I am going to share an interesting story. About 20 years ago I’d gone to a friend’s house in the Southern part of India, and I was amazed to see their bedroom. The bedroom was completely empty. There was not a single piece of furniture. The bedding was a very small pile of some folded stuff, looked like a very thin mattress. I found it a bit strange especially compared to my own bedroom. I was amazed at how empty it was. I have to admit that it felt very peaceful, soothing and it had a very positive vibe to it. I asked my friend about it and she explained it to me. She started by saying – This was a space where they sleep. They unfold the light bedding at night, and they sleep on the floor. They had a ritual that they go to their bedroom only to sleep. In the morning, once they are awake, they fold the bedding and put it on the side. I remember asking-so don’t you watch some TV tucked in your bed before you doze off to sleep. Do you take a shower in your kitchen? That was her response. Every place has its unique purpose. Makes total sense. As soon as you enter this very peaceful and serene space, your body and mind automatically knew what to do. It is like training your mind and body. You create a space. Creating a space for relaxation and rejuvenation of mind and body.
Why am I talking about it now? I do see a lot of women who have disturbed sleep. A lot of women are taking sleeping aids for insomnia. People think that it is completely normal to be taking medication to be able to get sleep. Is it really though?
Why is sleep important? Sleep is the only time when our body rejuvenates and regenerates. We are active throughout the day and it’s only when we are resting during sleeping that our body can get all that energy back. How we feel when we are awake is a function of how well we slept last night. It has been shown that if you sleep well, you are energetic during the day. You have fewer carbohydrates and sugar cravings and overall, you make better decisions in life.
What determines good sleep? We always talk about duration-. And I think duration is very important but more important is the quality of sleep. Of course, we don’t want to be sleeping two or three hours. There should be an adequate time between six to eight hours is good depending on how active you are throughout the day. Quality of sleep is very important because if you’re sleeping for 10 to 12 hours and tossing and turning all night and when you wake up, you’re not rested then it’s not a night of good sleep.
What can we do to get a good sleep without any medications?
Let’s talk about circadian rhythm a bit- we are supposed to get up in the morning, feel fully awake and energetic in the first 20-30 minutes of waking up, go about our day, and then feel tired by the evening and tired enough to fall asleep at night. If this is not what you are experiencing, then we need to look deeper into what’s going on. Why is your body not following the biological clock?
When we wake up in the morning and go out in the sun, biologically our body triggers hormones in certain ways that after 16 to 18 hours, we do feel the need to sleep. So again, starting first thing in the morning when you get up it’s very important to go out and experience the sun. In Yoga, there is a concept of Surya namaskar-Sun salutation. It is a series of postures that you perform to get energy from the sun to wake your body and mind.
Setting up a sleep hygiene or routine is very important. Not taking any stimulants or drinks like caffeine, nicotine at least 3 or 4 hours before your desired bedtime.
Having a gap of about 3-4 hours between your dinnertime and sleep is also necessary as your gastrointestinal tract needs time to digest that food.
Electronic detox. Especially an hour before you fall asleep, you want to be completely off any sort of electronics because that’s the only way we can get our mind rested. Otherwise, we’re constantly distracted by what’s happening around us. It is also proposed that blue light from electronics activates the brain. Don’t have any televisions or any electronic devices in your bedroom.
Taking a shower, especially a nice warm shower at a temperature of about 104-108 F about an hour before bedtime helps to fall asleep quicker. Taking a bath helps also especially if you take a detox bath where you add a little bit of Jasmine oil or Epsom salt, which can help to detoxify and then help us to feel more relaxed and fall asleep.
Good bedding is equally important. How many times have you paid attention to your mattress and pillows? A very simple act of inverting the mattress every few weeks or at least once a month can help. Turning your mattress, inverting it, and making sure that there is no mold and it’s still in a good condition. Lack of good bedding or a good mattress can lead to disturbed sleep.
Pets, a lot of us have pets. I have 2 dogs and they walk back and forth during the night. If you are a light sleeper, that will impact your sleep. Making sure that pets don’t sleep in the same room is another way of ensuring good sleep.
Maintaining good temperature and humidity levels of the space are essential for good sleep.
As discussed earlier, creating a designated space for sleep is critical. I am not asking you to empty out your bedroom today. But what I am asking is to declutter the space you sleep in. Get rid of extra furniture, extra electronics, extra books, paper, and tons of other stuff. Just take a look at everything you have and see if it really belongs there.
Last but not the least, if you have sleep apnea or other medical symptoms, you need to see your physician and get evaluated.