It’s 11:30 and you’ve been lying there, staring at the ceiling for too long. Your thoughts are spinning…did you forget to email that one lady about the thing?
You know you need a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough sleep dulls your thinking, slows your reaction time, weakens your digestion and makes your body ache all over. So you try to get good sleep, but why is it so elusive sometimes?
Ayurveda and Insomnia
From the perspective of Ayurveda, insomnia is usually caused by excess Vata dosha or wind element blowing around in your mind and body channels. Some common causes of increased Vata are:
- Excess travel
- Over-eating dry or raw foods
- Over-use of electronics and artificial light, particularly after sunset
- Trauma (emotional or physical)
- Strong wind (autumn)
The qualities of excess Vata—dry, rough, irregular and mobile—make it difficult for your mind to relax and detach from the thoughts and emotions from the day. Your mind can easily run away with planning, anxiety, fear or grief.
However, it's also important to note that insomnia can also arise as a symptom of another medical condition, like sleep apnea or depression. In those cases, the below suggestions may be helpful, but might not be definitive in healing the problem.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The truth is that no health imbalance can truly be healed until the cause of the problem is removed. This means, for example, that if the source of the sleeplessness is too much Vata, caused by too much stress, you won’t sleep well until your stress has been reduced and the excess Vata has been relieved.
One way to soothe vata is to establish a daily routine. Having a rhythm to your schedule provides deep relaxation for your nervous system. This means that by the end of the day—as long as you haven’t over-packed your schedule—there is less clutter in your mind and less “unwinding” to do before sleep can come.
How to start experimenting with this practice:
Pick one thing to do at the same time, every day. Since we are talking about sleep, it might be a good idea to choose something related to that. For example: turning off all electronics by a certain point in the evening.
Before long, you will find yourself naturally settling down and becoming quieter earlier in the night.
Additional Tips and Suggestions
- Taking a bath with Epsom salts and lavender essential oil—the Epsom salts soothe your muscles and the lavender calms your mind.
- Breathing practice—even 5 minutes of Full Yogic Breath before bed can be deeply relaxing and sets up the body to do deep rejuvenation during sleep. Try this 5-minute guided practice.
- Yoga—a short, gentle practice before dinner or before bed can direct our energy from the mind and back into the body to help nurture relaxation and peacefulness. Try some of the postures from this Earth Element sequence.
These are just some of the many ways yoga and ayurveda can help you understand sleep patterns so you can work on getting better sleep. What things do you do to help you wind down at the end of the day before bed?