It may be holiday season, but in the northern hemisphere it is autumn moving into winter, which is Vata season—and Vata calls for less doing and more rest. Yet, in this bubbly time and our electrified world, rest can be elusive.
According to Ayurveda slumber-promoting foods are warm, unctuous and naturally sweet, just like the sleep you want to have. A warm, sweet tonic helps ground the light and mobile nature of Vata, fostering the heavier qualities needed for sleep.
Foods that may help are cherries, bananas, dates, grapes, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and healthy fats. Nutmeg is the best spice as it is considered a nervine, soothing to the mind and nervous system. Warm is the best temperature as it helps melt tension while encouraging digestion.
Foods to avoid have the quality of sour, strongly pungent, astringent and bitter as they are either too stimulative or too light. It is also important to have dinner at least three hours before bed as active digestion can deter sleep.
Recently golden milk seems to be popular as a bedtime tonic, but turmeric is pungent, astringent and bitter in its tastes and can be stimulating. For people who are sensitive, it’s better to avoid turmeric at night. Instead try a version of Moon Milk, a warm tonic made with sleep-enhancing ingredients and your choice of adaptogenic herbs.
Your Moon Milk will serve you best when enjoyed with evening rituals that calm and soothe. A gentle yoga practice or a candle-lit, lavender-scented epsom salt bath can seduce sleep. Once in bed, try listening to sacred music or an inspiring podcast, or take long, deep breaths counting each one backward from thirty.
Sometimes the heart has wisdom for us which can only be delivered when all is quiet. In this case journaling may be helpful, meditating or praying may be calming, or try lying with your hands on your heart simply listening to your own soul’s whisper.
If sleep is regularly irregular, then you might want to go deeper: talk to a friend, speak to an Ayurvedic practitioner, consider your hormones or check in with a trusted spiritual adviser or therapist. Sleep is essential medicine. When it is evasive it can be a sign that something precious needs our most devoted attention.
2 cups almond milk
2 handfuls dried and pitted cherries
2 medjool dates
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Option 1: rose water and cardamom
Option 2: chamomile and lavender buds
Option 3: flax seeds and coconut oil
Herbal add-ins: brahmi, ashwagandha, or triphala
Put everything in a blender and blend until well liquified. Pour into a saucepan and warm on the stove. Rinse the blender jug with about a cup of water and pour this into the saucepan with the tonic. until it just reaches a gentle simmer. Pour the tonic into your mug and enjoy warm.
Option 1: Stir in a spoonful of rose water and two pinches cardamom while warming.
Option 2: Make a mug of chamomile tea and stir in with lavender buds once warmed.
Option 3: Grind a teaspoon flax seeds in the blender before adding the rest of the ingredients. Stir a knob of coconut oil into the pot while warming.
Herbal add-ins: Add a scant teaspoon herbal powder to the tonic as it warms. Stir well.
To your restful, renewing and glorious sleep!