It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night, thoughts and worries from the day running through your mind like a movie reel? Worry and trouble falling asleep tend to go hand in hand, as both have their roots in Vata dosha. Vata governs movement in the mind and body. It controls your blood flow, your elimination, the rise and fall of your breath, and the movement of your thoughts and emotions. If Vata has fallen out of balance, which is easy in Vata season (late fall and winter), you might notice an increase in anxious feelings and difficulty sleeping.
Fortunately, with a few simple diet and lifestyle changes, you can improve the quality of your sleep. Rather than treating symptoms, Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to address the root cause of worry and trouble falling asleep. Try a few of these tips for a better night’s sleep.
1. Eat Calming Foods
Vata dosha is dry, and cold; to counter its influence, favor warm, cooked, substantial foods like hearty soups and stews, rice dishes, winter squash, and light dairy products. Cut back on light, dry foods like crackers, raw veggies, big salads and dried fruits (soaked is OK). Here is the list of complete dietary recommendations for Vata. Have you ever considered sautéing your lettuce? It is a common practice in Asia. So if you have to have your salad… try sautéing it first!
2. Eat Dinner Early
Prepare and eat a light, easy-to-digest dinner at least three hours before bedtime, so your body is able to digest before you hit the hay. At night, your body’s rest and repair mechanisms kick in, but it’s harder for them to do their job if they’re weighed down with excess food. The result is that sleep is not as restful and digestion is inefficient, which can lead to long-term imbalances. Favoring a light dinner—such as steamed vegetables and dhal, or soup—is ideal. If possible, avoid heavy meats, aged cheeses and fried foods.
3. Avoid Stimulants
Caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol can all interfere with sleep, especially if you consume them in the evening. Try a soothing cup of Organic Calming Vata or Slumber Time Tea instead. Take Worry Free and Blissful Sleep tablets two to three hours before bed. Give a boiled cup of milk a try; steeping Organic Vata Tea in milk is a wonderful treat.
4. Unplug and Unwind
This one can be a challenge! But try to resist the pull of your TV, smartphone, tablet, and computer after 8:30 p.m. to give your body a chance to tune into its circadian rhythms. Listen to soothing music (Gandharva Veda is particularly relaxing), read uplifting books, or take a short evening stroll to help you unwind. Let the sun set in your home. Turn off the lights, relax and let the light naturally go out. Be all ready for bed before doing this; you’ll be surprised at the results!
5. Try Aromatherapy
Studies have shown that lavender essential oil helps reduce worry in intensive care unit patients, helping them to sleep better. Our Slumber Time Aroma Oil contains uplifting oils like sweet orange, lavender, jasmine, and marjoram to promote a calming environment for sleep. Our dosha balancing oils can help you address little imbalances that come up throughout the day. Let your nose guide you each evening and choose the one that smells the best.
6. Get to Bed Early
Try to go to sleep during Kapha time, when your body naturally starts to wind down. Kapha time falls from 6-10 p.m., so you’ll ideally want to head to bed before, or near, 10 p.m. This can be a challenging habit to instill if you’re a self-professed night owl, but research shows that an early bedtime boosts students’ performance in school. Try an evening walk to relax and tune into nature’s rhythms.
7. Wake Up Early, Too
It turns out there might be something to the old “early to bed, early to rise” adage. Train yourself to wake up early, before Kapha time kicks in again (6:00 a.m.), and you’ll not only feel fresh and active during the day, you’ll also gradually fall asleep earlier at night. A walk in the morning sunlight is considered by Ayurveda to be one of the healthiest activities.
8. Make Abhyanga a Priority
To relieve tensions in your mind and body, try to give yourself a warm oil massage (abhyanga) each morning, followed by a warm shower. Before bed, give yourself a mini-massage—just your head and feet. A warm bath at bedtime can also help you drift off to sleep. If a full bath seems like too much, try soaking your feet in warm water and then applying oil. Or consider purchasing a foot tub for a regular soak.
9. Get Moving
Getting enough exercise each day helps to reduce stress levels, and it also promotes deeper sleep. Try to avoid overly strenuous exercise at night, as it can be too stimulating. Short walks and gentle stretches are a good way to sneak in some light movement before bed.
10. Address Your Emotions
If stressful situations and relationships are keeping you up at night, it’s important to address them head on. Talk to friends and counselors, or journal out your emotions. For a little extra help, our Blissful Sleep formula contains herbs like Indian valerian and ashwagandha, which have a calming, balancing effect on the mind, body, and emotions to help you fall asleep naturally.
11. Tackle Stress
Sometimes, schedules get hectic and there’s no sidestepping stress—which can cause cortisol levels to climb. Research at the University of California San Diego showed that people who took Worry Free tablets for three months lowered their salivary cortisol levels. This calming formula contains powerful Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha, which helps with resilience under stress. Worry Free also increases mental focus, subjects reported.
12. Take a Time Out
Going for a restorative nature walk, hitting a yoga class, meditating, or even just taking a few moments to pause and breathe are all great ways to step back from life’s hectic pace. Transcendental Meditation® in particular has been shown to reduce cortisol and increase mental alertness; a recent meta-analysis study found it was the most effective technique for reducing stress.
By incorporating just a few of these recommendations, you should be able to enjoy a more carefree Vata season—and above all, a better night’s sleep!
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
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