By Dr. Sharada Hall
If you’re one of the millions of people that suffer from insomnia, you know how trying to find an effective sleep remedy can completely take over your life. With so many technological distractions and a culture of over-stimulation, sometimes our nervous systems just can’t calm down. Ayurveda may be 5,000 years old, but it still offers several tried and true practices that even today can finally give you that restful sleep you’ve been looking for.
1. Don’t Eat Or Drink Alcohol Too Close To Bedtime
Our body generates heat and energy in order to digest food. Our liver also works harder to process alcohol. Asking our bodies to do this close to bedtime is asking for interrupted sleep. The body needs to rest at night, so it’s best not to give it any extra jobs to do. For people who already suffer from insomnia, this can make a big difference.
2. Drink A Cup of Warm Milk With A Pinch Of Nutmeg
According to Ayurveda, cold milk is poison but warm, raw milk is healing nectar. Milk naturally contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to seratonin and melatonin, which induce sleep. Add a pinch of nutmeg for the benefits of this natural sleep aid. For more severe cases, if the nutmeg isn’t strong enough, try the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha or valerian.
3. Rub The Scalp And Soles Of The Feet With Warm Brahmi Oil
Brahmi oil is made from sesame oil and the Ayurvedic herb brahmi (gotu kola), a nervine which is calming and cooling. It relaxes the mind directly through the scalp, and balances the energy meridians that have corresponding points on the soles of the feet. Warm some up just before bedtime. Massage the oil onto your scalp and the soles of your feet, cover your pillow with a towel, and enjoy the serenity that brahmi induces.
4. Avoid Stimulants In The Diet
Insomnia is usually a Vata disorder. Vata is the wind principle and is irregular and mobile. Vata also rules the nervous system, so an excess of Vata can amp up the nervous system. The Ayurvedic dietary treatment for Vata prohibits stimulant foods in the diet, such as white sugar and caffeine. Vata types do well to eat grounding foods such as root vegetables, whole grains, and beneficial oils such as ghee.
5. Sit With Your Breath
After a hectic day that’s busy with family, work or travel, it’s a great gift to your state of mind to sit quietly for ten minutes before laying down to sleep. Simply be still but awake and allow the thoughts from the day to rise to the surface of your mind without grasping at them. Without trying to do anything else, maintain awareness of your breath as your mind airs out the day’s laundry. Staying with your breath for a while actually regulates and deepens breathing and calms the entire nervous system. By emptying your mind in this way, you are less likely to be woken up by thoughts swirling around in your head, and more likely to sleep through the night in peace.
- Dr. Vasant Lad’s Textbook of Ayurveda, Vol. 1-3.
- Dr. Vasant Lad’s The Yoga of Herbs
- Sebastian Pole’s Ayurvedic Medicine