10 Ayurvedic Tips for a Deep and Restful Sleep
I have been a great sleeper my whole life…Well, that used to be the case up until a very stressful period in my life where major changes took place and I was shaken to my core. The result was insomnia.
How embarrassing, I thought. Being a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner and Bio-Energy practitioner, surely I had picked up some tools to help me sleep. While I have a plethora of tools to work with, what I found was that insomnia has a deep root. Until the root cause is addressed the endless tossing and turning will prevail.
In Ayurveda, insomnia is considered a vata condition. Vata is wind, movement, change, instability, cold, dry, light.
In order to reverse the insomnia, the opposite qualities must be experienced: stillness, stability, grounded, warm, unctuous, heavy.
The nervous system has been derailed and the five vayus/prana are not flowing properly, causing sleeplessness. With too much stress, anxiety and over-thinking, all of the prana moves upwards into the head, gets stuck and there you are staring at the ceiling all night long.
Try these things. Not just once but get into a habit so that you adjust your relationship to sleep:
- No caffeine / sugar / stimulants Be kind to your delicate nervous system and avoid these sleep-suckers. If you must indulge, do so in the morning time and certainly not after 3:00 p.m.
- Drink a cup of milk That’s right, just like your Grandma used to make you before bed. Boil a cup of organic milk (or almond milk) with ¼ tsp of nutmeg.
- Lavender essential oil Sprinkle a few drops of this pure essential oil onto your pillow or a dab onto your temples before bed.
- Oil your feet Yep, you heard that correctly. Rub some cold pressed organic sesame oil onto the soles of your feet before you cozy up under the covers (be sure to slip on some cotton socks so you don’t get oil on your sheets).
- Wind down At least one hour before bed, get off your computer, away from the TV and turn off bright lights. Get your nervous system in the mood for sleep. Light a candle. Journal. Relax.
- Meditation You knew that was coming didn’t you? It’s true, meditation is the panacea for uncluttering the mind and releasing all of the conscious and subconscious garbage we carry around.
- Chamomile tea Simple. Easy. Have a cup in the evening instead of reaching for that glass of wine or stimulating tea.
- Abhyanga Say what? This is the Ayurvedic oil massage. Taking up this daily practice will change your life. Warm up some sesame oil (baby bottle style) and massage it into your body, working from the extremities in to your heart. Let this oil soak into the skin for 10-20 minutes before having a warm shower or bath. Ladies, avoid this practice on your menstrual cycle.
- Exercise You don’t have to do a half-marathon every day but make sure you are active, working your muscles and getting your heart rate up. Take the stairs, walk to the store. Do yoga.
- Breathe But breathe how? Deep, abdominal breaths are super but my favorite pranayama – the king of pranayama practices – is nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. Choose either practice and do it nightly like your sleep depends on it.
Don’t underestimate these simple practices. Simultaneously, unearth the deeper disturbances in your life – at work, in relationships, unresolved emotions or trauma. Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your health, well-being and the ability to experience joy and peace in your life.
And don’t we all want a better sleep?
Alternative Medicine Part 2: Ayurvedic Medicine
Twenty — even 10 years ago, if a patient wanted to explore unconventional treatment options, they were on their own. Traditional health professionals generally didn’t encourage alternative medicine or treatments, discouraging departures from allopathic treatment models such as drugs and surgery. But as the efficacy of non-traditional treatment models, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) mentioned here in part one, ayurvedic medicine, massage and chiropractic adjustment, naturopathy, diet and natural supplementation — even homeopathy and sound therapy, is being validated by research, new branches of medicine are emerging.
Integrative, Functional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine
The “integrative” medical model developed during the early 1990s, but was formalized when the National Institute of Health (NIH) created the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This classification covered non-conventional treatment and research, and was the beginning of a slow recognition of alternative systems. Integrative models include consideration of a patient’s lifestyle, body, and mind, and how to promote well-being for the whole person rather than just diseases and their symptoms.
“Functional” medicine refers to holistic and alternative medical practices intended to improve overall functions of the body’s systems, and explores individual biochemistry, genetics, and environment to determine underlying causes of disease.
According to the NIH, “complementary” medicine combines non-mainstream practices with conventional treatment in a coordinated way. This has helped drive acceptance of alternative therapies such as TCM, diet, and nutraceuticals, or supplements.
Alternative medicine is any practice that falls outside conventional systems, and is not combined with traditional treatments. For example, if a patient chooses ayurvedic medicine, dietary changes, and supplementation to treat their cancer, and excludes conventional therapies, they have entered the realm of alternative medicine.
Exploring Alternative Medicine Models
In recent decades, relatively obscure healing modalities have emerged as treatment options. Some are ancient, such as TCM, Ayurveda, herbalism, and shamanic energy medicine. Others, such as osteopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, and chiropractic, arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most recently, biofeedback, structural integration, aromatherapy, energy medicine practices such as reiki and sound wave therapy, music therapies such as singing bowls, and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) have found enthusiastic patient support.