Sleep, in addition to our diet, is vital for our good health and well-being. Insomnia is the inability to go to sleep at night, or once asleep, the inability to have a restful and sound sleep. This then interferes with our daily activities – both physically and mentally. Sleep is a natural phenomenon, giving the mind and body the rest it requires in order to function efficiently. The major causes of insomnia are depression and anxiety, and this is why the mind is very important when it comes to treating insomnia. Our mind and body are connected, so promoting peaceful and serene feelings in our mind will result in calmness, moving away from anxiety and depression. Meditation is a very important factor in treating insomnia.
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia originates in an unhealthy lifestyle and an improper diet. Other causes of insomnia are physical disorders, stress and anxiety, and an irregular sleeping pattern. These factors cause aggravation of Vata (air)dosha which travels via the head channels, resulting in sleeplessness. The aggravation of Vata can arise from many things, such as:
- Long gaps between meals
- The drinking of coffee or tea before going to bed
- The intake of dry and cold food
- Withheld emotions
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Ill health
- Over excitement
What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?
The symptoms of insomnia are the inability to fall asleep once going to bed, constant waking up during the night, waking up too early in the morning, tiredness and fatigue during the day, inability to concentrate, and irritability during the day.
The Ayurvedic View of Insomnia
Each sufferer is different, and differing combinations of doshas lead to insomnia. The Ayurvedic treatment is holistic and it revolves around balancing the aggravated body energies with the use of special diets, herbal medicines and customised lifestyle plans. Another important aspect of the treatment plan is learning how to relax the mind.
The amount of sleep required is individual to each person, and Ayurveda is not specific on eight hours sleep for all; it depends on your Prakruti (mind-body constitution). In order to feel well rested, those with a Vata constitution can manage well on six to seven hours sleep; people with a Pitta constitution require seven to eight hours sleep per night, and those with a Kapha constitution require the most sleep – from eight to nine hours sleep.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Insomnia
In Ayurveda, the treatment prescribed by the doctor for insomnia revolves around balancing the aggravated Dosha through diet, herbal medicines, treatments and a lifestyle treatment plan. Relaxation of the mind is also a very important part of the treatment.
Ayurvedic Herbs Used to Treat Insomnia
There are many herbs available to suit your individual dosha which can be prescribed by your Ayurvedic consultant/doctor.
Treatments for Insomnia
- Abhyangam: This is a full body massage using medicated oils: this relaxes the body, removing tensions and promoting sound sleep. Another effective treatment for insomnia is a head massage with Brahmi oil. A foot massage (PadaAbhyangam) with Ksheerabala oil promotes mind and body relaxation and encourages a good night’s sleep.
- Shirodhara:Shirodhara is when herbally medicated oil is poured on the person’s forehead for a specific amount of time and from a specific distance. This treatment provides relief and calms the mind from most of the causes of insomnia, such as stress and anxiety.
- Thalam:Thalam is an Ayurvedic treatment where medicated oil is mixed with herbal powder and then applied on the centre part of the head. This is a wonderful treatment for conditions such as stress, insomnia, tension and other mental conditions.
Treatments at Home:
These simple steps should help:
- Before your morning shower, give yourself an oil massage. This will calm your mind.
- For a calming, relaxing effect, have a warm shower or bath before retiring for the night.
- Practising meditation before going to bed has been shown to reduce insomnia, in addition to reducing anxiety and stress.
- Ensure that you keep to a strict bedtime routine; this means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; and this especially includes weekends. It’s not a good idea to ‘sleep in’ on weekends. Keep to your schedule seven days a week.