A good night’s sleep keeps you healthy both physically and mentally. It boosts your memory, getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better. It reduces inflammation in the body; it may also help in keeping cancer at bay. Quality sleep makes you more alert. It reduces body weight, keeps the heart healthy. When you are deprived of sleep you feel lethargic, your routine is disturbed, your hormones are not doing there normal work and you feel sick.
Here are few common sleep killers:
Stress: Stress and sleep deprivation seem to go together. Unfortunately, stressed and busy people tend to get less sleep than they need. Some people handle it better, while others cannot withstand the smallest change in their routine. When one does feel stressed they may find it difficult to sleep due to the decrease in the level of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Overscheduling: A hectic, busy life can rob you of time you can actually dedicate to sleep. If you find yourself pushing your bed time back further and further to get things done, or getting up earlier and earlier in the name of productivity, you may feel tired a lot of the time but not realize the toll lack of sleep is taking.
Pain: In any form, such as simple headache, backache, arthritic pain tends to reduce the quality of sleep. Similarly, acid reflux or belching, especially after a later-than-usual, heavy meal, in females pre-menstrual syndrome, as well as menopausal hormonal fluctuations are bound to mess up the body clock hence the sleep.
Caffeine: The world’s most widely used stimulants are coffee, alcohol and nicotine. It acts on the blood by increasing the levels of serotonin thereby increasing the levels of alertness. You may down cups of coffee because of a deadline or may enjoy excess colas just because they taste good with your pizza, but these contain caffeine. The duration of effect depends on the amount of caffeine ingested, tolerance levels and time gap between the intake and sleep.
Quiet and Comfortable: Environmental matters like light, temperature, noise are the external factors that affect the quality and restfulness of sleep. Our ancestors followed the simple law of nature; they were awake while the day lasted and went to sleep at the first signs of night. Some people do find a “white noise” machine helps lull them to sleep. Deep sleep is most sensitive to temperature-related disruptions. For example, we may find it difficult to sleep when it is too hot or cold. Too lumpy or too hard a pillow may lead to not just back and neck pain, but also a sleepless night. So, choose the right ones that are comfortable for you.
Get the sleep you need
Have dinner early. Two or three hours before you sleep. Avoid bed time snacks it not only disturbs digestion but also raise your blood levels. If you still feel hungry you can choose a fruit or a glass of fruit juice or milk with dash or honey. Aerated drinks, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided 2-3 hours before sleep.
Don’t take naps. This will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can’t make it through the day without a nap, sleep less than one hour, before 3 pm. Cultivating good bed time habits like listening to soft music, reading a book, listening to spiritual talks will get good sleep.
Develop sleep rituals. It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine free tea, do relaxation exercises.
One of the best therapies to get good sleep a de-stress your body and mind is Shirodhara. “Shiro” means head and “dhara” means to flow. Shirodhara involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead, more specifically stated, on the “third eye.” It is the chakra point just above and between the eyebrows which is said to be the seat of human consciousness. Shirodhara is a unique form of Ayurvedic therapy which includes pouring oil on the forehead from a specific height and for a specific period continuously and rythmically allowing the oil to run through the scalp and into the hair. Shirodhara is a purifying and rejuvenating therapy designed to eliminate toxins and mental exhaustion as well as relieve stress and any ill effects on the central nervous system. The liquids used in shirodhara can include oil, milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or even plain water according to the prakruti or the nature of the individual.
If you can’t get to a spa, massage your scalp at home, with a mixture of ghee, sesame oil and Brahmin taila or jatamamsi taila for about 20 minutes daily. People with predominance of vata can use sesame oil, pitta people can use ghee or coconut oil, and kapha predominant ones can use mustard oil.
A mixture of powders of vacha(sweet flag),amla(Indian Gooseberry) and brahmi(bacopa) in equal quantity taken with milk or honey rejuvenates the central nervous system and hence useful in sleep disorders. Nutmeg powder can be made paste with milk and applied over the eyes and forehead to get good sleep.
A cup of chamomile tea at bedtime is truly beneficial for inducing sleep. It is a coveted remedy throughout the world.
The earlier you adopt good sleep habits, the easier it will be to sustain them through the years.
Suchetha Sarathy is chief Ayurveda physician at a hospital in Mysore, India. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.