How to finally sleep better

 
Annegien Schilling
 

Sleep is one of the pillars of Ayurveda, and is considered to be as important as diet in nurturing balance in the body. We spend about one third of our lives sleeping, during which the body and mind rests, repairs, detoxifies and resets itself. 

A restful night sleep is paramount to our physiological and emotional wellbeing yet so many of us suffer from sleep concerns like not being able to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not managing to fall back asleep or sleeping too long and waking up groggy and lethargic. 

When life comes in the way of our body’s internal rhythms (think stress, young kids, overpacked schedules, electronics and more), our sleep is disrupted and the vicious circle of poor sleep begins. Sleep imbalances can be discouraging and aggravating because they impair our ability to function at our best the next day. As a result, a large majority of us become ‘afraid’ of sleep. We dread it so much that we avoid it until we crash in front of the TV, further feeding into our sleep imbalance. 

Breaking the cycle seems impossible, and adjusting one’s sleep schedule isn’t easy but with the right set of practices, some discipline and patience (imbalances that have been rooted for years will not be overcome overnight), Ayurveda helps us rebalance our sleep. 

Give the tips below a try and you should feel a huge difference in a couple of months. If you don’t know your Mind & Body Type, take the quiz here.

 

PRACTICES FOR ALL MIND & BODY TYPES

1. Eat a light dinner early in the evening: A heavy dinner can disrupt sound sleep as it requires a longer digestion so eat a light and easily digestive meals 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Get Dinner recipes

2. Turn off all screens an hour before bed: The blue light of all screens is incredibly disruptive to the biological rhythms that support sleep. Turn off all screens one hour before bed and install f.lux, the free computer program that adjusts a display's color temperature in the evening designed to reduce disruption of sleep patterns.

3. Create a transition, unwinding time: We can’t preach this enough! Most of us have unrealistic expectations about sleep. We expect to fall asleep as soon as we turn off the lights and hit the sack with no transition time from the hyperactive day to bed. It’s unrealistic and sets us up for failure. Most, if not all of us need to create down time after dinner & some Netflix binge watching to unwind from the day and shift energies from being hyper-productive to calm and relaxed.An hour before bed (around 9 or 9:30pm) put away the electronics, read a book or magazine, take a warm bath, give yourself a foot massage, take your time with your night’s beauty routine and or cuddle with your partner. 

4. Reduce alcohol: Although alcohol may help to fall asleep it overstimulates the liver during sleep and cause disrupted sleep, night sweats and restlessness. This is especially true for Fire Mind & Body Types: Take the Quiz here.

5. Be in bed with lights off at 10 or 10:30pm, at the latest: We know it sounds early but if you read Your most productive day, you’ll know that 6-10PM is an ‘Earthy’ moment of the day, filled with relaxing, grounding energy that usually makes people sleepy. For everyone, and specifically those who have trouble falling asleep, it is recommended they go to bed then (by 10/10:30pm) to take advantage of that time window to fall asleep. Note that between 10pm-2am is when everyone experiences a second wind of energy so you’ll want to be asleep before being too deep into that window! Plus, that second wind of energy is for meant for detoxifying the body so you don’t want to disrupt that time. If we are up well after 10pm, that second wind of energy is used by the mind instead the body for cleansing and eventually, will create deficiency patterns that aggravate the nervous system and create anxiety. 


 

FOR EACH MIND & BODY TYPES

AIR

Your sleep tends to be light, you have trouble falling asleep as your mind is always racing, especially in bed when the lights are off and you start reliving the day’s events and listing tomorrow’s to-dos. Either you have trouble falling asleep, you’ll have trouble falling back asleep in the middle of the night or your sleep will be so light and restless that you'll wake up tired. You have a tendency to grind your teeth, sleep walk or talk

For 2 weeks straight, try the following changes: 

  • Go to bed by 10pm

  • Sleep 8-10 hours: Airy types tend to sleep less than other types but they need it the most so make getting 8 hours on average something you work towards. 

  • As part of your transition, unwinding ritual, massage your feet with warm sesame oil. Also focusing on massaging the finger nail of your big toes because there is a acupressure point at the bottom of the nail that helps you sleep.

  • It will help ground your legs, soothe the mind and improve overall relaxation 

  • Have a cup of boiled milk or chamomile tea before bed. You can add a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom – they are sedative spices.

  • Avoid too much stimulation at night like low TV watching, logistical talks with your partner, work and anything else that stimulates your mind.

  • Do breathing exercises in bed. Try taking a slow deep breathe, hold it at top. Take in a little bit more air. Hold it for 10 seconds or more and exhale slowly. Repeat 3-5 times and you’ll feel a sense of deep relaxation.

  • Lay down on an acupressure mat to fall asleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night. It provides acupuncture-like therapy which does wonders at relaxing the body. We love this one.

  • Add weight on your legs, with an extra blanket, if you’re feeling fidgety or restless in the legs. It can be very grounding.

  • Take herbs to help you fall asleep while you rebalance your sleep. We love these from Banyan Botanicals.  

 

FIRE

You generally sleep well yet somewhat light. You have no problem falling asleep, but you wake up in the wee hours of the morning and cannot go back to sleep for several hours. Because Fire energy is at its highest between 10pm-2am, you tend to be a night owl loving how productive you get in the late hours of the night. Although you need somewhere between 8 hours of sleep to function at your best, your ambition and project deadlines can come in the way of prioritizing sleep. 

For 2 weeks straight, try the following changes: 

  • Eat a light dinner with no spices, garlic or ginger or multiple glasses of alcohol (ideally none) as it will agitate you too much before bed.

  • Avoid exercising at night as this might be over-heating for you. 

  • Go on a moon light walk after dinner. The moon’s reflection is cooling and will help relax you. 

  • Go to bed by 10:30pm

  • Sleep 8 hours – yes you are productive at night but remember that you’re burning the candle when working late on a consistent basis and ultimately, this will make you suffer from a drop of productivity. So get your 8 hours now and your future self will thank you.

  • As part of your transition, unwinding ritual, massage your feet with cooling oil like sunflower seed or coconut oil. 

  • Keep the bedroom in which you’re sleeping cool as Fire types tend to overheat. If the room is too hot, it increases your chances of waking up in the night.

  • Avoid too much stimulation at night like low TV watching, logistical talks with your partner, work and anything else that stimulates your mind.

  • Lay down on an acupressure mat when you wake up in the middle of the night. It provides acupuncture-like therapy which does wonders at relaxing the body. We love this one

  • Take herbs to help you stay asleep throughout the night while you rebalance your sleep. We love these from Maharishi Ayurveda.   

 

EARTH

You tend to be a heavy sleeper, who enjoys sound sleep and have a hard time being woken up by noise or other factors. You love sleep the most of all Mind & Body Types yet you need it the least. The main sleep concern for Earth types is waking up. When you’re off balance you may sleep too long and wake up feeling exhausted, dull, and lethargic. That sluggish feeling continues into the day.

For 2 weeks straight, try the following changes: 

  • Eat an early and light dinner with no heavy cold sweets such as ice cream.

  • Go to bed by 10:30-11pm

  • Sleep 6-8 hours

  • Wake up earlier, before dawn. Think 5 or 6AM. This might sound drastic but Earthy types are the ones who need the least sleep out of the Mind & Body types yet they love to sleep and tend to sleep too much which can make them stagnant, lethargic or slow to get going in the morning.

  • Vigorously exercise first thing in the morning to get you out of the groggy feel that you may have woken up with. Read: The Perfect Workout for each Mind & Body Type