Fatigue caused by sleep difficulties is now considered one of America’s top health problems. Medical researchers say lack of sleep can lead to health problems ranging from blood sugar issues to high stress levels. Studies show that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night don’t live as long as those who sleep seven hours or more. Sleeping only four hours a night can cause weight gain as well as difficulty maintaining healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that sleeplessness costs the U.S. economy $150 billion a year in higher levels of worker stress and reduced productivity.
The incidence of sleep difficulties is on the rise in America. We are increasingly a 24/7 society, in which high stress levels and time pressures have become a part of normal modern living. Many people would gladly get more sleep if they could, but the information age, which was supposed to make everything more efficient, has only made everything busier.
Americans frequently find themselves too tense or worried to fall asleep at night because of stress accumulated throughout the day. This lack of sleep, in turn, creates even more stress on the job and at home, resulting in a vicious cycle. Many choose to short-change their sleep – sleeping less than six hours a night – making them highly vulnerable to sleep disorders, stress syndrome, and multiple health problems.
Millions are addicted to tranquilizers to reduce stress during the day, and sleeping pills to induce sleep at night. However, you can’t induce a natural state of sleep with products that are unnatural, synthetic, and, in many cases, highly addictive. It is recommended that patients who have difficulty sleeping restore a balanced rest/activity cycle by practicing the meditation, or other stress-reducing practices, to allow the body to deal with the stress of the day. The TM technique has been shown in a number of studies to reduce stress and sleep difficulties. Traditional Ayurvedic herbal formulations have also been shown to help. Ayurveda also offers diet and lifestyle recommendations to support normal healthy sleep and sleep patterns.
The Ayurvedic Approach
The goal of the Ayurvedic approach is to create more ojas – the finest product of digestion – which provides energy, enthusiasm, happiness, clarity of thinking, better coordination between the heart and mind, an experience of connection and better immunity. “Only the deepest, most restful sleep, called stage 4 sleep by researchers, creates ojas,” say Ayurvedic experts. Good-quality sleep provides deeper rest to the mind and senses, and enhances capacity for mental and physical work the next day. On the other hand, lack of sleep increases ama, or toxins, in the body.
Regardless of the cause of your sleep imbalance, Ayurvedic experts recommend that you try to be in bed before 10:00 at night. That’s because after 10:00, a more active, Pitta-quality sleep sets in. If you fall asleep before then, you’ll imbibe the slower, more restful Kapha qualities. Not only will you fall asleep more easily, but also the quality of your sleep will be deeper. Almost anyone can experience deep, restful sleep by doing just this one thing – going to bed before 10:00 at night.
Many of these recommendations are substantiated by research. Sleep researchers, for instance, have documented that a brief period of moderate exercise three to four hours before bed, such as taking a brisk walk after dinner, can really help deepen sleep. Other studies link physical fitness with improved sleep quality.
Creating a Timeless Bedroom
Create a timeless bedroom and keep time pressures away from your sleeping place. If you have to use an alarm clock, put it in a place where you can’t see it. Preserve your bedroom as a comfortable, relaxing haven – a place for warm, intimate and relaxing relationships. Keep heated discussions, intense brainstorming, television-watching, computer work, and monthly budgets out of your bedroom.
Especially avoid violent, suspenseful TV shows before bed. Instead, surround yourself with influences that cultivate your peace of mind while you fall asleep. Before bed, try diffusing lavender essential oil to relax and help induce sleep, sometimes within minutes.
To relax your neck and shoulders, your back and abdomen, you can do some simple, light yoga postures. Soothing music, bedtime prayers, and positive affirmations can also help you to move in the direction of being more peaceful.
If your mind is active, recall your fondest memories, particularly of childhood, where you had soothing, blissful, wonderful sleep, or when you had an amazingly restful vacation. Favor those thoughts instead of ones that cause you worry and anxiety.
What is your sleep I.Q.?
Even if you don’t have difficulty sleeping, you might not be getting enough sleep at night. In assessing your sleep health, you also need to look at how you feel during the day. If you answer “yes” to a majority of these questions, it might be a cue that your stress levels are too high, your life style needs adjustment, or you’re not sleeping enough.
- Do you experience mental or physical dullness?
- Do you have poor muscle tone?
- Do you experience a lack of spontaneity?
- Do you have a tendency to be bored or unhappy?
- Do you have tension, fear, or anxious feelings?
- Do you suffer from decreased cooperativeness, an inability to accept constructive criticism, irritability, temper outbursts, lowered attention span, impaired short-term memory, decreased sex drive, physical complaints such as headache or backache, or do you generally lack motivation?
- Are you addicted to coffee, cigarettes, stimulants, or alcohol or drugs?
- Have you noticed a reduction in general health and joy in living?
Related Health Tips
- Establish a stable regular lifestyle routine
- Get plenty of good-quality sleep.
- Partake in calming activities such as gardening and leisurely walks.
- Reduce travel and avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
- Give yourself an Ayurvedic oil massage daily.
- Protect yourself from dry, cold and windy weather.
- It is best to not read or watch TV while eating.
- Go to bed before 10:00 p.m.