"Happiness and misery, growth and wasting, strength and weakness, virility and sterility, knowledge and ignorance, life and death all depend upon sleep."
Sleep deprivation is a global epidemic and national health crisis in the United States. 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. Sleepfoundation.org reports that the average American sleeps about 7 hours and 36 mins, yet 20% reported they did not wake up feeling refreshed on any of the past 7 days and an additional 35% reported their sleep quality as poor or only fair. 67% of those who reported poor or only fair sleep quality also reported poor or only fair quality of health. A 2006 study by the National Sleep Foundation concluded that 87% of all high school students are chronically sleep deprived. A study of more than 28,000 high school students published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that each hour of lost sleep is associated with a 38% increase in feeling sad or hopeless and a 58% increase in suicide attempts, along with increased risk of heightened emotional states, learning problems, increased substance use or abuse, and higher risk of obesity.
It's simple, sleep is the building block of our health. But why do so many people struggle to get the kind of sleep they need? In Ayurveda, assessing sleep is one of the first issues we address when trying to bring a clients physiology back into state of balance. There are technically 5 stages of sleep. Starting with stage 1 through 4, 4 being the deepest stage where the brain produces slow Delta waves which are responsible for producing important hormones such as melatonin and DHEA. When the brain enters Delta, HGH (Human Growth Hormone) production increases, which helps in healing physical pain. The final stage is REM or Rapid Eye Movement, the state of sleep in which dreaming occurs. REM helps you learn faster and become more emotionally balanced. Dr.Vincent Walsh at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London believes that REM exists to encode memory, especially procedural memory, the kind that helps us to know how to do things, as well as "creative problem solving and motor skills." Where the problem lies is if our sleep quality is poor, and we are getting less of it then the less restoration and rejuvenation our body, but particularly our nervous system receives.
There are 2 major types of sleep disturbances most commonly recognized in Ayurveda, DFA (difficulty falling asleep) and EMA (early morning awakening.) DFA is a Vata Dosha aggravation, Vata being comprised of Air and Ether and governs over movement, transportation and communication of the nervous system throughout the body. To be more specific, it is an imbalance of the subdosha of Vata known as Prana Vata. Prana is often thought to translate as "the breath" but it is much more encompassing. Prana actually translates as "life force" or "subtle energic force" because it governs over the subtle energy of the body. Prana is located in the brain, head, throat, heart and respiratory organs. It is "the breath that nourishes the brain" as it provides clarity of the mind and reasoning, memory, enthusiasm, and is responsible for sneezing, belching and respiration. Common conditions associated with Prana Vata are anxiety, worry, overactive mind, insomnia, hiccups, asthma, blocked nasal passages and lung diseases. DFA and anxiety, worry and a overactive mind go hand in hand.
EMA or Early Morning Awakening is both a Vata and Pitta Dosha aggravation. Pitta is comprised of the elements Fire and Water, and is responsible for digestion/metabolism, transformation, and elimination. The Subdosha of Ranjaka Pitta is the function and energy of liver and gallbladder, and is responsible for the formation of blood, the bodies manufacturing of proteins and the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. Common conditions such as skin rashes, allergies, hyperlipidemia, anemia, jaundice, irritability, EMA, hot flashes and PMS are due to imbalances of Ranjaka. Ranjaka becomes imbalanced from excessive or intense physical and mental activity, anger, frustration and excessively heating foods. While both sleep disorders share common treatment modalities, EMA requires more cooling and soothing remedies to counteract the heat and intensity of Ranjaka.
(Hour leading up to going to bed)
1) Prior to or directly after shower do warm self oil massage (abhyanga) with sesame or sunflower (can use herbalized Vata balancing by Banyan Botanical)
2) Take 3/4 cup of warm milk with 2 pinches of nutmeg, 1 pinch of cardamom and turmeric along with 1-2 tablets of Blissful Sleep for DFA (MAPI Products) or 2 Deep Rest for EMA (MAPI Products)
3) Listen to soothing music, preferably something with binaural beats such as Hemi-Sync (on Spotify or YouTube)
4) AROMATHERAPY: Essential oils such as Lavender, Jasmine, Sweet orange, Rose, Frankincense and Myrrh in diffuser or in bowl with hot water next to bed.