In India, there is a saying often told to children who want to stay up late
Early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise!
and in Ayurveda, sleep is known as the mother’s milk for life, the most nurturing and nourishing elixir for which there is no substitute. There are a gzillion reasons why sleep is essential and so beneficial for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and most of us aren’t getting enough of this magic elixir.
You might be familiar with the different phases of sleep that we (ideally) drop into on a nightly basis, where the body and mind undergo a process of healing and processing and there are a few things we want to do in the hours before we even hit the pillow to get ourselves in this ‘rest and digest’ state.
By the time we get into bed, we want to have digested all the food consumed in the day, so the last meal of the day should be at least 3 hours before bedtime, then the prana (energy) can be put to work digesting and repairing the body and mind through the night.
The first phase of sleep we enter is dedicated to of physical repair, all of our cells are purified, our muscles, bones and ligaments are healing, this deep dreamless sleep, wants to happen through the hours of 10pm – 2am, when the moon is high in the sky, pouring it’s cooling, healing, benevolent light onto the world. These hours are prime ‘pitta time’ the dosha that is in charge of all things metabolism and circulation.
From 2am- 6am we enter Vata time and move into the second phase of sleep, this is where the psychological repair happens, also known as REM sleep. It’s during this phase that we clear the mind of ‘undigested’ thoughts and emptions from the day, we work out issues through our dreams and often receive insights or great ideas in this time. If you often wake in these hours or are a light sleeper you may have a Vata imbalance or have Vata dominant in your dosha (constitution)
What about naps?
Ayurveda is all about aligning to the flow of nature and letting our lives move in harmony with that natural flow, so sleeping during the hours of darkness is optimal. Sleeping during the day is not advised as it creates ‘ama’ a toxicity and stagnation in body and mind, but there are a couple of exceptions; for children, if unwell, pregnant or elderly. Also, if the sleep through the night has been broken (feeding a newborn baby for example) in this case a 10-20 nap can be very healing and rejuvenating. If you love to nap or live in a siesta culture try to slip in a 10-20 minute meditation instead during the day.
Like always with Ayurveda, the approach to sleep must be individualised according to one’s dosha. Some dosha’s need more sleep than others, some find sleeping more difficult than others but there are a few key things we can all do for more quality sleep tonight.
· Do not eat or drink anything (except warm herbal water) in the 3 hours before bed. Including Alcohol.
· Get your lights down low, no artificial light (especially screens) in the 3 hours before bed, use lamps and candles.
· Do not read, watch, write or listen to any media or literature in your bed, let this be a space for sleep and sex only.
Remove all devices, screens and digital lights from the room – charge your mobile outside your bedroom to reduce distractions and EMF and get a sweet alarm clock.
· Take a moment to meditate or simply reflect with gratitude before getting into bed.
· Always wash your hands, feet, face with warm water before bed (and brush your teeth!)
· Make the bedroom slightly cool and very dark with good ventilation.
· Try lay on your right side for optimal deep sleep where the organs are resting and your breathe naturally through the left nostril.
To hear more about my tips for optimal sleep listen to my podcast episode on the topic: ELEVATE with Sarah Hopkins!
Wishing you a wonderful sleep, if you have tips for getting the best sleep ever and if you are interested in more of this type of blog, let me know!