Sleep is as essential to optimal health as nutrition and exercise. Getting adequate, quality, and consistent shut-eye is crucial for supporting brain function, maintaining a healthy immune system, stress management and perpetuating physical and emotional wellbeing. A good night’s sleep improves our mood and encourages a sharper mental focus and alertness. And it has an incredible impact on how we look and feel.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average adult should sleep between seven and nine hours a night (the magic number varies person to person). Generally, anything more or less has been linked to increased blood pressure, inflammation, risk of heart disease and stroke, weight gain, and cognitive impairment. It’s important to note that quality shut-eye—restorative sleep that is unfragmented throughout the night—is as essential as the quantity.
Given the growing body of research on the essentialism of good sleep, it’s still puzzling. Sleep plagues so many of us—so much so that the CDC says about a third of Americans aren’t getting the sleep they need. Considering that, as well as the incessant stress and static of daily life, it’s no wonder that so many of us are functioning at tired, sub-optimal levels. Ayurvedic texts say that insomnia can be caused by increased vatta or pitta. (The Doshas—vata, elements of space and air, pitta, the elements of fire and water, and kapha, the qualities of earth and water—are the primal energies found throughout the human body. An imbalance of doshas affects our health and wellness, including sleep, according to Ayurvedic medicine.) Sleep or any imbalance is a call to realign balance in the body. And even as elusive as it can be, there are simple remedies to help get the body back in balance.
FOLLOW A RITUAL
How we spend our days can impact how we sleep. The same goes for how we transition into bedtime. It’s pretty intuitive: If we’re running at full speed all day consumed by technology and adrenaline this frenetic energy can stay with us after we tuck in. Research shows that following a relaxing nighttime routine can reduce sleep problems. It doesn’t have to be super prescriptive; try what works for you. The key is marking the transition from day to night so your body and mind knows it’s time to wind down.
These are some natural remedies for insomnia;
Clear your mind. Journaling, mediation, or a similar meditative practice can help with mental clarity and ease.
Take a warm bath or shower. This can help to physically and emotionally wash the day away. It also helps the body temperature to drop, which research shows induces sleepiness. Add a few drops of our Pure Calm Wellness Oil, which has Roman Chamomile that promotes tranquility.
Do yoga. Practicing this spiritual and ancient discipline before bed has been shown to lower stress levels, relieve tension, calm the mind, and aid in better sleep. Light up a scented candle. There are several simple poses you can do in bed:
- Legs Up Against The Wall (Viparita Karani): Sit facing your wall or headboard at a distance of about 5-6 inches. Lie back and extend your legs up against the wall, letting your arms rest by your sides. Breathe gently and feel the stretch in the backs of your legs. This pose calms the mind and relieves tightness and cramping in the legs and back.
- Child’s Pose (Balasana): Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels. Fold your torso over your bent legs with your arms extended outward or to the sides. Breathing deeply, rest your forehead against the ground. Child’s pose gives us an opportunity to breathe into the back of our torsos and stretch out our spines. It can also ease tension in our thighs and hips.
- Corpse Pose (Savasana): Lie flat on your back with your arms outward, palms facing up. Let your body relax and feel heavy. Often the last pose of any yoga session, the corpse pose allows your body to focus your attention on your breathing.
Keep dinner on the light side. Try to avoid a lot of protein-heavy foods a night, as these can charge your digestive system to work hard and interrupt restful sleep. (Ayurvedic wisdom recommends eating your heaviest meal in the middle of the day.) If you’re craving a bedtime snack consider these foods (in small portions) that contain amino acids and vitamins known to help to promote quality sleep.
- Tryptophan is an amino acid known to cause the body to produce more serontonin, the chemical in the body needed to make melatonin, the hormone that induces sleepiness. Tryptophan-rich foods include certain dairy products, like Greek yogurt, and walnuts, bananas, salmon, and eggs.
- Carbohydrate-rich foods with high glycemic indexes can trigger greater amounts of insulin allowing more tryptophan to reach the brain. Consider a small bowl of organic jasmine rice.
- Vitamin B6-rich foods, such as salmon, halibut and tuna, are essential for making melatonin. You can also try eating potassium-rich bananas or making a green salad with chickpeas. Kale and collard greens are filled with calcium, which can help the brain use tryptophan to manufacture the melatonin. Try a bowl of fresh cherries for a melatonin boost.
- Magnesium and potassium rich foods can also help replenish electrolytes lost during the day to promote sleep. Have a small handful of organic almonds, cashews, or pumpkin seeds, or a banana. High quality dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium, just be mindful of the caffeine levels.
- Herbal tea, particularly chamomile, can relax your muscles and can act as a mild sedative. Mix in a spoonful of honey to raise insulin and allow tryptophan to work more effectively.
- Though it may help you fall asleep faster, alcohol can induce less restful sleep, night sweats, and headaches. If you are drinking alcohol in the evenings, balance each drink with a glass of water to dilute its effects.
SET THE (SLEEP) SCENE
Think of it as the if you build it, you will sleep, mentality. Set up your bedroom space so it honors intimacy and sleep. This will, in turn, honor your health. Follow these tips:
- Make the bedroom dark for sleeping hours.
- Avoid television, phones, and other sources of blue light.
- Reduce clutter and lean into a clean, calming palette (think soothing blues, whites, and grays)
- Dress your bed in breathable sheets made of natural and organic materials.
- Clean your bedding weekly. This will help reduce dust mites and other allergens that can interfere with quality sleep.
- Rethink your mattress. Many conventional brands make mattresses with toxic flame retardants, antimicrobial additives, and polyurethane. Consider one that is made with natural latex and organic wool and cotton.
- Embrace essential oils. Massage 4-5 drops of Pure Rest Wellness Oil between your toes, onto the bottom of your feet, pulse points, temples, behind the ears, or all four for the ultimate experience. Take a deep inhale from your hands to enjoy the aromatic experience.