It’s said that nearly one in three adults in the US has insomnia at some point. Our addiction to technology, gadgets, and lack of work-life balance isn’t helping matters and definitely contributes to our tossing, turning, and wide-eyed nighttime restlessness. (And next-day zombie-ness following a poor night’s sleep.)
Ayurveda would approach this in terms of energy. By setting a routine to bring your restless brain from rajas (a state of movement, thinking, and doing) to a state of tamas (heaviness and tiredness), you can sleep soundly. Those who have insomnia stay in perpetual rajas. Here are some tips to bring tamas and sleep to you.
These are some of my favorite tactics for relaxing after a long, busy day. If you can dedicate just a half hour to this routine, or just try the steps that sound most appealing, you will fall asleep and sleep more soundly.
Your brain has been active all day and needs time to wind down before you hit the sack. Set aside at least a half hour before you get into to bed to shut down the engine. That means no computer, blackberry, Kindle, TV, exercise, or work stuff. (That includes thoughts about work!) This is the time to relax the brain.
Turn the lights down gradually, starting about an hour before bed. Bright lights stimulate thought and make your brain think of daytime.
Here’s a short, 10-15 minute restorative yoga routine that’s guaranteed to relax and soothe you. (Links go to Yoga Journal’s site if you need a visual or additional details.)
- Balasana (child’s pose) 2-3 minutes:
Toes together, knees apart, bend forward. Allow the butt to sink down, relax your shoulders, let the forehead rest on the floor. Arms at your sides. As you draw your chin toward your chest, let the skin on the forehead draw down towards the nose. This action helps to relax the brain. Now, close your eyes and exhale with mouth open. You can even sigh audibly to let go of your day. Inhale, come up and swing legs in front of you.
- Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) 1 minute:
Sit with legs straight out in front of you, inhale, bring arms up over head, exhale fully and fold over the legs. There’s no need to reach the feet unless it’s comfortable. Otherwise, just relax and let the hands lay comfortably next to your legs.
- Janu sirsasana (head-to-knee pose) 30 seconds each side:
Bring your right hand to the right inner knee and bend the leg, draw the sole of the foot to left inner thigh. Make sure both sitting bones are in contact with the floor. Inhale, arms up, exhale and grab the foot, ankle, or shin with both hands. Exhale and let head drop.
- Viparita karani (legs up the wall pose) 2-3 minutes:
This one you can do sans props. If your hamstrings are tight or you just want to get to bed, skip this one. It’s an excellent counter pose for post travel, walking a lot, or sitting at a desk. Sit with your hip and shoulder at a wall, turn so your back is on the ground, butt is against the wall. Relax and let your arms be at a 30-degree angle from your body.
- Savasana (corpse pose) 5 minutes:
Lie back, arms at 30 degrees, legs hip-distance apart. Fall into the earth, imagine there are 50-pound sandbags placed on your limbs. Let your tongue settle to the bottom of your mouth. Relax the throat. Stay here for a few minutes.
4) Oil massage.
Warm a couple tablespoons of sesame oil in a small pot over the stove (not the toasted kind or you’ll smell like food — found that one out the hard way). Then sit down and rub the oil on your feet and a bit on the crown of your head, take as long as 10 minutes to fully rub it in. If you don’t want to get your sheets dirty, just put on some socks. As a side benefit, you’ll have lovely soft feet in the morning.
5) Warm milk.
This isn’t just a wives’ tale. Get yourself some milk, whole milk if possible–a ratio of 5 ounces of milk and 3 ounces of water does the trick. Simmer over a low flame with a few cardamom pods, a couple of saffron threads, turmeric, and a spoonful of cane sugar.
Once the milk boils, whisk gently. Pour into your favorite mug and sip right before bed. Milk is grounding, relaxing, and the spices help your digestion.
6) Herbal tea.
If you don’t have milk, chamomile tea is especially good at calming frazzled nerves.
Now, get into bed.
Now that you’ve relaxed, crawl into bed. Don’t read, watch TV, or use your laptop while in bed. It should be for sleeping, and well, other things.
Image: Creative Commons license from Lee Nachtigal.
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