Sleep 101 in Ayurveda: Mastering the Most Healing Type of Rest (How much sleep & why for all ages)

The American Sleep Association found that 50 to 70 million U.S. adults experience sleep loss or sleep disorders. That's 1 in 3 adults! Here's why good sleep is important and how you can get it!

Poor sleep can worsen:

-> Mood issues: sleep deprivation can increase irritability, as well as reactivity, and worsen ability to handle stress and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

-> Weight issues: sleep helps regulate our hormones responsible for our metabolism.

-> Chronic illnesses: such as diabetes

-> Safety and illnesses. going without sleep for more than 20 hours is equivalent to being legally drunk

-> Performance: poor sleep can make it difficult for us to focus and perform mental and physical tasks.

-> Immunity: you're more likely to get ill with poor sleep. it's important to have the conversation about sleep.

Let's start with introducing the basics of sleep. According to Ayurveda there are 3 levels of awareness:

1) Wake

We are engaged in our sensory experiences and physical body. Perhaps either by performing daily activities, speaking, playing and so forth.

2) Dreaming

Active state of sleep where REM occurs allowing us to process our emotions.

3) Deep Sleep

Here we experience deep states of rest in both the mind and body. This accelerates healing, detoxification, cell rejuvenation and repair and new, healthy tissues being formed.

For a long time sleep was thought of a time where our bodies were just switched off, however this is completely wrong, because during sleep extremely vital body processes occur that heal the body:

1) Agni is maintained & more ojas are created, giving us better health.

2) The circulatory system takes a break

-Your heart rate slows down releasing stress and toxins

3) Repair & Regeneration

Your body repairs and regenerates cells and tissues, giving rise to a stronger immune system

4) Metabolism Regulation

Your body balances hormones that regulates your metabolism to help regulate your weight.

5) Consolidating Memories

Your brain's hard drive is updated in order to store short term and long term memories and restore brain function, which allows you to retain fresh information.

Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, here's how much sleep you need according to the National Sleep Foundation:

Having said that, quality matters even more than quantity sometimes. The ability to obtain deep sleep can be harmed by nightly sleep interruptions and inconsistent day-to-day sleeping cycles. A good night's sleep allows you to wake up clear-headed and refreshed, ready to take on the day, whereas a restless night can leave you exhausted, sleepy, and sluggish.

How to know if you've had a restful sleep? You feel alert, awake and ready to take on the day. You can also try experimenting with technology like the aura ring, that tells you how much REM and deep sleep you're having. My personal opinion is that you should learn to listen to your body and not rely too much on external factors to determine your inner state. The body knows. So, if you feel tired or unable to get out of bed when you wake up, perhaps your energy crashed later in the day, it's likely that your sleep wasn't restorative.

Sleep Disorders:

1) Insomnia

The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which can be caused by a variety of factors that are both phycological, such as chronic stress, social and biological.

Signs of insomnia include:

-> trouble going to sleep even when really tired

-> problems staying asleep (turning and tossing for hours)

-> struggling to get restful sleep (feeling tired, grumpy in the morning and crashing later in the day).

2) Sleep apnea: This is characterised by pauses in breathing that can last from seconds to minutes and occur throughout the night.

3) Restless leg syndrome: This is characterised by a strong need to move one's legs, which is exacerbated at night and when the body is at rest. Approximately 8% of the population of the United States is affected.

4) Anxiety: Anxiety can not only interfere with sleep, but it can also create anxiety. Anxiety disorders are more likely in people who have persistent sleeplessness.

5) Hot flashes: Affecting mostly women in their forties and fifties, these assaults can cause excessive sweating and discomfort when sleeping.

6) Emotional reactivity: When you don't get enough sleep, the part of your brain that generates powerful emotional reactions, especially unpleasant ones, becomes hyperactive.

Consistency is Key

Recent studies have suggested sleep regularity to be an important factor for mental health and well-being. This means going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time each day—a difficult feat for many. Sleep physiologist and insomnia expert Stephanie Romiszewski says that we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves if we don't get a good nights sleep on the occasional night. However, if over months we have many restless nights, then it could be something to worry about, as they start to add up and impact our health. Its the same thing as if you didn't get enough protein one day that doesn't mean you're going to loose all your muscles. However, months of poor protein intake could start to show after a while.

Inconsistent sleep schedules can throw off circadian systems and the sleep/wake cycle—impacting both cognitive function and overall health. Here's more on the circadian rhythms.

If you're having sleep issues or generally lacking balance in your life and would like to a consultation with myself, a certified Ayurveda practitioner, please feel free to join my waiting list here.

Wish you a restorative and restful tonight :)

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