Sleep or Nidra as it is known in Ayurveda, is given due importance. Nidra is considered as a “trayo upastamba” meaning it is one of the three supporting pillars of life. Proper diet, sleep (nidra) and a regulated sex pattern are the three pillars known to maintain health. Proper sleep is said to nourish the body, increase life span, improve memory power, enhance fertility and bestow strength and happiness.
Improper sleep is said to bring emaciation, debility, impotence, poor mental functioning and unhappiness. The complete absence of sleep can lead to death.
Sleep should happen at proper times. Sleep which is at improper hours, in excess and no sleep at all, can ruin and destroy health and happiness. According to Ayurveda, when night sleep is insufficient, it leads to an increase in Vata dosha. Sleep during the daytime leads to an increase in Kapha dosha.
Diseases Due To Daytime Sleeping
Sleeping during the day can lead to delusion, fever, headache, weak digestive power and ama (toxic) accumulation in the body. Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (Amavata) which occurs due to ama also occurs due to a prolonged habit of daytime sleeping. Obesity and related disorders can also occur. Sleeping during the day is however recommended for children, the elderly, diseased and for all people during summer.
Diseases Due To Loss Of Sleep
Body pain, heaviness of the head, frequent yawning, exhaustion, giddiness, indigestion, depression and other nerve related disorders as well as Parkinson’s disease fall under vata disease category and can occur with sleep loss.
In Ayurveda the term for insomnia is Anidra. Anidra is caused by various factors like improper diet, lifestyle, medication and more which affects the balance of the three doshas. The aggravated Vata dosha can make a person hyperactive leading to confusion and depression.
The Vata which is mainly affected is prana vayu, a sub-dosha of Vata which resides in the head. Tarpak Kapha is a sub-dosha of Kapha (Water). It nourishes the brain cells and facilitates a good night’s sleep. Imbalance of this dosha causes poor nourishment of brain cells leading to insomnia. Excessively aggravated pitta can also lead to insomnia because pitta controls desires, anger and spirituality.
Ayurvedic Treatments For Insomnia
Ayurveda recommends the use of oil massage, shirodhara and other purificatory procedures to relieve insomnia. Shirodhara has the ability to relieve chronic insomnia. It is known to increase blood circulation and promote the secretion of serotonin, the happy hormone, which gives good sleep and a calm mind.
Herbs such as Ashwagandha are found highly effective in relieving insomnia. Brahmi or Mandukaparni and Tagara are popular Ayurveda herbs which are recommended for insomnia, depression, anxiety and other related disorders.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies For Insomnia
- Soak 10 to 15 raisins in warm water for 4 to 5 hours. Consume the raisins along with the water.
- One teaspoon of Ashwagandha choornam or two capsules/tablets with a glass of warm milk can relieve chronic sleeplessness.
- Massage warm sesame oil on the soles of the feet before bed. Wipe clean after 15 minutes or sleep with your feet covered with a pair of old socks.
- Intake of milk, buffalo milk, wine, meat soup and yogurt is advised. Foods which pacify vata and pitta should be used.
10 Tips To Improve Sleep
1. Early to bed early to rise should be part of your daily routine.
2. Day time sleeping should be avoided.
3. Hot shower before going to bed can improve the quality of sleep.
4. A light dinner taken 2 to 3 hours before bed time, followed by some walking can result in better sleep.
5. Indulge in lovemaking and other things which are comforting to the mind.
6. Avoid watching television, playing video games and using laptops or mobile devices before going to bed.
7. Do physical exercises regularly in the morning. Avoid these exercises in the evening though.
8. Drink a glass of warm milk. This is an age old remedy for insomnia.
9. Include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. They promote over all wellbeing and a balance in the doshas.
10. Yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation can be very helpful.