Insomnia is commonly known as lack of sleep. 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 the night or too early and can't go to sleep again.
Researches have identified insomnia as a cause of serious disorders ranging from diabetes tp high stress levels. The results show that it is taking a huge toll on the quality of life and the health of sufferers. One of the reasons that insomnia is on the rise is the high stress levels and time 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, it 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.
Ayurveda is against the idea of sleeping during the day, especially in winters. In summer, however, a short nap during the day is all right. People suffering from sprue 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 labor, require more sleep.
All factors that are responsible for aggravation of vaata and pitta in the human body, result from sleepness. 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.
SOME RESEARCH FACTS BECAUSE OF INSOMNIA
- In USA alone, sleep deprivation is the reason for 60% of road accidents- and drivers who stayed awake over hours, suffered impaired coordination, reaction time and judgement worse than the drivers who were legally drunk.
- As far as health is concerned those who sleep less than six hours a night, don't live as long as those sleep seven hours of more. Sleeping only four hours a night can cause weight gain, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- During sleep, the levels of several immune system helpers increase in your blood. Among these helpers that protect the body from cancerous tumours. For instance, the level of tumours necrosis factor, which is one of the body's most powerful cancer fighters, increases tenfold during sleep. On the other hand, lack of sleep reduces the level of natural killers cells, further compromising the immune system.
- If you stay late, your exposure to electric light interferes with certain hormone cycles, especially the secretion of melatonin. When melatonin levels fall, estrogen levels rise. Too much estrogen has, in turn have been shown to promote the growth of breast cancer. Another indicator of this link is that blind women get breast cancer half as often as sighted women. Some studies indicate that other types of cancer are also less common among blind people.
Lifestyle changes and herbal medicines can help treat the problem. You can try time tested remedies:
- Do some exercise everyday- but never late in the evening.
- Avoid caffeine in all forms, especially after evening.
- 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.
- Eat sweets before going to bed. Sweets contain high amounts of carbohydrates, which help in inducing sleep.
- Take a nice, long, warm bath before bedtime. Charaka Samhita says that the bath is the best remedial measure to counteract exertion.
- Read a book or do some repetitive, calm activity such as chanting mantras.
- Avoid distractions that may hold your attention and keep you awake, such as watching a suspense movie or a thrilling game.
Most people, unfortunately, are treating insomnia either by going to the medical shop and buying over the counter drugs, or by consulting their conventional doctor. Neither solution is working- over the counter drugs like Avil contain anti histamines, which knock you out, but do not include good sleep the underlying problem. Moreover, they weaken the immune system. Doctors tend to prescribe calmpose like drugs that are addictive within even a week of use.
Ayurveda believes that the body has a deep, underlying integrity that renews, refills, and take care of the entire human system. The disease takes its root when something interferes with this 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 (channel) or microcirculatory channels through which our body moves nutrients, hormones, immune cells, and so on. Since the shrotas are clear, you can satisfy with ojas or essential energy that governs and connects the body, mind and spirit. The result is a restful sleep. Sleep is one of the three pillars of Ayurvedic healing, the other two being diet and lifestyle.
Ayurveda identifies the imbalance of sleep in three types. These are:
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, worries and rushed activity during the day. Following remedial measures will help:
- Eat more sweet, sour and salty foods.
- Eat three warm, cooked meals at the same time everyday.
- Get to bed before 10 p.m and rise by 6 a.m.
- Avoid rushed work hurriedly done.
- Massage your hands and feet with ksheera bala tailam.
- Use a relaxing aroma at bedtime.
- 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 physicians before the.
This is caused by pitta imbalance or emotional trauma. This is intermittent awakening. With this disorders, you may fall asleep quickly but wake up frequently with palpitation, body pains and emotional disturbances such as fear, anger and sadness. Following remedial measures will help:
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Eat more foods having sweet, bitter and astringent tastes.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Eat enough dinner so that you do not wake up hungry.
- Before bed, massage your feet with mahaa chandanaadi tailam.
- If you wake up in the night, take half-cup warm whole milk and one teaspoonful Gulkand (rose petal jam). Roses have a 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 lavender oil of badaam oil and massage it on your forehead.
This is caused by kapha imbalance. Sometimes it is an early morning awakening, sometimes it is characterized by sleeping but in any case, you feel sluggish, tired and completely exhausted even though you have had a full night's sleep. Here is how you overcome this problem:
- Be sure to rise before 6.00 a.m.
- Do a morning massage with warm sesame 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 and season food with fresh ginger and a small amount of black pepper.
Brahmi, jatamansi, valerian and aamla (Emblica officinalis) 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.
Any one of the following remedies should be used for the management of sleeplessness:
1. Give on teaspoonful (5 ml.) of the juice of Bacopa moniera or Centella asiatica twice daily with jaggery.
2. Give one teaspoonful (5 g.) of the powder of the root of long pepper (Piper longum) at bedtime with jaggery.
3. Give one teaspoonful (5 g.) of the powder of Nardostachys jatamansi twice daily with jaggery.
4. Give one teaspoonful (5 g.) of the powder or two teaspoonfuls (10 g.) of decoction of Withania somnifera twice daily.
5. Nidrodaya Ras: 125-500 mg
6. Jatamanshi Kwath: 10-20 ml
7. Him Sagar Tail: Local application on head.
If sleeplessness continues even after one month's treatment, refer the patient to primary health centre or hospital.
Diet and Regimens
Avoid chilies and spicy food. Goat milk, curd, buttermilk and fruit juice are very useful. After dinner, walk for about 20 minutes. Before going to bed, wash feet with cold water and massage the soles of feet with one teaspoonful of sesame oil mixed with one teaspoonful of water. Practice meditation daily. Take daily head bath in cold water. Never wash head with hot water. Never suppress an urge for defecation and urination.