Insomniacs, put your sleeping pills aside.
Yoga and its sister science of ayurveda can be used together as powerful sleep-inducing medicine. All-natural and prescription-free.
Get a good night’s sleep tonight by putting these 3 tips into action:
1. Sync yourself with nature
According to ayurveda, there’s no such thing as a ‘night person’ or a ‘morning person’. We’re all meant to sleep through the night and feel refreshed and energized upon waking in the early morning hours. So why do some people seem to get a surge of energy at midnight and do their best creative work while the rest of the world is asleep?
These night owls stay up so late that they catch a second wind, but this has detrimental effects on sleep. Even after a full 8 hours of shut-eye, they won’t feel refreshed in the morning because they’re out of sync with nature.
Ayurveda teaches that our sleep is impacted by the energetic forces of nature and we should plan our bedtime accordingly. It considers the three doshas–energies that operate within and around us–and how they influence our bodies. It may seem a little esoteric to those who aren’t familiar with ayurveda, but this concept actually makes a lot of sense.
In essence, the kapha dosha bears its influence from 6pm to 10pm. Because kapha has a dulling, sluggish effect, we start to get sleepy in these hours. If we actually go to bed before 10pm, it’s much easier to fall asleep because we’re under the influence of kapha’s grounding energy.
The pitta dosha then bears its influence from 10pm to 2am. Pitta is fiery and has an energetic effect. If we stay up past 10pm, we succumb to the influence of pitta and get a second wind. ‘Night owls’ experience this effect. It’s difficult to fall asleep while pitta’s at play. And even with 8 hours of sleep, we’ll wake up feeling less than refreshed.
In order to fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling re-energized, we should aim to be in bed by 10pm–11pm at the absolute latest.
2. Create a bedtime routine
If our mind is racing before bedtime we’ll never be able to fall asleep. Here’s where a bedtime routine becomes important: it helps to turn off an overstimulated mind.
Allow at least an hour each night to wind down before bed. Turn off the TV and avoid looking at the phone. Electronics emit a blue light that trick the body into thinking it’s daytime and make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, do something calming, like reading a light book.
Ayurveda offers a few practices that are perfect for a bedtime routine. One is a warm bath, which literally washes the day away. Add a few drops of lavender for an even greater sedative effect.
Another practice is called pada abhyanga: foot massage with oil. This is something we can do ourselves with sesame or castor oil. These oils, combined with gentle, rhythmic massage, have a grounding effect on the body and mind.
Ayurveda also recommends having a warm cup of milk infused with 10 strands of saffron or a pinch of nutmeg about an hour before bed. Saffron and nutmeg both help to induce sleep. Milk is a sattvic food in itself, meaning it promotes a calm and pure mind.
Lastly, we should fill our minds with positive thoughts before bed. Our last thought of the day shouldn’t be one of stress or worry. We’ll only set ourselves up for bad dreams or restless sleep. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong in the day or tomorrow’s to-do list, say a little prayer, offer the universe thoughts of gratitude, or envision a symbol that fills the mind with a sense of peace.
3. Soothe your mind with alternate nostril breathing
Also known as anuloma viloma or nadi shodhana, this yogic breathing exercise has an immediately soothing effect on the mind. Not all yoga is appropriate before bed, but alternate nostril breathing can and should be woven into a bedtime routine.
Because we normally only breathe through one nostril, alternate nostril breathing works by balancing the breath between the two nostrils.
Predominantly breathing through the left nostril signifies that our right brain and cooling, lunar forces are active. Predominantly breathing through the right nostril signifies that our left brain and warming, solar forces are active.
When we breathe through both nostrils, which happens during a short junction about every 90 minutes, the right and left brain and lunar and solar forces are balanced. We experience a deep sense of peace and calm. Alternate nostril breathing induces this effect and is the perfect prep for a good night’s sleep. Here’s how to practice:
- Now take an easy breath in through the right, close the right, and take an easy breath out through the left. Now in through the left, close the left, and easy breath out through the right.
- Take an easy breath in. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Take an easy breath out through your left nostril.
- Sit in a comfortable position in bed either with your legs crossed or folded underneath you. Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders. Rest your hands in your lap with your palms facing down. Close your eyes.
- Tuck your right index and middle fingers into your palm to form the vishnu mudra. Your thumb, ring and pinky fingers will be extended.
- Take an easy breath in through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger, release your thumb from your right nostril, and take an easy breath out through your right nostril.
- Continue this pattern for five minutes. When you’re finished, lie down and settle in for a good night’s sleep.
Using these practices from yoga and ayurveda on a nightly basis, you’ll be able to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and transform from a night owl to a morning person.