The reason for addressing this topic at this point is because sleep helps us to cool the body down as the heat outside increases. It is a natural anti-inflammatory. Sleep is a vital activity necessary for the optimal health of body and mind. Of the three pillars of life that Ayurveda refers to, Ahara (diet/food), Brahmachari (cultivation of sexual energy) and Nidra (sleep.) Sleep is directly related to the parasympathetic nervous system (the restorative/calm phase) of our Autonomic Nervous System responses.
Everyday and throughout the year our melatonin (the sleep chemical) begins to accumulate after 2pm and surges/peeks around 11 pm. Melatonin is dominantly in our blood stream and this is the time when we should be in bed and sleeping. Ayurveda says that ideally we should be in bed and sleeping by 10pm. Knowing that this can be difficult for us for various reasons I usually push it to 11/11:30 (trying not to always hit that midnight mark).
Some noted benefits are:
1) It is one of the best anti-inflammatory regimens.
2) It re-regulates the entire body.
3) It balances the entire nervous system, which is the main means in which stress occurs in the body and mind.
4) The parasympathetic nervous system takes over and brings homeostasis.
6) It supports a healthy immune system and mind.
It's counter intuitive and contraindicated, based on thousands of years of our perfected circadian rhythms, to stay up late regularly for many reasons including how lack of sleep or inadequate sleep contributes significantly towards inflammation which is one of the primary causes for imbalances and diseases of the mind and body. Our nervous system pays the price and over time we can see the development of sleep issues. Many times it all starts out with simple disruptions and irregularity in patterns of our sleeping, then develops into bigger issues. Some diseases that can form or at least contribute towards are eczema, psoriasis, acne, burning eyes, itchiness, restlessness, allergies, mood swings and mood imbalances, increased cravings especially for sugar, increased weight, increased thirst, metabolic/digestive issues, thyroid issues, over activity of the mind and even anger.
It's not just how much we sleep but more importantly when we sleep that supports the full benefits of what sleep provides for us. The later we stay up and miss the window the more we disrupt over time. We weren't meant to be nocturnal. When my patients suggest such a thing I remind them that if we didn't have any electricity any longer we would all be asleep somewhat after sundown and at least when the camp fire went out. The best quality of sleep is at night time. It is the yin cycle (cooling) of the day when we are no longer engaged (typically) in our day to day duties. The daytime is the yang cycle (heating) where we are active. Activities at night that take away from our sleep make it more difficult for us to sleep. We can't really ever recapture the quality of sleep lost at night by sleeping later in the morning or during the day. A sense of heaviness occurs when we wake up later in the morning. We miss breakfast and jump half way through the day when the day has already begun. The old axiom of "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (human) healthy, wealthy and wise." Studies have shown that the quality of aging is improved by when we spent most of our earlier years following this. There is a reduction in symptoms associated with alzheimers, dimentia, senility, blood pressure issues and even diabetes. One of the reasons for this according to Ayurveda is that the later we sleep in the more we slow down our lymphatic and digestive systems which eventually accumulates toxins in our bodies and brains.
Therefore, taking all this into consideration below are a few simple remedies to follow. According to Ayurveda, another consideration that is factored into the predetermination of who will be more or less effected over time by irregular sleep patterns is the understanding of constitution. Whether an individual is more Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) or Kapha (Water). Vata predominant individuals are more prone to sleep disturbances and an earlier onset of related symptoms. Pitta predominant individuals are more prone towards Pitta related issues and Kapha in its own way. Lastly, the amount of sleep needed per constitution can vary. Vata can have up to 8 hours. Pitta 7-8 and Kapha 5-6 hours on average. This is not inclusive of specific conditions and imbalances which have to be factored in on a case by case basis.
If you would like more support in this please feel free to contact me for a consultation.
Some Simple Remedies :
Simple deep belly/diaphragmatic- Lying on your back begin to breathe in deep and slowly from the diaphragm/belly area up to the lungs, slowly deeply and easily. Exhale in a similar fashion. You can do this up to as many times as you need until you fall asleep. You can try to keep count as that may work for some or distract them. Simple rhythmic breathing helps to calm and cool the system.
Milk-warm milk generally has tryptophan which is another sleep related chemical. Mixing some herbs like nutmeg and ashwagandha can encourage better sleep and balance the nervous system, reducing inflammation.
Bath- A warm bath before bath helps us to ground in the winter and fall asleep easier. In the summer months a tepid bath can cool the body and calm the nervous system.
Get off technology- Engaging in computer related activities and other stimulating devices causes either poor sleep, sleep disruption such as involuntary tremors while sleeping (I've noticed this in partners I've dated), lack of sleep or overall restless sleep. Stimulating activities in general make it usually difficult to fall asleep. Dr. John Douillard recently reported in his article that reading a book before bed induces deeper and restful sleep whereas games, tv, computers and even cell phone involvement before bed can throw us out of balance.
Slowly wean yourself back to an earlier sleep time- If you tend to go to bed late, such as 1/2/3, start going back an hour every few days until you arrive to around 11. Your body and mind will thank you for it over time in so many ways.
Get daily adequate exercise- Supporting healthy circulation and getting the body moving, used up by the end of the day with the right amount of exercise can induce a deeper layer of sleep. Additionally, Ayurveda says that exercises which are more dynamic, heating and vigorous should be conducted in the earlier (preferably morning) part of the day than at night time, unless it is restorative and calming. Technically, Ayurveda says that muscle mass is best build up in the morning.
Avoid stimulating beverages- like caffeine, soda and/or excess sugar
Herbs: such as ashwagandha, nutmeg, chamomile, valerian, skullcap and kava kava. They can be taken individually, as compounds. Some in milk and some with just water.
Gentle restorative asanas like corpse pose (savasana), childs pose (balasana), head to knee pose (apasana), lying twist simple variation (jathara paravritti)