By Nathalie Keiller:
Healthy sleep cleans the brain!
According to Ayurveda, calming and soothing the nervous system is a requirement for the maintenance and balancing of one’s health. There are numerous time-tested strategies to reset the ability of our nervous system to better “rest and digest”. Sleep is one of the pillars of Ayurveda, and is considered to be as important as diet in maintaining health and balance in the body. Sleep is the time when the body is able to repair and heal itself. The mind and emotions also become balanced through sleep.
In this article, I am excited to share with you the following seven tips that will help you maintain and return to experiencing sound sleep on a regular basis.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
2. Exercise daily but not too late in the day
3. Eat a lighter dinner and avoid snacking in the evening
4. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
5. Meditate at the end of your working day
6. Avoid artificial bright light and blue-light prior to sleep
7. Sleep in a dark room
Stress of all kinds can have a negative impact on one’s quality and quantity of sleep. When the nervous system is overwhelmed or under excess stress, you may experience difficulty to fall asleep and remain asleep for long periods of time.
A lot happens in your body while you sleep. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also linked to shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show you still need as much sleep as when you were younger. The NREM and REM phases alternate naturally during the sleep state. During a state of sleep called NREM, or non-rapid eye movement, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. REM stands for rapid eye movement and it is during this cycle when dreams typically occur. Both cycles are imperative for cleansing the brain of toxin and plaque-like protein, as well as the rebooting of your memory and unleashing of your creativity, among many other benefits.
Excessive stress, which seems the lot for many of us in today’s fast-pace technological culture, can easily overwhelm, breakdown and prematurely age the body and with it its capacity to fall and stay asleep at night.
I invite you to practise and develop at least 4 of the following strategies on a daily basis to support the optimal functioning of your brain, your cardiovascular health, your mood and cognitive functions, and at the same time your natural ability to sleep.
#1. Sleep – Stick to a sleep schedule
As part of re-connecting ourselves to the natural circadian rhythms, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is key for the rejuvenation and detox of the nervous system; which happens while we sleep! Recent scientific studies note that it matters when we get to sleep. According to Ayurveda the best quality of sleep happens between 10PM and 2AM, it is hence recommended to get to bed before or around 10PM. Getting up at the same time every day, ideally between 6 and 7AM (after 7-8 hours of sleep), will also support a healthy daylight cycle.
#2. Exercise daily but not too late in the day
While exercising make sure you practice deep nasal breathing. It will help your brain and central nervous system to detox. It is preferable to not exercise two to three hours prior to sleep simply because this will likely stimulate your ability to stay awake and be alert, hence reduce your chances to fall asleep promptly.
#3. Eat a lighter dinner and avoid snacking in the evening
A big dinner may make you temporarily drowsy but will prolong digestion, which interferes with a good night’s sleep. It is best to eat your biggest meal at noon or lunchtime and have a lighter evening meal that includes some protein: chicken, fish, or a vegetarian complete protein (lentils, beans, dairy, etc.). This will not only support the quality of your sleep but will help curb snack attacks.
#4. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
Caffeinated beverages and other stimulants include coffee, tea, energy drinks, most soft drinks, and chocolate. If you have a history of insomnia reducing these foods is imperative. In addition, avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. They may give you an experience of relaxation and even help you falling asleep, but alcohol creates heat in the body and will prevent your from staying asleep. The body requires a certain range of temperature to fall and remain asleep and will wake you up when too hot.
#5. Meditate at the end of your working day
When the Vata dosha is at its peak, sometime around 4PM (or anytime between 2:30 and 5:30PM) the body needs a reboot. Meditating at this time of day, prior to dinner, will allow excess fatigue and stress to be released. This great habit will prepare you to enjoy a stress-free evening and will support the ability of your nervous system to sleep soundly.
#6. Avoid artificial bright light and blue-light prior to sleep
Bright and blue lights stimulate the brain, telling it to wake up. Unfortunately, most of our modern electronic devices emit a lot of bright, blue light, which is a leading cause of sleep difficulties. It is challenging to avoid the technological habits we have developed, and this may require some gradual implementation. However, avoid your technology at least 2 to 3 hours prior to sleep. Chill out, go out for a stroll, or do something playful after dinner. Be creative!
#7. Sleep in a dark room
In case this is not already a habit of yours, turn off and leave all electronic devices out of your bedroom. Try reducing the use of alarms, snooze buttons and any other distractions that prevent you from falling asleep, remaining asleep, and awakening naturally in the morning.
I sincerely hope this article will help you get back to optimal health respecting your own constitution, personality, lifestyle, and long-acquired habits. When natural sleep occurs regularly, all other aspects of your life are enhanced: clarity of mind, an appropriate level of energy, improved memory, healthy weight, and feeling happy.
Ayurveda is a holistic medical system that has been working for thousands of years and brings immediate benefits. Do not hesitate to contact me for a personal consultation.
If you’d like to learn more and deepen your knowledge about Ayurveda, apply its principles into your daily life, improve your sleeping and eating habits, consider taking this upcoming course, Ayurveda: Live Well, Age Well. The next 30-hour training is this September 30th to Oct 4that Semperviva’s Sea Studio on Granville Island.
Nathalie has been practicing Ayurveda since 2000 to solve health issues and bring more harmony to her body and mind. In a traditional yet creative way, she finds great inspiration to maintain optimal health for herself and help the people that surround her. She has completed a 300-hour training with Dr. David Frawley and is a certified “Ayurvedic Life-Style Consultant”. Along with yoga and meditation, Ayurveda has been an integral part of her life for many years. She is happy to share this wisdom with others, and help them become self-reliant and enjoy Ayurveda’s innumerable benefits.