Feb 04, 2011
Insomnia—the inability to get to sleep or to sleep soundly—can be either temporary or chronic, lasting a few days to weeks. It affects a whopping 54 percent of adults in India, at one time or another. To get a decent night's sleep, many people are turning to pills. Sleeping pills are not always a cure; they treat the symptom but not the underlying problem. Beneath the symptoms of insomnia are anxiety, fatigue and stress that our increasingly fast-paced world seems to be creating. By creating a routine of soothing rituals, you can bring your nervous system back into balance and transform your sleep patterns for good.
The first step to feeling well rested is to institute a regular bedtime. Maintaining consistency will help keep your circadian rhythms—the biological changes that happen every 24 hours-steady. Eventually, your body will naturally understand and crave sleep during these hours.
Ideally, you should start your bedtime rituals during the slow kapha hours of 6 to 10 in the evening and head for bed before 10 pm, which is when the fiery pitta time begins.
Although eight hours has long been considered the ideal length for a night's sleep, it's not just the number of hours you sleep that matters, but the time of day you go to sleep as well. Our bodies naturally want to arise around 5 am, since humans started their day around daybreak before the advent of modern technology. So, if you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8 am (a lazy kapha hour) you'll probably feel groggy even though you've had the recommended eight hours of sleep. But if you hit the pillow before 10 pm and arise before 6 am (during lively vata time), you are likely to feel refreshed and ready to go.
The next step is to create some space between your busy day and sleep time. You can't just work until 9pm at night, and then stick your head on the pillow and fall asleep. So turn off the television, computer and radio. Cut down on or eliminate evening classes and exercise that leaves you feeling cramped up. When you come home, honour this transition by playing relaxing music, lighting candles or putting on your favourite pajamas. Think of the yoga precept of pratyahara: Withdraw your senses in order to turn inward.
If you want to sleep well, don't drink alcohol or caffeine after 5 pm.
A soothing massage releases muscular tension and helps the transition to bed. Try rubbing your head, neck, face, and arms with warm, unfiltered organic sesame oil. Breathe for Ease Breathwork is another excellent addition to your nightly sleep routine. Every time you exhale, it slows your heartbeat and that helps calm you down, Try two parts exhalation to one part inhalation. For example, start by exhaling through your nose to the count of 6 and then inhale through your nose to the count of 3. Do this for 5 to 30 minutes before bed.
When it's time to go to sleep, do you start replaying the day's events or think of what you need to do in the morning? A great evening ritual is putting your thoughts on paper: Write down the contents of your mind to get all of your worries out before your head hits the pillow.
After getting into bed, try a body scan as you lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose): Progressively tense and then relax each part of your body. This is good for people who have mental chatter, it takes their mind in a different direction.
Use aswagantha aristam and brahmi pearls. Once you've chosen your specific night time ritual, repeat it every night to cue your body that it's time for sleep. After a few weeks of practice, your sleep will improve.
—Vineeta Gogia(Yoga, Meditation, Weight Management Therapist)