Insomnia is unfortunately very common. A report published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) featured more than 2,000 Americans and discovered that almost 3 in 10 people are negatively impacted by insomnia on a daily basis. Chronic insomnia, which is when sleep difficulties occur at least three times a week for three months or longer, affects at least 10 percent of Americans.
What Are the Different Types of Insomnia?
Insomnia that lasts from a single night to a few weeks is called transient insomnia. But chronic insomnia, as mentioned before, occurs at least three nights a week over three months or more. Chronic insomnia is either primary or secondary: primary insomnia is not related to any other health problem, while secondary insomnia can be caused by a medical condition (such as cancer, asthma, or arthritis), drugs, stress, mental health concerns (such as depression), or a poor sleep environment (such as too much light or noise, or a bed partner who snores).
How Does Ayurveda Define Insomnia?
According to Ayurveda, insomnia (known as nidranasha or anidra) is a disease of the channels of the mind (or manovaha srotas). The manovaha srotas are the channels that carry thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions, and the components of other mental processes.
Insomnia is the condition of insufficient sleep, interrupted sleep, or poor-quality sleep. This might look like having trouble falling asleep or waking up frequently during the night. Some people find it difficult to return to sleep once they are up at odd hours.
According to Ayurveda, waking up early in the morning and then staying awake is also considered insomnia. Experiencing a compromised quality of sleep where you wake up feeling unrefreshed and unrested despite sleeping seven to eight hours would be identified as insomnia, as well.
Ayurveda teaches us that insomnia is not just an illness, but a symptom of an underlying doshic imbalance and a sign of many other chronic physical, behavioral, cognitive, and mental issues that may appear in the future if not addressed.
What Causes Insomnia?
Ayurveda has a great deal to say about how to support balanced sleep in general. According to Ayurveda, there are two main models that explain the mechanism of insomnia: cognitive and physiological. According to the cognitive model, what prevents a person from falling asleep is rumination and hyperarousal—for example, overthinking, mind chatter, and stress.
Physiological conditions that can contribute to insomnia include sleep apnea, hormonal fluctuations, chronic pain, congestive heart failure, hyperthyroidism, GERD or heartburn, restless leg syndrome, menopause, certain medications, and substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
How the Doshas Influence Insomnia
A person with Vata imbalance has difficulty falling asleep at first. This is particularly common during Vata time of the night, which occurs between 2-6 a.m. Vata’s light and mobile qualities make it difficult for the mind to rest and the chatter to stop.
Imbalanced Pitta individuals experience broken sleep during the night. Their obsessive-compulsive thoughts keep them stimulated between the hours of 12-4 a.m.
For those dealing with Kapha dosha aggravation, sleep terminates at a very early hour in the morning. They can’t go back to sleep once awake.
Ayurvedic Remedies for Insomnia
It’s always best to work with an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner to figure out which dosha is causing the insomnia and to receive customized treatments. We know that sleep is crucial to optimal health: it aids the body in repairing, regenerating, and recovering. Sleep flushes out toxins, boosts our memory, increases our focus, and much more. Simple adjustments to our routine, exercise, diet, and lifestyle habits can have a profound impact on our sleep.
Here are tips to use Ayurveda to manage insomnia:
1. Stick to a consistent sleep routine.
2. Eat nutritious meals appropriate for your dosha.
3. Have an early, light dinner, preferably three hours before you go to bed.
4. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m.
5. Turn off your phone and tablets at least an hour before bed.
6. Avoid consuming news and conversations that lead to sensory overload.
7. Go for nature walks.
8. Exercise regularly but refrain from movement that is too stimulating in the evening.
9. Take a warm bath with dosha-specific essential oils, like lavender, chamomile, or ylang ylang.
10. Apply warm sesame oil to the feet to sedate the nervous system. It will help ease stress, calm the mind, and soothe the body.
11. Cultivate a daily meditation practice to lower stress and promote sleep.
12. Try self-reflection and gratitude journaling.
13. Minimize any contentious conversations in the evening.
14. Practice alternate nostril breathing and Bhramari pranayama to calm the mind.
15. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, with the head of your bed facing any direction but north (as energy from that direction can be stimulating).
16. Wind down your evening with yoga asanas like Big Toe Pose, Bridge Pose, Cat Pose, Corpse Pose, Cow Pose, Dolphin Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, and Easy Pose.
17. Herbs helpful for Vata and Kapha types of insomnia include Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Indian valerian root, Bola (Indian myrrh), Shallaki (frankincense) and Brahmi. Drinking warm milk with nutmeg before bed also works.
18. Pitta-based insomnia, which shows up as body heat and mental agitation, can be treated with cooling nervines, such as chamomile, Mandukaparni (gotu kola), Chandan (sandalwood), and Hypericum (St. John’s wort).
19. Shirodhara and Picchu treatments (herbal oil applied to the crown of the head) are extremely useful in the treatment of insomnia.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta Vikram here.
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