AYURVEDA FOR INSOMNIA
Our fast paced and high productivity focused lifestyle, along with the endless opportunities revealed to us through the internet in the last few decades; is now creating a dilemma. The stimulating experience creates a state of hyper-arousal and creates the impression that sleep is a waste of time. In the end, we are often too tired to do anything, and at the same time, are too wound up with our thoughts to fall asleep!
It is estimated that one in three adults worldwide suffers from one or more symptoms of Insomnia. Researches have also shown that 75-90% of those suffering from insomnia are also at risk of developing various pain conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, and gastric disorders.
Sleep disturbances associated with these chronic risk factors adversely affect an individual’s quality of life. Various studies prove the connect between sleep and endocrine functions. Proper sleep is necessary for our appetite and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) to function, Insulin and cortisol to regulate, and the pituitary control of thyroid hormones to ensue appropriately.
Ayurveda understands sleep at one of three pillars of healthy sustenance of life, along with Aahara (food) and Brahmacharya (conscious relationships). Moreover, the ancient textbook of Ayurveda, from 2nd century AD, by Acharya Charaka clearly mentions the significance of sleep in various physical and mental health parameters. He mentions that sleep is essential for
a) perception of joy
b) proper physical growth and tissue nourishment
e) logical thinking and retention of acquired knowledge and
f) lengthy and good quality life
It’s clearly understood in Ayurveda that insomnia is not just an illness, but it is a symptom of an underlying imbalance and sign of many other chronic physical, behavioural, cognitive and mental issues that may appear in future, if it is not addressed. The treatment for insomnia in Ayurveda has two goals. One is to help with the quality and quantity of sleep and second is to address the underlying cause and prevent long term health impacts due to it.
Sleep is a natural phenomenon in which we rest and restore our mind and body. But many people encounter problems sleeping when they go to bed. Some people go to bed but cannot fall asleep, while others wake up at night and cannot resume sleep. Insomnia is the condition of sleeplessness. When it persists over extended periods of time, the consequences can be debilitating and devastating. Our bodies must have rest to function.
According to Ayurveda, a normally functioning kapha humour provides a healthy sleep and rest. But when vata and pitta humour take over and kapha is reduced, insomnia can result.
People who toss and turn, unable to fall asleep with an active mind are suffering a vata-type insomnia. Those who experience intermittent wakefulness, or who wake up frequently with palpitations, body pain and emotional disturbances such as fear, anger and sadness are suffering from pitta-type insomnia.
Causes of Insomnia:
• Improper diet and lifestyle leading to aggravation of vata and pitta
• Regular use of stimulants such as tea and coffee
• Excess cold, dry, fried, spicy food
• Supressed emotions
• Over-excitement and emotional disturbances such as worry, anger, and overwork
a) Calming Herbal supplements and Teas: Licorice, chamomile, cardamom, and hibiscus-based teas are excellent calming agents helping to get into a healthy sleep routine. Supplements like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is also prescribed as a grounding milk drink at bedtime to improve the quality of sleep.
b) Treatments for calming the nerves: There is a range of various treatments, using oils and herbs that can help reduce stress, muscular tension and nervous pain. Shirodhara is an ideal treatment for this issue. It involves the rhythmic pouring of herbal medicated oil to the forehead of the person. It helps to control the hyperactivity of nerves, reduce stress, calms the mind, and stimulate the pituitary gland (master gland). It will also help the proper functioning of other endocrine glands and induce better sleep. Another treatment is thala-pothichil: covering of whole head with herbal paste like a head pack for a stipulated time frame.
Long term remedies
a) Sleep Hygiene: It is best to avoid all stimulating drinks like coffee and black tea in the evening to help with sleep. Similarly, it is also necessary to avoid stimulating television programmes, and mobile usage, especially an hour before bedtime. Many people watch television and fall asleep in front of it, which is neither restful nor restorative. The time to go to bed should be also according to the circadian rhythm of our body. Ayurveda considers the first 1/3rd of the night (8pm-11pm) as an ideal time to go to bed and the last 1/3rd (5am-8am) as the best time to wake up and feel refreshed. Sleeping too late and waking up later does not have the ideal resting effect on our body due to various hormonal functions that follow the sun’s rhythm.
b) The Sleep Ritual: The sleep ritual includes activities, diet and/or herbs that will lead to a well-deserved, deep, and nourishing night’s sleep. When done properly, these rituals ensure a harmonious body balance, and a productive day ahead.
Plan your dinner ahead. Dinner is a double-edged sword. Too light may make one feel unsatisfied/hungry and disturb sleep. Too heavy may destroy the quality of sleep and make one feel tired in the morning.
Major quantity of day’s hydration must be before 6 pm. Don’t try to compensate for day’s low water intake just before bed.
A hot shower or a bath is recommended once the meal is prepared before eating. Applying coconut or sesame oil over hands and soles of the feet is recommended for the aching muscles.
Eat in a peaceful and un-distracted environment. We need all our attention attached to the food consumed to appreciate the hard work behind it and feel content with all our five sense organs. Watching television and handling mobile while eating should be avoided.
Calming and digestive herbal teas can be consumed after dinner.
Light walking, stretching or reading can be done after the meal time. Make sure you also spend some time with yourself observing breathing and appreciating the day just before bedtime. It can also transform into a meditative experience or prayer, which helps to let go of negative feelings and emotions.
c) Body-type based diet and lifestyle: In order to address the underlying imbalance causing insomnia, Ayurveda recommends a diet pattern based on your own body-type. This diet pattern is known as a dosha based diet or simply an ayurvedic diet. The ingredients used are always locally sourced and organically cultivated seasonal produce. Various spices, lentils, and pulses are also a significant part of an ayurvedic diet. It is best to avoid any strenuous activities like high-intensity workouts or cardio exercises in the later part of the evening. Try to include more wholesome and calming activities like yoga and stretches to relax and balance the doshas at the same time.
d) Management of the root cause: If the Insomnia is an outcome of an underlying health condition like apnea, hormonal variations, aches and pains, the long-term remedy should include methods to address those as well.
Ayurvedic approach to insomnia
The ayurvedic approach to insomnia is to re-establish balance throughout the body and restore the natural sleep-wake cycle. According to the teachings of Ayurveda, most of the chronic conditions, including insomnia, are triggered by a build-up of impurities in the body. Poor diet, weak digestion, excessively busy lifestyle, and too much stress can generate toxins and impair our body’s ability to get rid of them. Accumulated toxins interfere with our biochemistry and disturb our metabolism, including sleep functions.
At Vandewellnesss, we use a holistic approach to examine the root cause of your insomnia. We look at your dosha, diet, physical fitness, allergies, mental health, lifestyle and much more. We recognise that balance across many aspects of your health and wellbeing is important for curing insomnia. Our treatment programs are designed to address the root causes of your insomnia, remove impurities, strengthen digestion and metabolism, balance the doshas and improve your natural healing mechanism.
An experienced ayurvedic doctor from our team will identify the imbalances at the basis of your insomnia and tailor detoxification therapies, diet, herbal combinations and lifestyle changes to bring you back into balance and sound sleep.
Panchakarma for insomnia
Panchakarma and other allied therapies are recommended to detox the body and remove the physical and mental toxins that can give rise to insomnia. Treatments include:
Basti (medicated enema) Most of the time, sleep problems have a relationship with your gut health. The colon is known as the seat of the vata dosha. Colon cleansing using therapeutic herbs helps to re-establish balance in your vata dosha and lower intestine. An ayurvedic specialist will plan the right type of therapeutic enema for you.
Shirodhara is an excellent treatment for insomnia and related stress, and anxiety as it profoundly relaxes the nervous system. A stream of warm medicated oil is poured very slowly onto the centre of your forehead (the location of the ‘third eye’) for about 30-45 minutes, followed with a gentle scalp massage and reflexology treatment. The effect is amazing! Shirodhara is non-invasive and enables non-pharmacological management of insomnia. For best results, it is ideal to experience Shirodhara several days a week for about a month.
Shiroabhyanga (massage of the head) Therapeutic massage of the head helps to calm the nervous system. During the massage, we use medicinal oils tailored to your condition, which absorb well on the head, scalp and hair roots.
Padabhyanga (massage of the feet) Padhabyanga is soothing, revitalising and calming. It stimulates vital marma points, thereby providing balance for disturbances of the autonomic nervous system.
Abhyanga (body massage) Therapeutic massage of the whole body with medicated oil helps improve blood and lymphatic circulation through the body. It balances the body’s chakras, nadis (energy channels) and marma (energy centres) and can bring deep peace and happiness to body and mind.
Yoga and meditation Ayurveda suggests relaxing therapies such as yoga and meditation to support good sleep.
Management of insomnia at Vandewellness
Ayurvedic management of insomnia at Vandewellness begins with an initial assessment by an ayurvedic doctor to discern your primary dosha and any current imbalances. An experienced ayurvedic doctor will tailor your personalised detox therapies, herbs and dietary plans. If you or anybody you know is seeking management of insomnia, make an appointment today to meet our team of doctors. We have a personalized ayurvedic approach to manage your imbalance and treat the underlying cause.