Sleeping is where our body repairs and rejuvenates our body’s tissue and cells. It affects almost every tissue and system in our body – From our brain to our heart to our immune system. That is why having enough sleep is very important for your health. Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality can increase the risk of heart diseases such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke; brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, illness such as diabetes, and even obesity. It can also increase stress and can lead to depression.
Healthy sleeping habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is referred to as having good sleep hygiene. Sleep is a vital part of your daily dinacharya (daily habits) – you spend about one-third of your time doing it. Without sleep, you cannot maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create memories. Sleep is essential to several brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. Research suggests that sleep plays a role that eliminates toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, sleeping is just as significant as your diet and regular exercise. Hey, It is not called a “beauty rest” for no reason, right? Unfortunately, people are now sleeping less compared to the required number of sleep, and their sleep quality has been compromised. Combine it with a bad diet and lifestyle; you are now exposed to numerous risks and diseases.
Having enough and healthy sleep every night is essential for a person to achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being. Besides from repairing and fixing our body, sleeping also provides many health benefits that we cannot overlook.
Consume at lunch your largest meal
What on earth does lunch have to do in my sleep? Well, you should know that our digestion and sleep are intimately connected.
At noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, your Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest and is better able to process a big meal; in the evening, digestion is weaker. Therefore, our largest meal should be consumed at this point of the day, making this the best time to eat our biggest meal. And our smallest meal should be eaten during the evening when our Agni is weaker. If we eat our biggest meal in the evening, one can tend to feel very heavy and bloated and will be more likely to experience difficulty in sleeping.
Nighttime is the body’s time to rest, recharge, and repair — which it can’t do if it’s working hard to process a big meal, or heavy foods such as deep-fried foods, a steak, etc. Therefore, it’s best to aim for a bigger lunch and a lighter dinner, ideally finishing a minimum of three hours before bedtime.
Stick to a sleeping schedule
According to Ayurvedic Wisdom, one of the most essential things you can do to have a good sleep and improve your overall mental and physical health is to create a dinacharya (daily routine).
Your body has its own biological clock, according to which it carries out various functions. A well-regulated body clock could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the whole night. Often, sleep disturbances come from an imbalanced routine, whether working long hours, eating at irregular times, or going to bed at a different time every night. To bring your body back into balance, try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day. Aim to stick to a steady, balanced daily sleeping schedule to keep your body’s biological rhythms running and smooth.
Unplug and relax
Did you know that too much electric energy can disturb our Vata – the dosha that is responsible for movement can result in restless sleep and insomnia? Try to avoid using smartphones, laptops, electronic games, and other devices after 8:00 p.m. to give your eyes and nervous system a break. Instead, engage in grounding, soothing activities like taking a hot bath with lavender essential oil, or one of these dosha-balancing aromas (use the one that smells the best at any given time); reading; doing some gentle yoga stretches; enjoying downtime with family or friends; or lighting a candle and listening to relaxing music. Start to think of the last hour or so before bedtime as sacred — your time to relax, rest and enjoy.
Avoid caffeine at night
Caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep. The most obvious effect of the stimulant is that it can make it hard for you to fall asleep. One study also found that caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock. These effects will reduce your total sleep time.
So, it would be best to avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, lattes, and other stimulants like sugar, which tend to overstimulate the nervous system before your bedtime.
If you simply can’t give up your daily beverages, consume them earlier in the day, during the early morning, or before or after lunch.
Go to bed before 10 pm
Just like our bodies, the hours of the day have their own natural rhythms as well. In Ayurveda, we see the day as divided into two twelve-hour cycles that each contain three four-hour cycles dominated by a specific dosha. The doshas are the Ayurvedic mind-body characteristics elements that govern our bodies’ functions and they also affect our energy throughout the day:
- Vata (2-6 AM/PM) Vata time is governed by air and space, which makes it a good time for creativity during the day and dreaming at night.
- Kapha (6-10 AM/PM) Kapha time is governed by earth and water, which means you might feel heavier or more sluggish during this cycle — day or night.
- Pitta (10-2 AM/PM) Pitta time is governed by fire, which lends itself to productivity during the day and metabolic processes during the night.
To stay in balance with these natural rhythms, Ayurveda recommends going to bed before 10:00 p.m., when Pitta energy kicks in and waking no later than 6:00 a.m. when sluggish Kapha time starts. If this feels like a stretch, simply try inching your schedule in this direction till you get there.