Sleep is one of the most important physiological factors for the health of humans which helps in recycling energy, vitality, and rejuvenation. Sleep is a natural phenomenon for the body and mind to give adequate rest. Insomnia has become the most common sleep disorder with a high prevalence rate. The condition is characterized by troubled sleep quality or insufficient sleep duration, physical or mental difficulty to falling asleep or intermittent or incomplete sleep, and poor quality of sleep which deprives one of natural rest and interferes with daily activities of life.
Insomnia is a symptom also it is a disorder. Chronic insomnia is more prevalent than heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and several other most prevalent disorders. If left untreated, insomnia increases the risk of developing diseases like depression, anxiety, diabetes, hypertension, and possibly even death in older individuals as per reported studies. Therefore, it is very much essential to identify and treat the condition of insomnia at the earliest.
Ayurvedic Approach to Insomnia:
According to Ayurveda, insomnia can be correlated with Anidra or Nidranasa.In Ayurveda, sleep has been explained as one of the triads for sustaining life. Proper sleep gives happiness, nourishments, strength, knowledge, and life. Improper sleep or less sleep results in unhappiness, emaciation, weakness, impaired knowledge, and unhealthy life. Just like taking proper food keeps the body healthy, proper sleep leads to health and happiness.
An improper diet and lifestyle cause aggravation of Vata dosha (Ayurvedic Humor representing air element) that travels through the channels of the head and causes sleeplessness. Vata is aggravated by excess use of tea, coffee especially before going to bed, long gaps between meals; intake of cold and dry foods, cabbage, lettuce, beans, broccoli, peas, and smoked foods, and some psychological factors like stress, worries, anger. Overwork, excitement, and illness may be responsible for insomnia.
In Ayurvedic classics, various non-pharmacological methods are described for effective management of insomnia. There are many Ayurvedic Medicines and dietary items mentioned in Ayurveda classics, which help induce sound sleep. List of items as follows:- Shankhapushpi – Convolvulus pluricaulis, Ashwagandha – Withania somnifera, Sarpagandha – Rauvolfia serpentine, Brahmi – Bacopa monnieri, and Satavari – Asparagus racemose.
Table:1 Dietary items for management of insomnia.
- Warm milk
- Suger cane preparations
- Black gram
- Cooked puffed rice
- Meat soup
- Floor preparations
- Curd rice
- Buttermilk with cream
- Alcohol (in limited quantity)
Psychological factors help in insomnia:
Natural sleep is very closely related to our psychological status. Excess worries, tension, fear, loud sound, unpleasant environment, etc., interrupts our healthy sleep patterns. so it is very important to avoid such psychological factors that are disturbing us, especially during sleep time. The list of psychological factors that help in the management of insomnia is given in the following table no. 2
Table no:2 Psychological factors helpful in the management of insomnia
- Getting free from fear
- Stop worrying
- Free from greed
- Exposure to the pleasant smell
- Listening to pleasant talk or music
- Involving yourself in interesting subjects (like reading books or listening to music etc.)
- Cozy and comfortable bedding
- Eternal sense of satisfaction
- Few simple external therapies can help in sound sleep.
The list of Ayurvedic therapies from classical texts are given in table no.3
Table no.:3 list of external therapies helps in the management of insomnia
- Oil massage (Abhyanga)
- Oiling ear (Karnapurana)
- Massage with slight pressure (Mardana)
- Application of oil over the head (Murdhanitaila)
- Foot massage (Pad abhyanga)
- Bath (Snana)
- Mild massage (Samvahana)
- Dry powder massage (Udvartana)
- Pouring liquid (medicated decoction/ oil/milk/buttermilk/water) over the forehead (Shirodhara)
- Instilling medicated oil/ghee in nostrils (Nasya)
Ayurvedic doctors in Sydney at Ayur Healthcare recommended healthy sleep guidelines.
Nighttime rituals (Ratricharya) are described in Ayurveda classics which help in improving digestion and impart sound sleep. Detailed guidelines to enhance good sleep according to ayurvedic text are:
- At the beginning and end of the night, i.e. while going to sleep and waking up, one should only think about virtuous acts and avoid all negative thoughts
- One should always sleep on a bed which is properly covered with clean, soft, and pleasant linen and avoid sleeping on a bed that is not properly covered with sheets or is uneven or uncomfortably small
- For good sleep lie down in supine or left lateral position
- Comfortable bedding encourages quality sleep; it provides good rest and happiness. The bedroom should be calm and clean with bedclothes.
- Light dinner before sunset:- Ayurveda recommends light dinner for better sleep with a full stomach, undigested foods make it difficult to sleep.
- Reading a book -Reading a book and getting in lost in words takes you away from your stress.
- Listening to peaceful music-Helps in appeasing your overactive brain.
- Exposing yourself to moonlight calms your mind
- No gadgets in bed.
- Meditation and pranayama-Meditation and Pranayama just before you sleep helps you to reduce anxiety and panic attacks
- Instilling cow’s ghee in both nostrils definitely helps in a sound sleep, and also helps reduce white hairs, respiratory problems, headache, and many more.
Ayurveda gives importance to natural sleep for the maintenance of health. It is always better than insomnia should be managed in the initial stage. The holistic approach which includes dietary factors, physical, mental, and environmental factors are necessary to manage insomnia without any medicine. However, drug therapy can also be added for better management when it is required.