From an Ayurvedic perspective, insomnia is caused primarily by an imbalance of vata dosha. Vata is comprised of both air and ether, and has both light and mobile/irratic qualities. When these qualities accumulate and become excessive, they can cause difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Pitta dosha also shares this light quality and pitta predominate individuals have a tendency for overworking, and burning the midnight oil, which eventually interferes with good restful sleep.
Kapha dosha can interfere with sleep mainly due to sleep apnea. This condition is complex and is best addressed through ayurvedic diet and lifestyle counseling as well as herbal treatment.
In ayurveda, dinacharya (healthy routines), can be used to treat insomnia very effectively. One of the most important routines to balance vata is to go to sleep by 10 pm, if this is difficult, work towards it to the degree your life allows. Also, try not to eat dinner much later than 7 pm. This allows us to fully digest our meal, so the digestive process doesn’t interfere with our sleep.
Below is a list of home remedies for improving the quality of sleep and restore depleted energy cause by the lack of needed rest. Note that these remedies are mainly for high vata and pitta.
Ashwagandha Siddha Milk-
Add 1 tsp. Ashwagandha powder to one cup of whole milk and a half cup of water and boil lightly for 5 minutes in an uncovered pot until one cup of liquid remains. Drink this decoction, powder and all, before going to sleep. If you can’t digest dairy well, just drink a tea of ashwagandha or take 2 tablets of Ashwagandha in the evening after a meal, this herb helps to pacify vata at the root level.
Sesame oil massage-
Massage a little unrefined Sesame oil scalp and soles of the feet before going to sleep. You don’t need to apply a lot of oil to the hair, mainly to the scalp around the top of the head. Also, after massaging the feet nicely, put on an old pair of socks. This self treatment is a miracle for vata types. Pitta types can use unrefined coconut oil instead of sesame oil.
Do Shavasana (corpse pose) for 15-20 minutes everyday, and especially before rolling over to go to sleep at night. Consciously releasing all tension from each and every part of the body and mind before letting go into sleep helps us to empty the mental garbage can, so to speak. This way we don’t wake up later, mulling over the day or feeling restless in our bodies for unknown reasons. If there are issues that need attending to, write a list of things to deal with the next day, and consciously put them aside first.
Deep sleep Tea-
Make a relaxing cup of tea by combining 1 tsp. each of (rounded) of passionflower, chamomile, oat straw or milky tops, scullcap, and tulsi. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herbs and steep for 15-20 minutes, strain and drink. This is not a heavy sedating formula, but helps to calm and replenish the nervous system.
Anointing with essential oils-
Put a drop or two of any of the following essential oils on your soles, temples and third eye before bedtime.
-Jatamansi (Indian spikenard) oil
A good general rule to keep in mind is that an hour of sleep before midnight equals two hours of sleep after midnight. If we stay up late at night or have an erratic sleep schedule, it becomes hard to establish a balanced sleep cycle. Rest Well!