and unresolved trauma.
Insomnia in Ayurveda can manifest differently in each of the doshas.
- Vata imbalanced insomnia can manifest as falling asleep quick but waking up between 2:00 am and 6:00am.
- Pitta imbalanced insomnia can manifest as difficulty falling asleep between 10:00pm and 2:00am.
- Kapha imbalances usually oversleep and feel tired and lethargic during the day.
Healthy sleep helps in growth of your tissues, provides strength and immunity, proper energy through your day, intelligence and the ability to process experiences and emotions in a well-balanced mind. A healthy sleep pattern starts with habits you set for yourself at the beginning of the day and the end. If you have any questions, we are always here to help!
Healthy Sleep – Harvard
Sleep, Dreams, and Insomnia – the Ayurvedic Approach, Vladimir Kazinets