Early to Bed — for a Healthy Mind and Body

If you struggle to fall asleep at night, you are not alone. As many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia — and that number is growing every year.

According to Ayurveda, insomnia is most commonly caused by a disturbance in Vata dosha. Vata dosha is the principle concerned with movement in the body. When Vata is out of balance, your mind can be racing and your body can be so keyed up at bedtime that you are not able to fall asleep.

People with Vata disorders tend to keep irregular habits, including eating at different times of the day and going to bed at all hours — habits that can cause Vata dosha to become even more imbalanced.

Being out of tune with nature’s daily rhythms may actually be causing insomnia in millions around the world. With the invention of the electric light bulb, it suddenly became possible for many activities to take place after sunset. To re-attune yourself with nature’s rhythms, try going to bed at the same time every night, preferably with a bedtime of 10:00 or earlier.

According to Ayurveda, the many rhythms and cycles of the cosmos (such as the circadian rhythm, caused by the earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours, or the seasonal cycle of the earth revolving around the sun) have a counterpart in the human body.

Modern science is beginning to study this phenomenon. Research shows that many neurological and endocrine functions follow the 24-hour cycle. Our sleep-wakefulness cycle is one of those circadian rhythms. Science now knows that many of the hormones your body needs to repair itself are released while you sleep. Science tells us that between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs. Remember that time: you’ll hear about it later.

Ayurveda has identified three “master cycles” that occur in your mind/body system — and in nature around us. You experience them in terms of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Kapha cycle in the evening takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., after work is finished and the sun is setting. You naturally feel more relaxed and drowsy at this time, since your body is preparing to sleep. This is the influence of Kapha dosha, which by nature is slow and heavy.

If you go to bed during this Kapha cycle, before 10:00 p.m., sleep will come more easily and will have more of the slow, stable quality of Kapha dosha.

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Modern research concurs that sleep gets lighter and lighter as dawn approaches. Our deepest slumber (called NREM sleep) occurs within 20 minutes of falling asleep and gets interrupted around 90 minutes later by a five-to-ten minute round of REM-type sleep. For the rest of the night, you alternate between the two types of sleep in 90-minute cycles, with your NREM sleep getting shorter and less deep and the lighter REM cycles getting longer.

Because so many people suffer from an aggravation of Vata, it can be difficult to stop activity and head to bed early. If you go to bed after 10:00 p.m., you are going to bed during the Pitta cycle, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.  Pitta is the principle that governs transformations. At noon, when we are also in a Pitta cycle, the increased principle of transformation helps us to digest our lunch (which Ayurveda recommends should be our biggest meal of the day). In the evening the transformative properties of Pitta are meant be used to help repair the body while we sleep, so that we awake refreshed and renewed. If we are awake during this time, many experience a spurt of intellectual activity and find that this is the “perfect” time to catch up on work or personal projects. This is a misuse of the Pitta cycle and we are robbing our body of its chance to repair and restore itself. Once the mind becomes active during the Pitta cycle, it is difficult to turn off thoughts. Combined with a Vata imbalance, which can “fan the fires” of Pitta, you could easily find yourself up until the wee hours of the morning — and enjoying a midnight snack to boot.

What happens when we rob ourselves of our nightly self-repair? Science is finding a wide range of negative effects, from being more susceptible to colds and infections to increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Deep sleep apparently allows us to deep clean plaque from the brain.

While there are many other aspects of insomnia to consider, the first step anyone who is serious about conquering insomnia should consider is to create a regular schedule which includes being in bed before 10:00 at night.

A visit to an Ayurvedic expert will help you to more precisely pinpoint which imbalances are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.  They can prescribe diet, supplements and lifestyle changes that will support your efforts.

For more information on programs for insomnia, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://theraj.com

Rise and Shine!

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During springtime, when Kapha is becoming lively in our environment, getting up early becomes more important than ever. There is reason why early risers are said to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you haven’t made the adjustment already, spring is the time to go to bed earlier and get in the habit waking up by 6:00 or 6:30.

  1. You’ll feel more energetic: The principles of Ayurveda recommend getting up an hour before sunrise to synchronize the body cycle with the rhythm of the sun. This time is called Bhrama Muhurta in Ayurveda and is believed to be an auspicious time where significant shifts in energy levels of the body take place. By getting up before the Kapha time of the day exerts its heavy influence (6:00 AM), you’ll feel more energetic throughout the day.
  2. You’ll have time to meditate and exercise If you wake up late your morning begins in a rush to get dressed and leave the house. Key activities that can support your quality of thought and activity through out the day, like mediation and exercise, get put aside. Waking up early in the morning gives you time to meditate, practice yoga and get some exercise, all activities proven to create a foundation of well-being.
  3. You’ll feel happier: While the energetic feeling after an early morning meditation and workout itself may be enough to keep you happy throughout the day, there is increasing evidence that early risers feel positive and more confident in their work, which results in long-term happiness. A study published in the journal “Emotion” noted that those who had their daily routine in sync with the sunrise and sunset pattern experiences more happiness than late risers.
  4. You’ll be more productive: The morning Vata period is one of the most productive times of the day. Your brain has rested well and neuronal connections and pathways have been re-charged during the night. Studies show you can think faster and have more focus during the morning hours. If you follow the rule of ‘early to bed, early to rise,’ you’ll find that much of your important work will get done in the first half of the day.
  5. You’ll get better sleep: Obviously, if you wake up early in the morning and begin your daily activities at an early hour, your body will be primed to go to bed earlier at night. According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to go to bed during the Kapha time of the day. This means closing the eyes before 10:00 PM. Evening Pitta time begins at 10:00 PM. The transformative qualities of Pitta should be used to repair the body from the wear and tear of the day’s activities. If you stay up late, you’ll find that Pitta ends up used for mental stimulation and /or late night snacking. Don’t rob your body of this important period of rejuvenation.
  6. You’ll feel happier: A study published in the Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences showed that people who stayed up late were three times more likely to experience depression as compared to those who went to bed early.

Factors That Affect Our Sleep:

Regular routine: One of the most important strategies for getting a good night’s sleep is getting in sync with our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day makes us feel much more refreshed than getting the same number of hours but at different times.

Exposure to Light: Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Our brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making us sleepy—and less when it’s light—making us more alert. This means that spending long days in an office, shielded from natural light, can impact our daytime wakefulness. And lights at night—energy-efficient LED lights and blue light from TV and computer screens—can tell body that it is time to wake up.

Exercise: Research shows that regular exercise leads to better sleep at night and increased alertness during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—helps to improve sleep quality. It is good to note that exercise is not a quick fix. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects.

Eating habits: It’s especially important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. If you drink coffee or tea, try enjoying it only in the morning hours.

Eat a light evening meal: Ayurveda recommends a light evening meal. We want the transforming quality of Pitta in the evening to be used for self-repair and not for digestion. In addition, heavy, fatty foods take a lot of work to digest and may keep us up at night.

If you have long-term problems with insomnia and are unable to switch to an early morning routine, you may be suffering from deep-seated Vata and/or Pitta imbalances. Check with an Ayurveda expert experienced in pulse assessment to find out the specific imbalances that are keeping you from a good routine. They will be able to give you individualized recommendations to culture a more healthful sleep cycle. For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Time to Wake Up!

sunrise-226699_640With the onset of the kapha time of the year (the cold, rainy, and damp days of late winter and early spring) it is important to get in the habit of rising early in the morning. During vata season (late fall through early winter) we can get away with sleeping into the kapha time of the day. Vata has been increasing in our mind/body system and a little kapha influence can be grounding. But when we move into kapha season, hitting the snooze button can create imbalances that could open the door to spring allergies and colds.

Most of us already know the basic  24-hour cycle of vata, pitta and kapha. Every day there are two cycles of change, one from 6.a.m. to 6.p.m. and the other from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Within each 12- hour cycle there are three 4-hour periods that are dominated by one of the three doshas; vata, pitta or kapha.

Cycle 1

6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. is kapha time

10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. is pitta time

2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. is vata time

Cycle 2

6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. is kapha time

10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. is pitta time

2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. is vata time

As kapha season progresses you’ll notice that the sun starts to rise earlier and earlier. That makes it important to go to bed earlier at night so that you are falling asleep in the drowsy, heavy time in the evening, before 10:00 p.m.

While the evening kapha cycle is perfect for heading to bed—and falling asleep—the morning kapha cycle is not a good time for sleeping in. If you sleep too long into this time period your mind/body system gets suffused with the dull, slow, heavy qualities of kapha. You’ll find that you feel dull and tired throughout the day. This habit also results in a build-up of impurities (ama), which predisposes you to allergies and congestion. This is influence is magnified during the cold, wet, kapha season.

On the other hand, if you wake up at 6:00 am (or before) you will feel more vata qualities (energy, vitality and alertness) throughout the day.

Begin by adjusting both your bedtime and rising time 15 minutes every week. If you are an extreme night owl, start with going to bed one half-hour earlier. Remember the adage, “the day begins the night before”.

Even if you miss your bedtime target, maintain your new rising time faithfully. Use an alarm clock if necessary.

Continue this plan until you get in the habit of rising at 6 or 6:30. After a few weeks of rising at this early hour you will start becoming attuned to the cycles of nature and may find yourself yawning and thinking fondly of heading to bed at the proper time (during the kapha cycle of the evening). When we can attune our physiologies to nature’s rhythms we will fall asleep more easily, rest more deeply, wake up feeling light and refreshed, and enjoy energy and well being throughout the day.

The classical texts of Ayurveda suggest that the transition from vata season to kapha season is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Panchakarma (Ayurveda detoxification and rejuvenation treatments). For more information visit The Raj website:

http://theraj.com/rajoffers/details.php