In my previous article you read the importance of getting enough sleep, night after night, and the harmful effects of skimping on sleep. Just one night of interrupted or short sleep is all it takes to make you feel more depressed, fatigued, and confused, according to new research.
We all know that sleep has cycles, and that it's vital we go through each cycle (several times) every night. What happens when our sleep is interrupted? Any interruptions to your sleep cycle makes your body start over, which means you might never reach the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep. When you don't receive this healing sleep, you become sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation has virtually the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
So now that you know (or perhaps you already knew) the absolute necessity of sleep as part of maintaining good health or improving your health, you should learn how to experience sound, quality sleep. Like anything else, it takes a bit of preparation, but the results are proven - you'll wake up feeling fresh and energized.
Here are tips to achieving quality rest according to Ayurvedic principals:
1. The first most important tip (and the toughest for us all) is to switch off ALL electronic devices TWO HOURS before bedtime - tv, email, internet, smartphone, ipad, etc, all of which are too stimulating for the mind and proven by numerous studies to interfere with sound sleep. There's no way around this - you just can't have both.
2. Finish your dinner 3 hours before bedtime so that the process of digestion doesn’t interrupt your sleep.
3. Follow the same bedtime routine every night. I read scriptures in silence while having a glass of warm almond milk or herbal tea. A routine will put your body in the sleeping mindset.
4. A warm bath is helpful on those rough, long days. Add a few drops of calming lavender essential oil, known to induce sleep. Alternatively, you can add a drop or two to your pillow. I do this for my kids when they're cranky from a long day.
5. Drink either a warm glass of milk (any kind that suits you: almond, soy, dairy) with a pinch of nutmeg or saffron. Ayurveda highly suggests warm, spiced milk before bed.
6. Massage your temples, hands and feet with warm almond or sesame oil just before going to sleep. You could alternatively massage the soles of your feet with castor oil.
7. Perform deep breathing. (Attend Yoga class at Chinmayam to learn techniques.)
8. According to Ayurveda, it's important to make bedtime no later than 10pm, to adhere to your body's natural rhythms. This is the best time to sleep, with 6am as your natural wake up time.
9. Avoid sleeping on your belly, which can obstruct deep and healthy breathing. Instead, sleep on your right side to encourage left nostril breathing. This activates the body’s cooling, relaxing moon energy.
10. Sleep with your head facing east and your feet facing west, which encourages restful sleep. The second best direction is to sleep with your head facing south, which improves health. Do not sleep with your head facing north, which disturbs sleep and health.
11. Remove clutter from your bedroom. Physical clutter causes mental clutter, and a clean, peaceful space encourages the same for the mind. Please - remove your tv.
12. Use dim lights in the bedroom. Your bedside lamp should be low, warm lighting. For reading, do not use a bright overhead light, use a small book light that is attached to your book. (My whole family uses book lights - order on Amazon.)
13. Some people are very sensitive to caffeine, and should avoid coffee, caffeinated tea and ginseng after morning time or all together. If you require chai in evening, avoid the harsh, strong black tea from Indian stores. Instead, do a quick-dip of full leaf black tea for color, and add spices to make a soothing masala chai.
14. Avoid the nightly news and intense conversations. Strong words often sit in our subconcious and manifest in our dreams, interrupting our sleep.
15. Resist napping. Sleep is meant for nighttime. There are a few exceptions: naps are okay for children, elderly, pregnant, and ill; and power naps (15 min) are fine for everyone in the hot summer months.
Wishing you a good night's sleep, tonight and every night!