The 2,500 year-old classical Ayurveda text Ashtanga Hrdayam has this to say about sleep: “Happiness and unhappiness, nourishment and emaciation, strength and debility, sexual prowess and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and death—all are dependent on sleep.”
It is unsurprising, given that we spend about a third of our lives asleep, that sleep (nidra) is considered one of the key pillars of Ayurveda and a staple for optimal health, along with food (ahara) and energy management (brahmacharaya).
Sleep is when our bodies and minds can rest, reset, detoxify, and rejuvenate, and it helps restore us for periods of wakefulness. Yet in our busy modern lives, so many of us fail to prioritize sleep.
Here are some tips on how you can get the best sleep of your life according to Ayurvedic principles.
1. Set your bedtime at 10:00 p.m.
Both Ayurveda and Western science are in agreement that the hours of sleep before midnight are more restorative because of the circadian rhythms of our bodies. Remember, it is not just about how many hours of sleep you get but when you get them as well. If you are a night owl, try moving your bedtime 30 minutes earlier for a week, and then another half hour earlier the next until you reach your goal.
2. Avoid a heavy dinner
Contrary to what you may think, our main meal of the day should be at lunch between noon to 2. When we have a heavy dinner, we are actually asking our bodies to do two opposite tasks: settle and sleep and stay active and digest the food. This is why we wake up feeling not rested and with incomplete indigestion. It is best to eat a light, easy-to-digest meal at least three hours prior to bed-time.
3. Perform an Abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage)
Massaging the feet with slow, soft strokes is the “perfect ritual to do right before bed”, given most nerve endings are in the feet and oiling them with our Lime Vetiver Dry Silk Body Oil helps to ground your nervous system. Massaging the scalp has a comparable effect since that is where the nerves start, and one of our clients recently told us she had the best sleep of her life after oiling her hair with our Ultra Luxuriant Hair Elixir!
4. Unplug from all electronics
Electronics are the new caffeine. As the sun sets, our bodies produce melatonin which tells the brain to wind down and go to sleep, but the reason why we stay up so late is the invention of artificial light, which causes our body to produce cortisol and encourages the brain to stay active and alert. Nidhi Padya of My Ayurvedic Life recommends dimming the lights and curtailing cellphone usage an hour before bed to reset your biological clock.
5. Practice breathwork
Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is a simple but powerful breathing technique that you can use to balance the energies in your body and quiet your mind before sleep and is especially useful if you are experiencing stress, anxiety or insomnia.
6. Drink something warm
Your grandmother was right- a warm beverage is the perfect sleep remedy. Chamomile tea naturally calms the nerves while adding nutmeg to your warm milk can induce and lengthen your sleep or cinnamon for healthy digestion and better sleep.
7. Wake up before the sun rises
According to Ayurveda, the ideal time to wake up is 1.5 hours before sunrise, also known as Brahma Muhurta (the time to perceive knowledge). This period is when your mind is most aware and fresh- the best thing to do is to mediate, do light exercise and plan ahead of the day, while eating and any strenuous or stressful activity is not recommended.
If you have been having sleep issues, we invite you to join us in cultivating better bedtime habits and allowing these Ayurvedic rituals to transform your life!