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Nidra (Sleep) – Ayurvedic Health Pillar

If you are new or nursing mom, you might find sleep patterns erratic making you feel lethargic, mentally foggy, digestively unhappy and overall cranky. We spend roughly 1/3 of our lives sleeping and there is a reason it is sleep is vital for human survival. In Ayurveda, sleep is one of the three pillars of good health, known as Nidra along with food (Ahara) and control over sexual energy (Brahmacharya).

Charaka Samhita, the ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda, mentions six types of sleep. According to the text, sleep may be due to:
• natural sleep without external imbalances
• depression
• increased Kapha caused by eating an excess of foods like chocolate, cheese, or fried food
• exhaustion of mind and body caused by excessive physical work
• chronic disease
• imbalance or injury in the body

Ayurvedic medicine is based on following natural biorhythms, maintaining balance, and reducing mental, physical and emotional stress. Sleep problems rarise from an imbalance of energies (Pitta, Vata, and Kapha) in the body. In each of us, there is a unique balance of these three energies helping us to maintain a balance for optimal sleep. The source of these imbalances, can be any number of factors, including Ahara (diet) and Vihara (Lifestyle) such lack of physical activity, and other illnesses.

If you find yourself out of balance with sleep, use the below techniques to restore balance and optimal sleep:
Use the Ayurvedic Clock – Natural sleep follows the Ayurvedic clock, which focuses on the right time to sleep, the duration of sleep, and the ideal time to wake up. According to the Ayurvedic clock, it’s best to wake up before sunrise and sleep before 10 p.m., when the Kapha period has induced dullness in the body. It’s also important to have a gap of at least 2 hours between dinner and sleep time. An ideal time for dinner is 7 p.m. If you’re eating a late dinner, aim for something light and eat 2 hours before you go to sleep.
Use Breathwork – Regular breathwork and Ujjayi breathing before sleeping can promote sound sleep.
Adjust your Sleep Position – While there are no generalities in Ayurveda, the ancient text recommends sleeping on the left side; physiologically this aids digestion and lymphatic drainage. If you are still bothered by an overactive mind, try sleeping on your right (left nostrils open corresponding with the cooling energy channel, Ida Nadi) (River).
Drink warm milk Before bed – Warm eight ounces of dairy or non-dairy milk on the stovetop with a sprinkle each of cinnamon, cardamom, and ground nutmeg. Sip it one hour before bed. Nutmeg helps to induce sleep while lengthening the duration of your sleep time. The cinnamon and cardamom promote healthy digestion, which will also help you sleep.

The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough, our ancestors realized this and emphasized it by devoting an entire pillar of health to this topic. Interestingly, we can live without food longer than without sleep.

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