Too much to do and too little time – do you feel this kind of pressure in your life? What do you resort to when you have these overly busy phases in your life?
I was an overworked corporate employee for more than 15 years. For several years, my solution to making more time to achieve my career goals was to cut down on sleep. It worked the first few years, and then I started to observe how it was taking a toll on my overall health. I gained weight, could barely walk 20 minutes before fatigue set in, was more prone to infections, and my stress levels peaked. The most counterproductive effect was that the lack of sleep made my thinking more cluttered – the worst that can happen to you when you are in an analytical or creative profession.
That’s when I took a pause and tuned into what my body was telling me. I started making time to sleep well, but it was challenging to go back to sleeping soundly. I would lie awake with my mind racing about deadlines and competition.
Fortunately, as a person who grew up with Ayurveda in her life, I knew there were simple and impactful Ayurvedic practices that could help me sleep better.
Here are five of my favorite Ayurvedic bedtime routines that helped me unlock the door to quality sleep:
1. Foot Massage
I started massaging my feet before bedtime with heavy oil e.g. sesame oil or a ghee-based balm. I continue doing so to date and sometimes treat my partner too with it! This practice is called "paad-abhyanga" in Sanskrit. It is deeply calming and promotes relaxation by calming the nervous.
Sometimes I extend the massage from feet, moving upwards to the knee and use circular massage movements at joints i.e. at knee and ankles. Once in a way, I treat my life partner to a foot massage, and as a busy professional, he appreciates it too!
2. Herbal Tea Ritual
About 40-45 minutes before bedtime, I would brew a cup of calming herbal tea with nervine herbs. Again, this is a practice I continue even today as an entrepreneur, because, let’s face it, having a small business in no easier!
Some of my favorite herbs for sleep are chamomile, lavender, lemon balm mint and valerian root. Sipping on a warm nervine herbal tea in a quiet space creates a sense of calmness and helps unwind before sleep. I often share this ritual too with my life partner, giving us some quality time as a family. We spend this time having a heart-to-heart conversation.
Choosing your tea for bedtime can be tricky. Here are a few tips to choose herbal teas for sleep:
- Choose a naturally caffeine-free tea. There is a good range of tisanes i.e. herbal teas that are great for nighttime. Feel free to pick an herbal tea with a single herb or a tea blend with mixed herbs.
- When choosing an herbal tea, pick calming nervine herbs. There are a lot of nervines and adaptogens to choose from. The key it to choose mildly sedative herbs e.g. lavender tea, chamomile tea, etc. There are other great adaptogen herbs that are generally good for stress and anxiety, but some are meant to awaken you and increase focus. These kinds of herbs make more sense during the day e.g. holy basil (aka tulsi tea) or peppermint tea. For the night, go for something that will put you to sleep.
3. A Big Hug Before Bed
Connecting with loved ones through physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love, trust, and well-being. I would often give my family member a big hug before bed, feeling the tension melt away and a sense of peacefulness wash over me. Of course, this is a matter of privilege. I have lived alone for several years, but every time I went home to meet my parents, I’d never miss the opportunity to hug mommy dearest!
4. Digital break
As much as possible, I would turn off all screens and put my phone out of reach when I brewed my cup of tea 40-45 minutes before bedtime. This helped me create a more sleep-conducive environment and avoid the stimulating effects of technology. This was not possible for me every day, but I could at least manage it over the weekends and a couple of days during the week – that makes it more than 50%!
5. A Tidy Space and Soothing Colors
I found that a cluttered and visually stimulating environment made it harder for me to relax and fall asleep. Before bed, I would tidy up my bedroom, ensuring everything was organized and in its place. Additionally, I opted for light, soothing colors like blue, green, and lavender for my bed sheets and bedding, as these colors are known to promote feelings of tranquility.
Experiment and see what works for you!
By incorporating these simple Ayurvedic practices into my routine, I was able to overcome my sleep struggles and experience the profound benefits of deep, restful sleep. I felt more energized, focused, and resilient throughout the day. My stress levels decreased significantly, and I found myself feeling more connected to myself.
While these specific practices worked for me, the key takeaway is to find what works best for you. Experiment with different Ayurvedic techniques and routines to discover what helps you relax and achieve the quality sleep you deserve. Remember, prioritizing sleep is an investment in your overall health and well-being, allowing you to live balanced, live well!