Do you frequently wake up between 2-6am? This is a known sleep pattern caused by anxiety, inefficient digestion, and not keeping a regular schedule. In Ayurveda, 2-6 am and pm are governed by Vata whose main function is movement. So perhaps you wake up because you have to pee. Or you wake up because you are worried, planning or trying to remember something you don’t want to forget. Or, you wake up restless and figiting. All of these relate to elevated Vata. Many people with these types of sleep issues feel hopeless to change anything and turn to pharmaceuticals.This is very unfortunate, given that good sleep is free, has no side effects, and is part of the natural cycle of day and night.
Do you need permission to get more sleep? Permission granted, and I suggest you pay attention; your health and happiness may depend on it. Autumn is Vata Season, comprised of Air and Ether elements. The Autumn Equinox has passed and this means that the days are going to get shorter as we move toward Winter Solstice. If we are living in rhythm with nature, honoring the wisdom of the seasons, now is the time to start sleeping more. Longer nights mean time for more sleep.
What would happen if you tried living without electricity? You would wake up when it was light and go to bed when it got dark. The shifts in seasons (Spring and Fall Equinoxes) are a chance for us to take stock of our deeper nourishment and make repairs before it is too late. Sleep has a most profound ability to repair cellular damage, boost the immune system, and normalize hormone production. When rhythms are out of balance in a person’s life, sleep is affected.
Many health issues that plague a majority of our population are related to lack of sleep, or lack of sleeping when it is dark out. For instance, obesity, auto immune conditions, and inflammatory conditions are all intricately linked to insufficient sleep.
There are many ways to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some of my favorites:
Don’t eat anything after 6 or 7pm. Eat a small, light dinner (see my article from June 2018 to learn more about the importance of an Earlier, Lighter Dinner) then close your kitchen for the day. Brush your teeth and only have water or herbal tea for the rest of the evening. Pay attention to when you get tired in the evening. Those yawns aren’t meaningless. Go to bed when you start yawning, even if it feels insanely early to you. Go to sleep before 10pm. If you push past your tiredness in the evening and you stay up after 10pm you will get a second wind. This means the body wakes back up, bile production amps up again and you get hungry, want to tackle projects and set yourself up for being exhausted the next day. The time between 10pm -2am is when, if you are asleep, your body does its deep cleaning and cellular repair. If you are awake, you are stealing energy from tomorrow. Over time, this depletion results in disease. Rub sesame oil on the soles of your feet before you go to bed (and wear an old pair of socks if you prefer to not risk getting oil on your sheets). This calms the nervous system and prepares you for sleep.Stay away from screens (phones, computer, tv, etc ) for 1-2 hours before bed. The light from screens activates the brain in a way that does not promote sleep. You may think you need the TV on to go to sleep, but your sleep quality will suffer.
Sleep is the simplest medicine and of utmost importance if we are to maintain optimum energy, mental and physical agility, and a robust immune system. Sweet dreams!