Do you have trouble sleeping?
It seems logical to assume that difficulty falling asleep is caused by excess energy. Based on this logic, sedation would offer a remedy. While sedatives do sometimes work, they often leave you groggy and foggy in the morning, or they just stop working over time.
In this article, I make the case that the underlying cause of sleep concerns is not excessive energy, but depleted energy. Stress and burnout can sap energy reserves, leaving you without enough energy to sedate yourself naturally into a deep sleep. Most sleep concerns are due to deep levels of burnout, fatigue, and exhaustion, rather than having too much energy to properly settle down and sleep.
It makes sense, then, that sedatives are not effective long-term solutions to most sleep concerns. Giving a sedative to an already exhausted, chronically depleted and sedated person will only make them more exhausted, dull, and groggy. This is not the therapeutic direction if you are trying to address the underlying cause of your sleep concerns, which could actually be exhaustion.
Sound Crazy? Here’s the Science + Ancient Wisdom
According to Ayurveda, a loss of sleep efficiency and duration is due to an imbalance of prana vata (nervous system), which deals with regulation of the circadian clock.1 Living in sync with light-dark circadian cycles is critical for optimal health, sleep, and longevity. Studies on circadian science won the Noble prize in 2017.2 In Ayurveda, this study is called chikitsa kala: the study and treatments related to time.
Over-activity and suppression of natural urges causes exhaustion, according to Ayurveda. Chronic suppression of natural urges to sleep, eat, or use the bathroom at the right times will slowly disrupt the body’s circadian clock.4 An imbalanced, busy, hectic pace driven by sugar, caffeine, and a psychological need for accomplishment can drive the adrenals to make energy (cortisol) beyond its capacity. This results in burnout, sleep issues, and eventual cortisol depletion.3, 5
A lifestyle out of sync with your circadian rhythms causes circadian fatigue.6 Circadian fatigue damages your ability to maintain normal sleep efficiency and duration.7, 8, 9
So perhaps you are too tired to sleep! The first step is to bring your circadian clock back into balance, Ayurveda-style. This includes eating at the right times and taking time to relax and eat your meals. One must go to bed early, wake up early, go for walks, and get plenty of fresh air, exercise, and play time!
We RecommendWe Are Circadian Beings—Let’s Act Like Them
Ashwagandha for Circadian Fatigue
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the world’s most well-studied adaptogenic herbs and literally named after it’s ability to support sleep. Somnifera in Latin means sleep-inducing but it also offers deep rejuvenation without stimulation. It seems counterintuitive that an herb like ashwagandha, nicknamed Indian Ginseng or the herb that delivers the strength of 10 horses, could support healthy, deep, and efficient sleep. Let’s see how it works.
One of the hallmarks of a true adaptogenic herb is that it boosts energy and stamina during the day, while allowing you to sleep deeply at night. Ashwagandha is the leader in this arena by far.
Traditionally, ashwagandha root was used as a vitalizer: it improves endurance and stamina, promoting longevity, immunity, and both male and female fertility.10, 13
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 50 athletes took ashwagandha root for eight weeks. There was a significant increase in cardiorespiratory endurance and quality of life in the ashwagandha group compared to placebo.10 There are no shortage of studies confirming the endurance, stamina, and energy-boosting benefits of ashwagandha. But what about its ability to support deep sleep?
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 60 volunteers were given 300mg of ashwagandha twice daily for 10 weeks. Significant improvements in sleep were observed in all parameters. Compared to placebo, sleep onset latency (time to fall asleep) and sleep efficiency improved. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) reported higher scores.11
In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, this time with 25 volunteers over the age of 65, ashwagandha was taken for 12 weeks. They concluded that ashwagandha root extract was efficient in improving quality of life, sleep, and mental alertness upon rising.12
Ashwagandha Botanical Info
Ashwagandha is a fall-harvested root traditionally put in soups and stews for thousands of years during the cold winter months. Digestion is stronger in winter, making this harder-to-digest root a classic winter herb.
LifeSpa’s ashwagandha has a small amount of ginger mixed with organic ashwagandha root to boost digestibility, making it a perfect year-round adaptogen for energy, stamina, endurance, stress, and sleep.
- Dosha: Balances vata and kapha. Aggravates pitta in excess.
- Taste (Rasa): Bitter, astringent, sweet
- Energy (Virya): Heating
- Post-digestive quality (Vipaka): Sweet
- Quality (Guna): Light, unctuous
- Tissue (Dhatu): Blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve, reproductive
- Channel (Srotas): Reproductive, nervous, respiratory
Dosage: take 1-2 capsules with breakfast and after dinner (or before bed) for sleep support.
Recipe for De-Stress, Deep Sleep Moon Milk13
According to Ayurveda, chronic or excessive stress depletes ojas, a precious substance. Ojas means vigor or vitality and is said to support healthy sleep, vitality, and virility cycles. Ashwagandha is one of Ayurveda’s classic ojas-building herbs.
LifeSpa’s Ojas Nightly Tonic aka Moon Milk
That cup of hot milk your grandmother gave you before bed has been shown to deliver special peptides that support health, energy, virility, and natural sleep cycles.14-16
Researchers find when milk is taken before bed, bio-active peptides support:
- deep healthy sleep14
- restorative sleep14
- relaxation needed for sleep15
- healthy stress response15
- healthy moods
LifeSpa’s Ojas Nightly Tonic is a natural Moon Milk because of the addition of two ojas-building herbs, ashwagandha and shatavari. To make Golden Milk, just add ¼ tsp of turmeric to 1 Tbsp Ojas Nightly Tonic.
In Ayurveda, certain foods and herbs build ojas, and it all starts with milk. I realize milk is controversial and many have trouble digesting it, but most healthy grocery stores sell organic, non-homogenized, vat-pasteurized milk. Milk alternatives, such as almond, coconut, cashew, and oat, are also ojas-enhancers, according to Ayurveda.
DIY: Ojas Nightly Tonic Moon Milk Recipe
- 1 cup milk or milk alternative
- Chopped dates (1 Tbsp)
- Chopped almonds (2 tsp)
- Coconut meat or flakes (1 Tbsp)
- Saffron (1/2 tsp)
- Ghee (1-2 tsp)
- Cardamom (1/8 tsp)
- ¼ tsp ashwagandha or one LifeSpa ashwagandha capsule
- ¼ tsp shatavari or 1 LifeSpa shatavari capsule
Bring milk and all ingredients slowly to a boil. Optional: once cooled for two minutes, add raw honey to taste. Drink one cup daily before bed or more during the day to boost ojas.
How is your sleep? What have you found that helps? Let us know!