Wouldn't it be so nice to rest easy every evening?
Sleep is so, so, so important! In Ayurveda, sleep is considered one of the great pillars of health. Sleep builds ojas (think of this as your energy reserves) and pacifies vata (the air and ether qualities within us). “It is the state of deep sleep that allows the mind to renew itself.” Sleep allows the body and mind to naturally recover and heal. When we don't get quality sleep it can lead to many psychosomatic manifestations such as constipation, fatigue, high blood pressure, the inability to perform physical and mental activities normally; all of which negatively impact one's quality of life. I'm certain all of us have at some point in our life, experienced the ramifications of not getting a good night's rest. Over time, it will feel like an avalanche hit you!
One major factor that contributes to restful sleep is developing and maintaining a night time routine. Yup, you read that right. Routine is essential to grounding the mind and body. Essential elements of said routine include - waking up at the same time (even on the weekends) and winding down from each day with the same or similar practices. Here I'll offer you some things you could incorporate into your evening as a way to ease into sleep and to teach your body, over time, cues that sleep time is coming!
Aromatherapy remedies for insomnia:
Aromas can be useful to calm the mind and help release stress from the day. Sandalwood, chamomile, clary sage, lavender, valerian root, marjoram, vetiver and neroli are all good aromatherapy oils to help encourage restful sleep. They can be taken in the form of essential oils with an infuser or by adding a few drops to a warm bath. You can massage a few drops into the soles of the feet before tucking yourself in bed. Or give yourself a regular massage with your own combination of the above herbs to help reduce stress and induce sleep.
Yoga poses to help you sleep better:
Take 15 minutes to roll around your bed before retiring for the night. Doesn't matter what level of flexibility you claim, let yourself indulge in these asanas (poses) and don't forget to breeeeeeath naturally.
Siddhasana, variation (Adept’s Pose, variation)
Sit tall on your bed (or on the floor on a blanket) and cross your ankles. Inhale and lift your spine, and exhale as you take your left hand to your outer right knee. Place your right hand behind you for support. Inhale and lengthen; exhale and twist deeper. Focus on beginning the twist from the belly and letting the twist continue up your spine/neck/gaze with each inhale/exhale. Hold for about a minute or two - or 10-15 long deep inhales and then switch sides.
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out long and toes pointed up towards the ceiling. Use a scarf, belt, whatever is handy to wrap around the sole of your foot. Inhale and bring your right leg towards the ceiling. Keep the knee slightly bent if lengthening it straight causes any pain or simply doesn't feel good. Continue to inhale and explore a muscle-to-bone connection and exhale to stretch and lengthen slightly. Hold for about a minute or two - or 10-15 long deep inhales and then switch legs.
Note that you don't want to be creating tension in your grip, so remember to keep the neck, shoulders and elbows relaxed while stretching your legs.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
You can do this on the floor with your butt flesh against the wall and your legs up the wall with a pillow or blanket folded into a narrow stack that’s the length of your spine perpendicular to the wall. Lie your back onto the blanket, then send your legs up. Or you can continue to frolic on your bed and simply lay on your back, butt flesh against your headboard and kick your legs up towards the ceiling. You can also allow the soles of the feet to kiss as you bring your knees out to the side. If you feel like you need support, bring some pillows under your thighs for cushion. Hang out here as long as you like - ideally no less than 3-5 minutes.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Aaaaaah, you may end up falling asleep in this one as I often do! Let yourself use your blankets and pillows and build yourself a fortress like when you were a kid! Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the sides, creating a diamond shape. Use pillows under your knees for support. Take one pillow or use the same rolled up blanket from legs up the wall and place it at the base of your sacrum (think of that point on your lower back, right above where your cheeks meet) and let your spine melt on the pillow/blanket. Ensure that your head is above your heart - so use another pillow to prop up your head if need be. If you have something to cover your eyes, perfect. You can even sprinkle any of the aromas suggested above. Then take a deep breath and relax. Again, hang out here as long as you like - ideally no less than 3-5 minutes.
Herbal remedies to help you sleep:
It's definitely true that drinking a cup of warm milk before going to bed brings on a peaceful sleep. You can have it plain or add any of the following for effectiveness and flavor:
- add up to 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg
- add some crushed almonds, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cardamom
Cherries are also good for mental fatigue and stress, both which are contributing factors to insomnia. Try eating 10-20 cherries daily or drink some cherry juice.
Chamomile tea is known around the world for inducing sleep. Try drinking a cup of this tea about an hour before you retire in bed.