I love sleep. I've always been a good sleeper. On the other hand, when I don't get my 8 hours, I'm no fun. I know the first few years of my boys' lives were so challenging mostly because of the lack of adequate sleep. Besides being a miserable %*$@# - the negative effects of sleep deprivation are vast and include weakened immune system (increase in autoimmune issues), a decline in mental and physical performance, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellness. What enough? Generally speaking, experts agree that 95 percent of adults need to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night to function optimally. And the best time to get that sleep is between the hours of 9pm and 6am. The hours before midnight count twice as much as the hours after.
Over the past few years of studying Ayurveda, I've come to understand more about sleep, how to set up the right conditions for restful sleep and the best times to get it. Below is your recipe for a good night's rest:
Avoid caffeine. If you must have your morning coffee, stick to one cup and don’t have any caffeine after noon. I recently gave up my nightly chocolate and noticed that I was tired much earlier than when I was having my after dinner sweet. My new bedtime is 9pm and I LOVE IT.
Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex. Make your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and relaxing. Remove any traces of work (phones included).
Power down an hour or two before bed. The light from computer screens, televisions, and phones can hinder the production of melatonin, which means your body isn't preparing the hormones it needs to enter the sleep phase. Don’t try to catch up on work at night as it can be too stimulating and increase your stress levels.
Eat an earlier, lighter dinner. Our bodies aren't equipped to digest large, heavy amounts of food late at night. Try to eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day when bile production is high (plan ahead to make this happen-this is a great recipe to ensure you have healthy, hearty lunches for the week), and try not to eat dinner or drink alcohol after 7pm.
Relax before bed. Lately I’ve been doing yoga nidra every night and I sleep like a baby. Here is a 9 minute audio I made for you. I also give myself a foot massage every night once I get into bed. If you feel physically tense, try this 13 minute shoulder opening practice. A hot bath with some relaxing tunes or dip in the hot tub also does wonders for restful sleep.
Ayurvedic warm spiced milk. Try this natural sleep aid before bed: warm a cup of your favorite milk. Add a pinch of the following spices – cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric. Here’s another one. Savor…
Bed by 10. If you stay up past 10 you move into pitta time (element of fire and energy of digestion) and will get your “second wind” and most likely start to get hungry and partake in late night snacking – NOT GOOD! Also, if you're in bed by 10 you can get up by 6am. When you wake up after 6am you move into Kapha time, which is slow and heavy and you’ll have a much harder time getting out of bed. I've also found that if I get up early (recently 5:15), I’m not rushed and stressed in the morning and I have enough time to get everything done – including my morning yoga practice and daily meditation. And I'm much more fun to be around : )