Millions of people of all ages in UK are affected by sleep problems, many with severe, chronic sleep deprivation.
A round-the-clock activity-driven society has meant that many individuals habitually defer sleep to get other things done. “I’ll catch up later,” is, however, easier said than done.
Recent research indicates that pervasive sleep deprivation can lead to more serious health problems than just a dull clouded feeling the next morning—including obesity, high blood pressure and diminished resistance to infections.
While there is substantial awareness about the need for proper nutrition and exercise, many people tend to shrug off lack of sleep as not being of much consequence, and, as a result, go through life with both mind and body always performing at less than optimal levels.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
According to Ayurveda, sleep is one of the supporting pillars of life. Along with diet, sleep is critical to good health and well-being. Quality sleep acts as a rejuvenator of mind and body, enabling us to function at peak levels during our waking hours. Even powerful medicine is of little use if the fundamental pillars of life are not strong and solid.
Sleep is important because it enhances Ojas — considered in Ayurveda to be the master coordinator between mind, body and the inner self. Ojas is the finest product of digestion, the main life-supporting force within the body. It acts like a shock absorber, helping to insulate the mind from day-to-day stress and enhancing the body’s innate immune systems.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the key factors that affect sleep are the mind, the five senses and the link between them. When the mind disengages from the senses, sleep is sound and deep, “like a log.” If the mind is worried or agitated before bed, it stays connected to the senses, keeping them active. Sleep will be restless or it may not come at all. Stress, frustration, bad food and sensory overload can all keep the mind and senses active and disturb sleep.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three Ayurvedic operators that govern all the different activities of the mind and body. If during the day inappropriate diet, daily routine and behavioural patterns create an imbalance of Vata, Pitta or Kapha this can impact on one of three aspects of sleep. Vata governs sleep onset or falling asleep, Pitta governs sleep maintenance or sleeping without interruption through the night and Kapha governs the feeling of freshness and energy after sleep.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
Peace at Night
To support the ability to fall asleep easily adopt a Vata pacifying diet and regime. Favour foods that are warm, heavy and oily, and minimize foods that are cold, dry and light. Emphasize the sweet, salty and sour tastes, and cut down on spicy, bitter and astringent foods. Drinking a cup of Good Night Tea before bed. Almond Energy drink combined with warm milk can also be soothing. Apply a little Rejuvenation Massage Oil on your hands and feet (especially the soles) before you go to bed. In bed, breathe deeply and easily to help you unwind.
To support uninterrupted sleep follow a Pitta pacifying diet and routine. Take foods that are cool and liquid, and reduce hot, spicy foods. Sweet, bitter, astringent foods are good; reduce foods that are spicy, salty or sour. Combine the Rejuvenation Massage Oil (50%) with a cooling oil such as coconut or olive (50%) and apply to the hands and feet before bed. Breathe deeply and easily in bed. If you wake during the night take ½ cup of warm whole milk and 1 tablet of Blissful Joy food supplement.
To help you wake up feeling energetic follow a Kapha pacifying regime – favour foods that are light, dry and warm, and minimize or avoid foods that are heavy, oily and cold. Take more of spicy, bitter and astringent tastes, and reduce sweet, salty and sour tasting foods. Take Kapha Tea three times during the day and Good Night Tea at bedtime. Massaging hands and feet, especially the nail-beds, with Rejuvenation Massage Oil will help.
Food Supplements that support healthy sleep
Peace at Night (MA107)
Peace at Night tablets Helps keep Vata in balance thus supporting healthy natural rest without dullness in the morning.
The Maharishi Ayurveda Blissful Sleep group of herbal food supplements are gentle, non-habit-forming, natural sleep aids. They support all three values of sleep. Take the Blissful Sleep – Basic and add Blissful Sleep – Vata to help you get to sleep, Blissful Sleep – Pitta to help continuous sleep and Blissful Sleep – Kapha to help you feel fresh in the morning. Eat a light dinner, at least two hours before retiring to bed and take the herbs after the meal, not on an empty stomach.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Give yourself an oil massage (Abhyanga)) before your morning shower. It helps calm the mind and nervous system (Vata).
- Eat three meals during the day – breakfast, lunch around noon and an early dinner.
- Do regular balanced exercise – modern research also confirms that moderate exercise can help improve sleep.
- The Transcendental Meditation® program has been found to reduce insomnia, as well as stress and anxiety.
- Sleep before midnight.*
- Eliminate or restrict severely the intake of stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol.
- Favour calming or settling activities as bedtime draws near.
- A warm bath or shower before bed has a relaxing, calming effect.
- Wear comfortable clothing to bed — cotton is highly recommended.
- Do not bring work-related material into the bedroom.
- Keep your bedroom dark or very dimly lit.
- A gentle massage of hands, feet and neck before bed can aid relaxation.
- In bed, take long, deep, easy breaths, letting your mind and body relax.
- Listen to ten minutes of Sama Veda before bed—this melodic Sanskrit chanting helps calm the nerves and settle the mind.
- Sleep quality is more important than quantity. The deeper you sleep, the more rest the body gains.
* Tradition says that each hours sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. Therefore go to bed by 10 pm, during the drowsy Kapha time of night (6-10pm), so that your mind can settle down faster. From 10pm – 2am is governed by Pitta and you will tend to feel more active and perhaps even hungry during this period. This makes getting to sleep more difficult.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this document is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Maharishi AyurVeda and neither the information nor the products are intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional and it is recommended that you speak with your physician before making significant changes to your diet or routine.