Name: V.S. Krishnamachari
City/Country: Chennai /India
I have always suffered from insomnia, and the stresses and tensions associated with my business did not help matters. I run a small restaurant and competition is stiff. Two years back, I contracted a viral fever which resulted in more sleepless nights. I became more and more dependent on sleeping pills, but in time they were not working either. It was then that my son in law suggested that I try Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of medicine. He comes from Kerala, and according to him the Ayurvedic physicians or vaidyas there are some of the best in the world. So I made the trip to Kerala to consult a famous vaidya- and the results have been truly satisfying.
Identifying the Problem
According to Ayurveda the amount of sleep you need depends on your constitution, and each individual’s unique constitution is determined by the balance of the three fundamental bioenergies known as doshas in the body. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Though everyone has some of each dosha, most people tend to have a predominance of one or two. Vata, ruled by air and ether, governs movement in the body. Pitta, ruled by fire, governs digestion and the metabolism. And Kapha, ruled by earth and water, governs your physical structure and fluid balance. People with Kapha constitution need the most sleep – about eight or nine hours in order to feel rested. Pitta people are next, with a need of seven to eight hours. Vata people can manage with six to seven hours of sleep. Your requirements of sleep also depends on what stage of life are you in. People with a history of irregular digestion, constipation, and irregular eating habits are also more likely to suffer from insomnia.
Late nights, using computers and cell phones in the evening and waking up late all alter our natural sleep pattern.. In addition, alcohol and coffee and late-evening meals all contribute to chronic sleep problems.
Having identified what dosha was predominant in my case, and what was causing the sleeplessness, my physician recommended that I undergo a therapy known as Sirodhara. This is a rejuvenating therapy that is specially designed to eliminate mental exhaustion and toxins. In this therapy, oil is poured on the patient’s forehead from specific distance and for specific time frame. Other fluids like milk are also used, according to the decision of the physician. Sirodhara brings relief to most of the factors associated with insomnia such as anxiety, stress and it relaxes nervous system too. I found the therapy immensely restful and at the same time rejuvenating. I was also given certain guidelines regarding my diet and lifestyle.
Food should be flavored with more digestion-stimulating spices, such as fresh ginger, cumin, and black pepper. Caffeine, raw foods, crackers, cold cereal, and other dry foods were to be avoided as well as meat, cheese, potatoes, and heavy desserts at supper, as these tend to clog the tissues, which results in snoring, apnea, stiffness, and morning lethargy. Spicy or fried foods at night were also to be avoided. Working on the computer after 9.30 pm, arguments and controversial discussions and late night parties were all on the “not to do’ list.
I was told that it was best to go to bed before 10 p.m. This is the time dominated by the heavy, slow-moving Kapha dosha, when you naturally feel more mellow and sleepy. If you go to bed then, you’ll fall asleep easier and your sleep will be deeper. It was also suggested that I should try some restorative yoga poses before retiring for the night. Breathing exercises can also be helpful. Every time you exhale, it slows your heartbeat and that helps calm you down. I was told to start by exhaling through my nose to the count of 6 and then inhaling through my nose to the count of 3, and to do this for 5 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Ayurvedic home remedies include a glassful of celery juice mixed with a teaspoon of honey to be taken at bedtime. Finely ground fried cumin seeds mixed with ripe banana pulp and eaten at bedtime, and liquorice and fennel tea are also helpful. A combination of these changes in diet and lifestyle, as well as these home remedies have certainly played a role in helping me sleep better at night.