Sleep. Deep, rested, waking up refreshed, not aching in your body glorious sleep. Oh, how you wish you had some!
Studying Ayurveda is the most enlightening experience and though our teachers tell us that we cannot legally claim Ayurveda cures people I will say that in my humble opinion (not fact) from what I have learned, experienced and witnessed with other clients in our University clinic, Ayurveda makes everything and everyone whole again. It is absolute perfection. Again, just my opinion.
Ayurveda, focuses on preventing dis-ease before it manifests into a chronic condition and one fundamental essential needed in place is restful, solid sleep. In fact, if you are not sleeping well and haven’t for some time, problems with all system’s of your body are inevitable. There is no better time than now to bring your body in balance. As you’ll see it has less to do with medications and more to do with you. And your routine.
So, let’s talk sleep. I’m sure a lot of you have “tried everything” but I can bet you haven’t tried Ayurveda. And if you have, did you follow a protocol long enough for it to become a healthy habit? If not, then your old habits are still at play and you need new ones.
BUT DON’T FRET. Maybe you weren’t ready at that time to start anew but maybe you are now. That’s Progress!
In case no one ever really explained this to you, being consistent is ESSENTIAL if you want to have significant results with alternative medicine and therapies (i.e. Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Homeopathy, Herbs and Vitamins, Food As Medicine). If you are just “trying” an herb or practice but not committing to it the way it was prescribed, you will not have a successful experience. And if you do have success, I can bet it was pretty stressful (and not much fun) ,along the way. Remember, immediate results usually come with adverse side effects that culminate into other dis-eases in the body and in Ayurveda, any treatment or medicine used to treat one illness but creates another is an impure one and should be avoided.
Know This Too! What I am recommending may seem “impossible”. You may shun these changes and have a million valid reasons why it won’t work for you but two thing you may not be paying attention to may be 1) this is your health and it takes priority above all else and 2) effort and commitment are needed in any experience if you want to have a positive outcome. Any “magic” pill is clouded in smoke and mirrors.
When creating this protocol, I did my best to meet most of you where you are so there are two sections: Start Here includes some core fundamentals that are needed to get pretty much anyone started and Add These, are add-ons to include once you feel comfortable and are ready to move forward in your evening routine. Notice that I said YOUR routine. There is no “one size fits all” approach. Make this work for you but commit to it.
Before We Get Started Let Me Be Frank. You may succeed but will be miserable along the way, if you do any of the following:
- Keep Score Of Your Progress
- Have Unrealistic Goals
- Beat Yourself Up If You Miss A Few Days.
- Beat Yourself Up If You Miss A Few Steps.
- Strive For Perfection. Only Progress Is Attainable.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk your Nighty Night Protocol:
- Avoid meals / snacks / caffeinated or sugar-y foods and drinks at least 3 hours before bed.
- Keep dinners light, warm (no cold salads for dinner) and meat-free. If you eat meat/chicken/fish best to have it at lunch, which should be your largest meal of the day.
- Mentally begin to wind down for bed an hour beforehand. This means turn off computers, charge cellphones out of the bedroom, put on soothing music… Keep sounds soft or silent. Refrain from educational podcasts like TEDx or the news during this wind down time. The goal is to give the mind a break not stimulate it with thought provoking conversations.
- Physically wind down for bed an hour before lights out. This means wash up, put on your Pj’s and maybe some cozy socks. Brush your hair or take a warm bath. Put things away, light a candle…
- Drink a nutmeg latte! Nutmeg is essential for quieting your restless mind and promoting sleep and this latte takes very little effort: Warm and whisk 8-12 ounces of milk (vegan too of course) with ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg and turmeric. If you have ghee at home, top your latte with ¼ teaspoon. Sip slowly.
- Do your absolute best for lights out and wake up by 11p.m. and 6 a.m. the latest. There will be days where this won’t work but if you set a goal to honor this schedule maybe four days a week, well, that’s attainable right? MAKE IT ATTAINABLE. Realistic goals, remember? Ayurveda definitely gets more precise with sleep/wake/eat times depending on your dosha and imbalance but for most everyone, this guideline is a great place to start. NOTE: even if the first or second week you are lying there, wide awake and unable to sleep, give it time. You are resetting your internal clock. Be patient. Do not keep score and definitely don’t get on your phone or watch TV in bed. Do not expect everything to be easy especially if you have been having this issue for months or years. Just love yourself and get through it. You got this!
- Massage feet with lavender or chamomile essential oil.
- Massage your scalp, ears, neck and shoulder. Massage from each hip down the thigh and leg to feet with warm sesame or coconut oil. Do the same from each shoulder down your arm. Use essential oils like lemon balm, catnip, chamomile, rose or lavender if you like…. This Abhyanga (or self-massage) will help to move out accumulated Vata. Think of Vata as that all-nighter trouble-maker dosha that if you let it, will wreak havoc on your life. Vata is beautiful because it’s you but you must set boundaries with vata by grounding it in routines and giving it a curfew. We live in a highly vata western society (go-go-go and never stop) so this is crucial for most everyone otherwise vata will never slow down and that means neither will you. That is until you break and deplete your body. Why go there if you can prevent it?
- Focus on your breath for a few minutes in bed, in a chair or on your yoga mat. Simply, get in a comfortable sitting or lying position, and breathe in deep and exhale deeper. Put hand on belly during your practice to make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm and not your chest. Eyes open or closed. Music on or off. Just be quiet and present with your breath.
- Write in your journal. Think about the great blessings that came to you that day or fun people you met. Maybe you feel there is nothing to write about but there are definitely blessings. You got home safe after driving, yes? You’re alive, right? Your kids are tucked in yes? The lady at the post office was super sweet, right? Your belly is full, right? That almond milk latte was pretty special just in the having of it right? Start there. These are blessings.
- Stretch your body. Do slow movements. Breathe. Exhale a lot to release the stress from the day (I love exhaling fully with my mouth open after a long day or if I have a lot of stress in my body. I always feel less burdened after a few of these open-mouthed exhales).
If it’s sleep you want, I can pretty much guarantee results if you commit to this protocol. Of course, there could be several reasons why you are not sleeping that matter very much. Maybe you are on meds or dealing with drug or another addiction withdrawal. Maybe you are grieving the loss of someone close. Maybe you travel all of the time or work crazy shifts that prevent you from having this “grounding” that I talk about. These are definitely challenges but you can still access “winding down” “no cell phone in room” “cozy socks” “No news or television before bed”, “a nutmeg latte”, “meat-free dinners”, “a warm bath”, “counting your blessings”… The point is to create a ROUTINE that fits within what you cannot change right now. You are not helpless nor are you void of options. You are limitless. Remember that!
Expect Great Things.