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I am asked all the time; Is there anything Natural (Ayurvedic) that can help with insomnia? The answer: Absolutely!
And this is a very important topic.
In Ayurveda, 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, 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.
So... what can you do?
Initiate a meditation practice for overall stress reduction and relaxation. Yoga (especially Shavasana) 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 Dosha-balancing oil for Vata or Pitta that is relaxing or soothing. Do not do any invigorating exercise, intense work or reading, or watch violence on TV (including 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 and create a comforting bedtime routine. 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, cereals and whole grains. Get to bed by no later than 10:30 PM before energizing Pitta time kicks in and be sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night depending upon what is right for you.
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. 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. Sweet Dreams!
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