Meaning of Insomnia
Do you find yourself awake long after long family goes to bed? If insomnia bedevils your nights, you could find solace in the fact that you are not alone. It is estimated that one among four persons, especially those who have a hectic day schedule suffer from insomnia. Sufferers may have trouble falling asleep at night, wake up in the middle of night or too early and can’t go to sleep again.
Look at your child. Few minutes back, he was turning and tossing on the bed. Now, he is fast asleep, reflecting perfect tranquility on his innocent face. Why have we forgotten to sleep like a child? Because we have learned to worry. We prefer to be more concerned.
On a typical day in our country, most people wake up feeling exhausted. They reach to shut off the alarm clock or window doors with sleepy eyes, to go more sleep.
What causes Insomnia?
Researchers have identified insomnia (lack of sleep) as a cause of serious disorders ranging from diabetes to high stress levels. The results show that it is taking a huge toll on the quality of life and the health of sufferers.
How do I know if I have Insomnia?
One of the reasons that insomnia is on the rise is the high stress levels and time of pressures associated with modern living. The people would gladly get more sleep if they could, but the information age, which was supposed to make everything more efficient, has just made everything busier. Many people complain of insomnia, with stress during the day making them too tense or worried to be able to fall asleep at night. Lack of sleep, in turn, creates more stress on the job and at home. However, it is important to know at the outset that not all people require the same amount of sleep. Sleeping cycles vary among people and throughout a person’s life. Moreover, while one person may only require four hours of sleep, others may need ten hours.
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Tips in Ayurveda to treat Insomnia
Ayurveda is against the idea of sleeping during the day, especially during winters. In summer, however, a short nap during the day is okay. People suffering from Spure syndrome should sleep after intake of food. Patients suffering from chronic diseases and those having fever, require more sleep. Children require more sleep than elders. On the other hand, those who put in hard physical labour, require more sleep.
All factors, that are responsible for aggravetion of vaata and pitta in the human body, result from sleeplessness. Environmental and dietary factors also play a prominent role, and studies show that for unknown reasons, insomnia is more common in females than males.
Sleep disturbances may have underlying physiological causes. Hence, treating the cause can solve the problem itself.
Self help guidelines to treat Insomnia
Fortunately, lifestyle changes and herbal medicines can help treat the problem. You can try these time-tested remedies.
- Do some exercise everyday- but never late in the evening.
- Avoid caffeine in all forms, especially after lunch.
- Avoid long naps during the day.
- Don’t choose alcohol as a remedy for sleeplessness. Even though alcohol is a sedative, it can disturb the sleep. Remember that sleep is different from sedation.
- Drink buffalo milk. It contains rich amounts of an amino acid, L-tryptophan, which induces sleep.
- Take a nice, long, warm bath before bed-time. Charaka Samhita says that bath is the best remedial measure to counteract exertion.
- Avoid distractions that may hold your attention and keep you awake, such as watching a suspense movie or a thrilling game.
- Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. Create a quit, dark atmosphere. Use clean , fresh sheets and pillow and keep the room temperature comfortable, neither too warm nor too cold.
- Half a tablespoonful of fried cumin seed powder (safed-jeera) stuffed in banana cut length wise is to be taken in the evenings. Alternately, inhalation of poppy seeds heated and wrapped in a cloth bag works excellently. You can even take glassful of milk with a pinch of nutmeg powder at bedtime.
Ayurvedic Remedies to treat Insomnia
Most people unfortunately, are treating insomnia either by going to the medical shop and buying over-the counter drugs, or the counter drugs like Avil contain anti-histamines, which knock you out, but do not induce good sleep or solve the underlying problem. Moreover, they weaken the immune system. Doctors tend to prescribe Calmpose like drugs that are addictive within a week of use. Moreover it is not possible to induce a “natural” state of sleep with unnatural, synthetic, and in many cases, highly addictive drugs.
Ayurveda believes that the has a deep, underlying integrity that renews, refills, and take care of the entire human system. The disease takes its root when something interfere in its integrity. Therefore, Ayurvedic remedies with plants and herbs are focused on regulating this integrity. These plants and herbs are again blended with their own natural integrity. The healing nutrients in these herbs unblock the shrotas or microcirculatery channels through which our body moves nutrients, hormones, immune cells, and so on. Once the shrotas are clear, you are satiated with essential energy that governs and connects the body, mind and spirit. The result is the restful sleep. Sleep is one of the three pillars in Ayurved for healing, the other two diet and lifestyle.
How many types of Insomnia/ sleep disorders? and Insomnia causes
According to Ayurveda, there are three types of sleep disorders which are as follows:
Insomnia cause no.1:
This is caused by vaata imbalance or mental stress. People, who toss and turn, unable to sleep because their mind is spinning, have this disorder. It results from anxiety, worry, and rushed activity during the day. Following remedies will help for this:
- Eat more sweet, sour and salty foods.
- Eat three warm, cooked meals at the same time everyday.
- Get at bed before 10:00 p.m. and rise by 6:00 a.m.
- Avoid rushed work hurriedly done.
- Induce poppy seed chutney in your dinner.
- Massage your hand and feet with ksheera-bala tailam.
- Use a relaxing aroma at bed time.
- Drink a cup of warm milk before bed.
- Listen to some sweet music before bed.
- Anti-vaata drugs like vaata vidhwansan ras are useful. Consult your Ayurvedic physician before using them.
Insomia cause no.2:
This is caused by pitta imbalance or emotional trauma. This is intermittent awakening. Witrh this disorder, you may fall asleep quickly but wake up frequentely with palpitation, body pain, and emotional disturbances such as fear, anger, and sadness. Another pattern is that you wake up before dawn with get up and go mood, and find it difficult to go back to sleep. Following suggestions will help:
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Eat more food having sweet, bitter, and astringent taste.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Eat enough dinner so that you do not wake up hungry.
- Before bed, massage your feet with ahaa chandanaadi tailam.
- If you wake up in the night, take half cup warm whole milk and one teaspoonful gulkand (rose petal jam). Rose have the cooling effect on the mind, body, and emotions.
- If your head feels hot when you wake up in the night, mix three tablespoonfuls of coconut oil with 5 drops of lavenderoil or badaam oil and massage it on your forehead.
Insomnia cause no.3:
This is caused by kapha imbalance. Sometimes it is an early morning awakening, sometimes it is charecterised by sleeping but in any case, you feel sluggish, tired, and completely exhausted even though you have night’s sleep. Her is how you over come this problem:
- Be sure to rise before 6:00 a.m.
- Do a morning massage with warm sesami oil or mustard oil.
- Exercise everyday.
- Sip warm water throughout the day.
- Avoid eating much heavy, sweet, sour, and salty food.
- Eat a light, warm dinner (ideal) and season the food with fresh ginger and a small amount of black pepper.
Ayurvedic Treatment of insomnia
Brahmi, Jatamansi, Valerian and Aamla are pro-sedative, meaning that they help a person to relax into sleep.
The powder of these drugs are either taken separately or together in a dose of one teaspoonful, three times a day, followed by a cup of milk. Sesame oil boiled with these powders should be used for massaging the head and body before bathing. Now let us analyse the properties of these herbs:
Valerian Root:Indian valerian, also known as tagar in Hindi, works on the nerve channels by clearing out toxins from the blood, joints, tissues, colon and nerves. Its basic role is to rejuvenate. However, vaterian should not be taken on its own. For it can have somewhat dulling effect. It is best used as part of some herbal preparation.
Jatamansi:It is called jatamansi bacause it resembles jata or the tangled hair of the tapasvi or ascetic. It has been found to increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin. It is a sedative and anti-depressant, and anti-epileptic cardio-tonic and is regarded as one of the most effective remedies for neurosis. Though it normally has a sedative effect on thr central nervous system and is used to tranquillise an anxious or over-stressed person, it has been observed that it can also stimulate someone who is suffering from fatigue. This is because it balances the organs snd systems of the body. It can be taken as a powder, about a quarter teaspoonful at a time. Or soak it in warm water for 4-5 hours, strain and drink, preferably at bedtime.
Aswagandha:This is an overall tonic for greater vitality and longevity .it enhances coordination between the mind and senses which, according to ayurveda, is essential for good sleep. the recommended dose is half to one teaspoonful of powder taken twice a day followed, preferably by warm milk.
Brahmi:It is a powerful brain food ,which supports and improves all aspects of mental functioning. It is a calming and tranquillsing herb. a cup of brahmi tea or powder or any other preparation with brahmi, taken at bedtime, will induce a peaceful sleep and its regular use will help to cure insomnia.
- Have symptoms such as dullness, poor muscle tone and a lack of spontaneity?
- Have a tendency to be bored and depressed?
- Have tension, fear and anxiety?
- Suffer from decreased cooperativeness, loss of acceptance of constructive criticism.
- Temper outbursts.
- Lowered attention span.
- Impared recent memory.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Physical complaints such as headache or backache.
- Decreased interest in personal care.
- Rely on coffee, cigarettes, and stimulants or even alcohol or drugs?
- Notice a reduction in general health and joy in living?
If your answer is yes ti a majority of these questions, it might be an indication that your stress levels are too high and you are not sleeping enough, or deeply enough, even if you do not have insomnia.
Click to read about: Treatment of depression in Ayurveda