Almost everyone has had issues getting a good night's sleep at one point or another. But some people experience this struggle on a more consistent basis. What can we do to improve our quality of sleep? Here are five suggestions to get you on the right track:
1. Go to bed on time: There are natural cycles and rhythms that are helpful to follow in order to aid oneself in getting good sleep. From approximately 6pm to 10pm the body and mind shift into a slower energy. It is the body's time to digest, slow down from the day's activities, and prepare us to fall asleep. If we stay awake much after 10pm, we enter a different natural cycle where the body uses more energy to detox and purify. If awake during this time, we can experience this shift in energy as a "second wind" and have difficulty falling asleep. It also makes the chance of arising on time less likely and, therefore, starts disturbing coordination with natural cycles which compromises good sleep.
Goal: Try to go to bed by 10pm/11pm at the latest.
2. Get up on time: Have you ever allowed yourself to sleep in, but then noticed that you felt sluggish and generally tired the whole day? This is, again, a matter of following the daily natural cycles and times. The ideal time to wake up is right before sunrise. Although it seems early, it will help you have and maintain good energy throughout the day. Waking up later than 7am will get you out of sync with nature, make you feel less energetic, and can affect how you feel during the day and when and how you sleep the following evening.
Goal: Wake up by 6am/7am at the latest each day.
3. Eat a light dinner early in the evening: The body works to detoxify thoughts and leftover toxins at night. If you go to bed with considerable undigested food in your system, your body works to get rid of this first and is impaired in fully detoxifying and purifying. This can lead to health issues but also can lead to disturbed sleep. Eating earlier allows the body to do most of its prime digesting before bedtime.
Goal: Try to eat your dinner at least 3 hours before going to sleep.
4. Calm the mind: Spending the last hour before sleep looking at a screen (of any kind) can completely hamper our chances of quality sleep. Screens stimulate the eyes and brain and get in the way of the natural process of slowing down before going to sleep. Also, listening to anything (tv, music, podcasts) as you are trying to fall asleep can be problematic as well. This is stimulating and, although it might help you initially fall asleep, often leads to disturbed sleep throughout the night.
Goal: Keep away from screens an hour before sleep and try to fall asleep in silence.
5. Manage stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety easily contribute to poor-quality sleep, so it is important that we learn to incorporate daily habits that reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in our lives. Alcohol may make us feel more relaxed and feel like an antidote to stress, but it can easily affect the quality and duration of our sleep and should be avoided when working on developing stronger sleep patterns.
Goal: Find ways to deal with stress and anxiety, such as meditation, exercise, and coaching or psychotherapy.
These steps might be simple, but they are not necessarily easy. We can quickly see how modern life and habits pull us from the natural rhythms and cycles that contribute to our wellbeing. If you can't implement all of the points above, just start where you can, and notice how it impacts your sleep!
Note: Insomnia can either be Pitta-related (not being able to fall asleep) or Vata-related (not being able to stay asleep, typically waking 2am and after).