“Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” – Mesut Barazany
Restful sleep provides the foundation for health and well-being. Your body and mind need sleep to recalibrate and rejuvenate. Yet, for many people who live hectic modern lives, sleep can become a touchy subject.
If you do a quick internet search, you will find hundreds upon thousands of websites, articles, blogs, telling you how to sleep well. The general consensus is that the average adult needs approximately 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, preferably beginning at around 10 pm.
They are not steering you wrong. That is indeed the recommended pattern based on the human ultradian and circadian rhythms. Not only do we navigate different stages of sleep that contribute to how well our bodies rejuvenate when we get up the next day, but also, there are stages of biochemical activity that play an important role in balance and wellness.
This means, when it comes to sleep, hours are important but so is the quality of your sleep.
It is one thing to know that we need plenty of restful sleep to feel our best. It is another thing to adjust busy lifestyles to ensure that we do indeed get the necessary restful hours for optimal wellness.
It can be helpful to learn to understand and identify your own biological rhythms concerning waking and sleeping and make small adjustments that guide you closer and closer to optimal sleep habits. Of course, there is also always the option of just doing a complete turnaround in your sleeping habits and schedule to allow for the best possible outcomes of health.
In Ayurveda, the rhythms of waking and sleeping are divided into cycles that mirror your Dosha or body type.
- From 6 pm to 10 pm the energy of Kapha begins to help you slow down and get ready for a restful slumber.
- From 10 pm to 2 am the energy of Pitta gets to work rebuilding tissues and detoxifying the body.
- From 2 am-6 am Vata invites dreaming to help you manage your emotions and release stress.
Current evidence-based studies also identify a similar rhythm that is of most benefit for you biologically. So, while sleeping from midnight to 8 am might get you the hours needed, it will not have quite the restful and rejuvenating quality that sleeping from 10 pm to 6 am.
What happens if you don’t get enough restful sleep?
- That almost every chronic disease has a sleep deficiency component.
- Adults who sleep less than 5-6 hours on a regular basis are at a higher risk for being overweight.
- Lack of restful sleep contributes to emotional instability and inability to manage stress.
- Going without sleep for 20-21 hours is generates the equivalent brain activity of being legally drunk.
- Sleep deprivation impacts cognitive function and memory, making it difficult to focus and work.
So how do you cultivate restful sleep?
- Aim to be in bed with lights out by 10 pm.
- Avoid caffeine after noon and refrain from drinking excessive alcohol in the evening.
- You can take a warm bath about an hour before bed
- Abhyanga (self-massage) before your bath with calming essential oils like Lavender, Sandalwood, or Vanilla.
- Listen to soothing music
- Drink a warm cup of milk seasoned with saffron, honey, and nutmeg. Or a cup of Valerian or chamomile tea
- Journal for a few minutes before bed to calm your mind
- Read something inspirational or uplifting – but not too stimulating
- Stop using digital devices, including television, at least an hour before bed.
- Once in bed, try gently relaxing your muscles and mind
This list can seem like a lot of things to attempt to cultivate restful sleep and if you have a busy life, it can seem like an unobtainable list… but, I promise you, it isn’t.