Introducing our newest mini-eBook… This easy-to-read, colorful guide will become your go-to, bedside resource for getting the best sleep of your life.
Those of us who struggle with getting a good night’s rest will try just about anything. Sedatives, be they herbal or pharmaceutical, may only be sedating an already sedated or exhausted person—offering short-term, symptomatic relief at best.
Going far beyond the classic Ayurvedic recommendation, “Early to bed, early to rise,” this eBook shares several overlooked practices for deep, restorative sleep, and guides you through blissful body-mind rituals for all phases of the night and day.
General Suggestions for Sleep
Meditation is, at the very least, a tool that trains you to handle stress and come to a place of peaceful awareness. According to sleep research studies, meditation supports healthy sleep cycles and improves daytime energy. (1) Take my free meditation training here.
Maintain a Regular Daily Routine
Rise, meditate, eat, work, exercise, play, and sleep at the same time every day. Go to bed by 10pm, which is the end of the kapha period, when the mind and body are naturally drowsier. If you are not currently accustomed to being regular about your routine, start by writing down a schedule to follow for the first few weeks.
New science tells us that every gene carries a biological clock that governs when we should eat, sleep, rest, digest, and exercise. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda is now being backed by emerging circadian medicine science. (2)
Eat Vata-Pacifying Foods
Vata body types or those with vata imbalances are more prone to having sleep difficulties. (3) If the mind is very active at bedtime, be sure to eat a vata-pacifying diet. Have an early, light supper, such as soup or hot cereal, toast and warm milk at least three hours before bedtime.
Vata-pacifying foods can be found on our Winter Grocery List. Vata-balancing or sleep-supportive foods are generally characterized by having one or several of the following qualities: warm, moist, oily, sweet, salty, and/or sour. Some examples include vegetable soup, steamed vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Foods that are cold, dry, uncooked, and spicy can contribute to insomnia, as they increase vata. Decrease your consumption of cool salads, chips and salsa, crackers, cold beverages, etc.
If you must have dessert, have it after lunch rather than after dinner. This will allow your body to burn the sugar off during the afternoon, rather than letting it keep you up at night.
Manage Vata Digestion
If you have occasional constipation—a classic vata imbalance that is commonly linked to sleep concerns—it is of utmost importance to use natural, herbal support.
Stay hydrated with 6-9 glasses of water per day and sip hot water throughout the day for a 2-week period.
Get Outside and Play
Enjoy dynamic and more outdoor activities during the day. The more sun exposure you get during the day, the greater your production of melatonin at night. (4) Melatonin is the body’s circadian sleep hormone.
Laugh and Enjoy
Be sure to enjoy some light entertainment each day. Humorous books, laughter, play, uplifting movies or being in pleasant situations with family and friends will support healthy sleep cycles. (6)
When possible avoid situations which tend to cause anxiety, worry, or anger. Study after study shows that stress linked to a variety of sleep concerns. (5)
In The Evening
Cultivate Pleasant and Relaxing Activities
Read, listen to soft music, play with children and/or animals. A short walk after dinner is helpful. After sunset, kapha qualities increase, which are heavy, calming, and sleep-inducing.
Avoid Work that Requires Energy and Concentration
During the kapha time of night between 6-10PM, the nervous system and cortisol levels should be winding down. Avoid watching TV or being on your computer for at least one hour before bedtime, as it stimulates the nervous system and blocks melatonin production. Blue light filters help support melatonin production, but they do not stop the overstimulation of the mind.
Use Gentle and Soothing Aromatherapy Oil
Use oils such as lavender, marjoram and chamomile, and florals like jasmine, rose and neroli in the bedroom just before going to bed.
Just Before Bed
Abhyanga (Daily Self-Massage)
Massage your head and bottom of your feet with warm sesame oil or ghee. Do not overstimulate the head by rubbing it too hard. For moderate sleep concerns, give yourself a gentle, full-body self-massage followed by a warm bath. In post-menopausal women with sleep imbalances, an evening, full-body oil massage significantly supported healthy sleep cycles. (7)
Drink a Glass of Warm Milk
Warm milk has certain peptides that help lower cortisol and support healthy sleep. (8) Add a little raw honey or chyawanprash (an Ayurvedic superfood). Saffron, nutmeg, and poppy seeds can be calming additions as well. See recipe for Ojas Nightly Tonic below.
Avoid Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills can interfere with the body’s natural sleep responses. Instead, try the following natural sleep aids (use one at a time until you find the one that works best for you):
- Saffron: Two to three threads of saffron heated in one cup of warm milk.
- Nutmeg: One large pinch of nutmeg stirred into one cup of warm milk.
- Poppy seeds: Soak ¼ to ½ teaspoon poppy seeds for a few hours in one cup of warm water or milk. Drink warm.
- Gotu Kola (brahmi) Tea: One teaspoon gotu kola leaves or ¼ teaspoon powder, brewed with ½ cup water.
- Chamomile tea: One teabag or 1 teaspoon loose leaves, brewed with one cup of water.
- Sleep Easy herbal formula: Take 2 capsules before bed or as directed by your health care professional.
- Ojas Nightly Tonic: A classic evening beverage of hot milk, dates, coconut, almonds, saffron, ashwagandha, shatavari, raw honey and ghee. Learn how to prepare it here.
Consider low dose melatonin for an ojas-boosting, circadian clock reset. Many sleep-seekers have tried melatonin without success, without realizing that they are actually taking too much. The OTC brands are typically too high of a dose that can sometimes cause an opposite reaction.
Based on this research, I formulated a low-dose Liquid Melatonin supplement where 1 drop delivers only .1 mg of melatonin. To reset your sleep clock, I suggest 1-10 drops 45-60 minutes before bed for 3 months.
Learn why Ayurveda considers melatonin the supreme ojas here.
Adjust the Temperature
Make sure that your bedroom is comfortable and orderly, and at the right temperature. There should be fresh air in the room. Natural fibers are most comfortable for bedclothes and bed linens as they breathe more easily and don’t trap humidity next to the skin.
Avoid Using the Bedroom for Mental Activities
In the bedroom, avoid things like reading, working, or watching TV. The bedroom should be associated with sleeping, not activity.
Keep Your Head and Feet Warm
Use a hot water bottle under your feet or on your belly, and a cotton nightcap for your head.
Turn Off Lights and Wi-Fi
Make sure the room is dark with blackout shades, eye covers, and no computers or LED lights on in the room. Put black tape over the LED on/off indicator lights.
Assume A Comfortable Position and Relax
Do not worry about sleeping. Let your mind be lazy and wander freely. Take the attitude that you will naturally get as much rest as you need, even if you are not actually sleeping. Keep the lights off and your eyes closed without minding the time. Just enjoy resting comfortably, and sleep will come naturally. Remember that we go to bed to rest, not to sleep. If you worry that not sleeping will spoil your next day, this worry (and even anger) can make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
In the Morning
Try not to set your alarm clock, if possible. Get up naturally with or before the sun. Once the sun is up, whenever possible get the sun on your body—even through a window is OK.
Start the day with an oil massage, a shower, yoga and meditation, and you will feel fresh and rested. Even if you feel that you have not slept well, never take the attitude that you are too tired to begin a full day’s activity. Don’t think that you need to stay in bed longer to get more rest. Get up and get going, and avoid napping during the day. It will then be easier to fall asleep the next night.
Disclaimer: A sleep disorder is broadly defined as a physical or psychological problem that impairs your ability to sleep or causes increased sleepiness during the day. Everyone can experience sleep problems from time to time. However, you might have a sleep disorder and should consult your primary healthcare practitioner if:
- You regularly experience difficulty sleeping
- You are often tired during the day, even if you slept for at least seven hours the night before
- You have a reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities
- Your partner has told you that you snore loudly and sometimes seem to stop breathing.