So here we are in Part 4 of this “Ayurvedic Sleep Report”. In the final chapters of this Sleep series, I would like to share with you some natural options for treating a sleep disorder using the wisdom of Ayurveda. In order to be sure of the proper treatment protocol, you must make sure to treat the individual and their specific symptoms and not just the disorder itself. Furthermore, it is vital to make sure the root cause of the disorder is discovered and then removed. If the cause continues to flourish, any treatment plan will merely pacify the symptoms, while the disorder itself continues to progress. If you are not sure of the root cause of your sleep disorder, then it may be best to eventually seek out a knowledgeable Ayurvedic practitioner in your area. In the meantime, you can begin to balance out your sleep issues using some general Ayurvedic protocols that I will share with you here.
I have broken up the treatment protocols into the Vata, Pitta or Kapha Sleep Disorders, as each type is marked by specific causes/symptoms and therefore will require unique treatment. It will be essential to discover which category your disorder falls into by reading the previous section of this series (click here to read) if you have not done so already. Finally, it is highly recommended to keep a daily journal during this time of intense changes. It is helpful to record the progresses made, current or future goals, the recommendations implemented, emotions that come up and of course the sleep schedule (i.e. times to bed/arise, any interruptions, how you felt in the morning and throughout the day, etc).
So let’s get started shall we?!!
Ayurvedic Treatment for a Vata Sleep Disorder:
A Vata Sleep Disorder is typically accompanied by:
- Inability to fall asleep when desired, typically caused by a restless mind, worry, anxiety and loneliness
- Consistently waking-up throughout the night, especially between 2-6am
- Extremely light sleep; even soft noises will wake one up
- Dreams of falling, being chased and overall fear/anxiety driven
- Disorder is increased by feelings of coldness (i.e. cold room, cold hands and feet)
- Disorder worsens in the fall and winter months
- Once lack of sleep occurs, typical symptoms the following day include spaciness, dizziness, clumsiness, light-headed, low blood pressure, increased coldness, anxiety and restless mind/inability to concentrate
Overall Sleep Goals:
- Wind-down at 8pm
- In bed by 9pm, asleep by 9:30pm
- Sleep soundly, without disruption
- Awaken between 6:30 and 7am
- Feel refreshed, alert and ready for the day upon awakening
1. Follow a Vata-Pacifying Diet.
There is not much better way to treat imbalance then through diet. Some important essentials to remember in a Vata-reducing diet plan includes:
- Eat 3 meals daily at routine times each day; do not skip meals!
- Eat mainly warm, nourishing, well-cooked meals
- Include more healthy oils in the diet such as sesame oil and ghee
- Avoid cold and iced beverages
- Avoid cold, raw, rough and dry foods in the diet
- Incorporate more warming, digestive spices in each meal
2. Limit overall sugar intake; avoid ALL sugar after 6pm.
Sugar is a strong stimulant, especially for sensitive Vata. Ideally in a Vata imbalance, sugar should be kept in healthier forms such as organic cane sugar, turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup. Further any sugar (aside from some honey in your tea) should be avoided after 6pm if not sooner. **Chocolate should be avoided even earlier due to its caffeine content, ending all indulgences by 2pm at the latest.
3. Avoid all food after 7pm.
The body begins to slow down around 6pm and this includes the digestion. Eating too late at night is very disruptive to our sleep cycle and should always be avoided. Of course, we do not want to go to bed hungry either, so make sure to get a small, yet sustaining dinner ideally in by 6-7pm.
4. Remove processed, preserved and refined foods from the diet.
These include: white sugar, white bread, white pasta and ANYTHING with artificial preservatives, colors and flavors. Our diet can be a huge supporter or destroyer in our path to health. Making a change such as this will have an enormously positive impact on our sleep cycle, emotions, energy, and overall well- being.
5. Replace the above mentioned foods with whole grains and whole foods.
Whole grains are great for Vata as they encourage regular digestion, elimination, vital nutrients and a sense of nourishment and grounding.
1. Reduce or eliminate caffeine.
This is HUGE! Since each of our caffeine habits are unique, this step may look different for each individual. If you are drinking over 1 cup of coffee or tea a day, it is best to cut the amount in half and continue to reduce each week until the caffeine is completely eliminated.
If you are only drinking 1 cup of tea or coffee daily as it is, then first make sure that it is consumed before 12pm and never on an empty stomach. Once this is implemented, then try to reduce the 1 cup to a 1/2 cup. After this is accomplished, replace the caffeinated beverage altogether with warm water or herbal tea.
Please remember that chocolate is also caffeinated. Vata is the most sensitive to any type of caffeine and therefore even chocolate should be consumed before 2pm.
2. Avoid excessive exercise like jogging, jumping and intense cardio.
Although exercise is recommended, intense or excessive exercise can increase Vata further. Keep all exercise activities low impact, simple and overall mild. Make sure all exercise is done before 6pm to avoid any nighttime stimulation.
3. Take a walk at least 4-7 days each week.
Walking is the best exercise for Vata and should be done daily if possible. Find a time that works with your schedule and try to walk at the same time each day. Keep the pace slow, but try to walk for about 20-30 minutes altogether. Remember to take in some full, fresh breathes of air!
4. Begin to take awareness of your emotional state throughout the day and night.
Take a look at the anxiety, worry, fear or any other emotions that become excessive during this time. Take a step back when things get intense and remember to take deep breaths. Process through the emotion by acknowledging it, asking yourself where it is coming from and asking yourself if it is needed. Journaling will also help you to process through your emotions. This is a crucial step to remember throughout this entire time of treatment. With a sleeping disorder you are dealing with the nervous system, mind and emotions first hand, making this a crucial step in the healing process.
5. Incorporate a gentle or restorative Yoga class into your weekly routine.
Gentle yoga is an amazing tool for quieting the mind, calming the nervous system and reducing stress. Try to find a set class to go to each week, and make this a consistent weekly treat for yourself. If you have never tried yoga before, give it a shot! These classes are slow, simple and made for all body types and skill levels.
1. Turn off any stimulating devices after 7-8pm.
This includes cell phones, computers, emails, loud music and television. Also avoid excessive talking or emotionally intense conversations at this time. Remember, our goal is to be asleep by 9:30pm!
2. Massage the soles of the feet, forehead and scalp with warm oil each night before bed.
The best oil to use for a Vata imbalance is Vata Massage Oil, Ashwagandha oil, Bala oil, Bhringaraj oil or just plain sesame oil. Add calming essential oils if desired.
3. Incorporate a ginger bath in your evening routine 2 days per week.
If a bath tub is available, add the ginger bath blend or epson salt and take a bath at least twice a week. Try using essential oils in the water such as lavender, chamomile, tulsi or frankincense. A steam room or sauna is also good if a bathtub is not available.
4. Perform a whole body, self-oil massage at least once a week.
Using the Vata Massage Oil, perform a full body massage (abhyanga) 1-2 times each week. Begin the massage at the head and work your way down to the feet. Leave the oil on overnight, but make sure to wear old pajamas only, to avoid staining and stretching.
5. Sit in meditation for 5-30 minutes each night before bed.
Meditation is a great tool for inducing sleep, clearing the mind and healing the nervous system. Even if you can only sit for 5 minutes, make this a nightly habit to reset your nerves each night before bed. Take the awareness to the breath as you breathe deep into the belly. Once again, even if you have never meditated before, give it a shot. There is no wrong way to do it as long as you use awareness and the breath.
1. Drink CALM Tea throughout the day.
By drinking CALM Tea throughout the day, you will begin to soothe the mind and the nervous system while reducing your stress load. This will keep the cortisol levels lower in the evening, preparing you for a sound sleep. CALM Tea is also great for boosting the immunity and balancing blood sugar.
2. Take 1 tsp of Majja Ghee, two times daily.
This medicated ghee will nourish and rejuvenate a frazzled nervous system, calm the mind and reduce stress throughout the day. This in turn will help to ease one into a restful sleep by the nighttime. Take 1 tsp first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and again around 2pm. For an extreme sleep disorder, take a third time after dinner for the first couple of weeks. In all cases, melt the ghee in 1/2 cup of hot water before taking.
3. Take1/2 tsp of Triphala tea each night before bed.
Triphala is a great herbal formula to begin treatment with, as it pacifies all the doshas, rejuvenates the tissues on a cellular level, removes toxins from the GI tract and boosts the digestion. This herbal regimen will help to build a solid foundation increasing the effectiveness of the following treatments.
4. Drink a cup of Sleepy Tea each night between 8-9pm.
Since the nighttime wind-down begins at 8pm, this is a great way to spark this shift in energy. These mild herbs may not be enough to put you to sleep altogether, but they do a great job at calming the nervous system, preparing one for sleep. Once this becomes a nightly routine, your body and mind will come to realize that this is an indicator that sleep is near!
5. Take 1.5 tsp of Ashwagandha, Tagar and Shankapushpi (1/2 tsp per herb) each night between 830-9pm.
These are all traditional herbs used to induce sleep, calm the nervous system and reduce Vata. Mix this formula in 1⁄2 cup of warm water, steep for 5 minutes but do not strain.
***Alternatively, one can take 5-7 dropper fulls of our Sleep Easy Tincture.
Stay tuned for Part 5 on the Ayurvedic Treatment of a Pitta Sleep Disorder!