"Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth." ~ Walt Whitman
Sleep is a very important topic. In Ayurveda, (the over 5000 year-old natural healing philosophy from India), poor nutrition is the mother of all disease and insomnia is the father. Getting enough sleep is extremely important in helping us live a life of health, happiness and vitality and yet insomnia is a problem that affects a large number of people especially in United States. Some of the causes of insomnia include headaches, excess intake of coffee, tea or soda, worries, negative thoughts, pain, stress, drinking alcohol in excess at night, anxiety, depression, unhealthy lifestyle, toxic relationships, unsatisfying jobs, and illness. Treating the cause of insomnia is obviously the best idea, however, while you are working on that you need to get some sleep.
Hopefully, you have already initiated a meditation practice for overall stress reduction and relaxation. This will help with sleep. Yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) can also be helpful to decompress and unite body, mind and spirit. If you are having trouble falling asleep because your mind is racing, try journaling before bed with an intention to “download” your thoughts and worries. Trust that because these things are in your journal, you no longer need to keep them in your mind, thereby giving yourself permission to rest and fall asleep easily. Additional remedies include regularly drinking a glass of warm milk with ½ teaspoon of honey and/or cardamom or nutmeg before bed, taking a warm bath using aroma therapy oils such as lavender or peace & calming, massaging the bottoms of the feet and ears with a relaxing or soothing massage oil. Do not do any invigorating exercise, intense work or reading, or watch violence on TV (including and especially the news!) right before bed as these things are too stimulating to the physiology and not conducive to relaxation and sleep. Create a peaceful, cool, quiet, dark, and calming atmosphere in your bedroom which should be without a TV and only used for two things. ; ) Create a comforting bedtime routine that will help you relax and prepare for restful sleep. Herbs like Ashwagandha can also be helpful in relaxing the mind as well as rejuvenating the body. Be sure to eat a diet rich in B-Complex vitamins and including vegetables, and whole grains. Get to bed by no later than 10:30 PM before Pitta (fire & water), the natural energizing and detoxifying time (10PM – 2AM) kicks in, and be sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night depending upon what is right for you. Sleeping from 10 PM – 6 AM is truly different than sleeping from 12 MN to 8 AM! While both 8 hours of time, better quality sleep is obtained in the hours before midnight. Try it for yourself, even if you consider yourself a night owl as I did, and experience the difference. Going to sleep between 10 and 10:30 PM will be easier than trying to fall asleep at 11 PM or thereafter when that second wind inevitably kicks in and we can feel energized.... then it will be even harder to get to sleep and the sleep will be restless. Sleep is a time for for the body-mind to rest so it can heal itself. Detoxification intensifies during sleep time so that the body is able to rid itself of toxins in the morning. Without enough sleep, toxins build up and can create illness, Adequate sleep keeps our cortisol and adrenaline levels in check and assists in weight loss if that is one of your goals. Don't we all just feel better when we get enough sleep? That can even translate to better relationships!
Lack of sleep can cause problems in doing every day work and activity and deplete the immune system thus inviting a number of various other symptoms and illnesses. Insomnia is not a problem that should be ignored or written off as minor. Remember, it is easier to treat a little insomnia or any other minor symptom or seed of illness before it becomes an abnormality on a lab report or diagnostic test. So pay attention to your sleep habits and try some of the remedies listed above if you feel you are suffering from insomnia for more than a couple of days. Be willing to look at the reasons why you might be having insomnia and remove the first cause. Not only will you feel better and more rested, but you will be doing your body and mind a great benefit in the prevention of illness.
Dr. Joanna Carmichael is an RN, Dr. of Metaphysics, Divinity, Interfaith Minister, Ayurveda Practitioner, Spiritual Teacher and Founder & CEO of the Kalyana Centre in Narberth, PA