Treat Insomnia in Ayurveda for effective result - Ayurveda Living
Posted 12/02/2021 in Ayurveda

Treating insomnia in Ayurveda


Treating insomnia in Ayurveda

Treating insomnia in Ayurveda by Vaidya Ahana Shekhar 

Sleep (nidra) is a state of mind where the mind is not associated with any of the sense organs and is an essential factor to live a healthy, sustained, and happy life. Most of the metabolic activities take place when the body is at rest acting as a rejuvenator and when this rejuvenation period is disturbed, the mind and the body endures stress in accomplishing day-to-day tasks. Without adequate and quality sleep, the ability to function is impaired. 

Insomnia (Nidranasha: nidra - sleep; nasha - destroyed) is a common medical condition where one fails to fall asleep even after consecutive efforts made to fall asleep. Unable to remain asleep throughout the night or repeated awakening while sleeping is also diagnosed as insomnia (nidranasha). According to Harvard Medical School, Insomnia appears prevalent in 23 percent of U.S. workers, higher in women, costing the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280, in lost productivity every year a new study estimates. 

Ayurveda preaches about achieving optimal health by maintaining a proper balance of the three important pillars of life (Trayopastamba's of Ayurveda) - Proper diet (ahara), Proper sleep (shayana/nidra), Abstinence (bramhacharya). 

Sleep(nidra) is also considered one among the 13 vega's (urges) in Ayurveda, and suppression or controlling these urges causes several harmful effects in the body and further paves a pathway for diseases to manifest. 

A goodnight’s sleep is essential to maintain mental and physical equilibrium in the body and in this modern-day, where technology plays a major role in humanity, due to workload, stress, building financial stability, etc people often tend to push their limits to work harder to lead a better and stable life. In this process of rushing to build a better future for ourselves and the people we love, disturbing our sleep cycle, increased screen time, and revenge bedtime procrastination has, unfortunately, become our everyday rituals. 

A state of hyper arousal that rattles the sleep cycle is believed to be the cause of insomnia. Hyper arousal may be initiated due to various factors like excitement, over thinking, procrastination, working at peak hours to meet up deadlines, night shifts, suffering from pain etc. In general, hyper arousal can occur due to mental and physical initiation of brain activity.

Causes of insomnia according to Ayurveda 

  1. Excessive elimination of doshas from the body in the form of vomiting (vamana), diarrhea (virechana) or nasya 
  2. Emotional instability like uncontrolled anger, anxiety, fear, depression, trauma etc
  3.  Excessive stress or workload 
  4. Unrestrained smoking and exercise  
  5. Uncomfortable sleeping positions or bed 
  6. Due to excruciating pain - if one is suffering from diseases or met with an accident 
  7. Fasting (upavasa) 
  8. Due to old age - as vata dosha will be predominant in this period

Other contributing factors would be consuming high amounts of dry food items (ruksha ahara), light foods(laghu ahara) etc, poor nutritional choices, digestion issues, environmental factors like noise pollution, extreme light and temperatures that inhibit dfudh sleep, and sometimes insomnia caused by stimulating drugs, such as amphetamine, cocaine, and nicotine.

How to detect an insomniac

Most people won't even realize they are suffering from sleep deprivation as some believe that three or four hours of sleep is sufficient and some due to prolonged habits of pushing themselves to work harder, they tend to forget what harm they are causing to their body. An individual who is suffering from insomnia will have a disturbed state of physical and mental being; let us understand them individually –

Effect of sleep deprivation physically 

Drowsiness (tandra), Lethargy, body aches, migraines (shiroroga), excessive yawning (jrumbha), tired heavy burning eyes (akshi gourava), dark circles, unhygienic conditions, high blood pressure, risk of obesity and heart diseases, illness or fever in general, coordination issues, delayed reaction time, alcohol or drug dependency, more prone to road accidents because of flawed driving performance

Effect of sleep deprivation mentally

Contiguous emotional breakdowns, anxiety, depression, poor judgment skills, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), impaired memory, hindered concentration or inability to learn, lack of interest in everything

Now, before this prolonged state of sleep deprivation starts taking a toll on your body both physically and mentally, treating it at its primary stage itself is very crucial. If it has already reached secondary stage, immediate measures have to be taken to treat it before diseases manifest. Ayurveda has a holistic approach on how nidranasha (insomnia) can be treated. 

Before we understand how to treat insomnia in Ayurveda, it is very essential to recognize if the person has other mental illness which has lead him to be an insomniac. If the person is diagnosed with depression, insomnia is a symptom of depression; therefore depression has to be treated first. Therapies and counseling sessions, emotional support from family and friends is very critical. 

Treating insomnia (nidranasha) in Ayurveda

Sleep is usually achieved when the mind and the body have achieved exhaustion, but a sleep-deprived person fails to fall asleep no matter how tired or exhausted he feels which disturbs his mental and physical health. An increase in vata dosha which leads to a decrease in kapha dosha is why insomnia (nidranasha) is caused. So our main line of treatment should be increasing kapha dosha in the body and simultaneously decreasing vata. Nidranasha is managed in two procedures - Physical treatment, change in lifestyle and dietary regimes. 

Physical treatment of nidranasha in Ayurveda

  1. Head massage with oil (taila dharana on shira) - daily
  2. Retention of oil on the head (Shirobasti)- leave the oil on the head for an hour at least 
  3. Pouring liquid medium on the forehead (shirodhara) 
  4. Retention of fat in the eyes (Akshitarpana) - helps the eyes to cool down and reduces burning and stress 
  5. Oiling the ears (Karnapoorana)
  6. Full body massage (abhyanga) 
  7. Mild massage (samvahana) 
  8. Foot massage (padabhyanga) with oil or just press the foot using hands without oil 
  9. Dry powder massage (Udvartana)
  10. Rubbing the body with unctuous substances in opposite direction (utsadana) 
  11. Bath with mild hot water (snana) 

The type of oil to be used is based on body type, so keep in mind to consult an ayurvedic practitioner before adopting these methods. 

Few lifestyle changes to be made to prevent insomnia (nidranasha) according to Ayurveda

  1. Prepare your body and your mind that it is time to rest and avoid doing anything that will excite you. 
  2. Before you get ready to bed - clear your mind, clear your thoughts - play some slow melodious music, or listen to podcasts that help sleep better. 
  3. Sleep in a comfortable mattress (sukhashayya) which is clean, hygienic, and made from soft linen
  4. Comfortable posture (asana) - for good sleep lie down in the supine or left lateral position and avoid sleeping in the prone position
  5. The room in which you are sleeping should be hygienic, light some scented candles or keep some mildly scented flowers in the room and dim the lights
  6. Set the room temperature, avoid too much breeze
  7. If you are still unable to sleep, try meditating and do some breathing exercises (breathe in and breathe out deeply)
  8. Practice yoga. Yoga helps in deep relaxation of mind and body, it reduces stress and anxiety and helps in better functioning of the mind. Practice Shavasana, Suryanamaskara, Pascimottanasana, Padmasana etc 
  9. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends
  10. Avoid exercise before bedtime
  11. Avoid eating or drinking just before going to bed

Dietary regimes that treat insomnia (nidranasha) according to Ayurveda

  • Heavy foods (guru ahara) is usually advised for good sleep as it produces mandhatwa (slows/calms down the metabolic processes) in the body. Such as - 
  • Consume Curd during dinner (dadhi)
  • Fish (audaka Mamsa)
  • Meat soup (mamsa rasa) 
  • Buffalo's milk (mahisha kshira) 
  • Warm freshly collected milk (dharoshna dugdha)
  • Grapes (draksha), avacadoes, berries  
  • Jaggery (guda)
  • Sugarcane juice (ikshu)
  • Cooked puffed rice (laja odana) 
  • Curd rice (shali anna with dadhi) 
  • Alcohol (madya) 
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine (smoking) 4-6 hours before bedtime

Please remember sleeping during the night is always advised and NOT during the day time because a hormone called melatonin which maintains the sleep cycle is produced as a response to dark hours which inhibits all the neurotransmitters that excite your body like dopamine, serotonin etc. Night shifts have become common in most of the countries, but people fail to realize the kind of harm it is doing to the body. Some believe sleep is unnecessary if one has to perform to their full potential, but in the long run, these facts that celebrities throw at you will prove you wrong. Sleep is essential. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Grab at least a solid six to seven hours of sleep. You have 24 hours in a day, be productive for the rest of the time that you have. Once you realize how relaxed sleeping makes you feel you shall understand its importance and learn to respect your sleep cycle. Treat your mind and body like a temple. You shall start noticing the changes happening in your mind and body when it gets enough rest. 

Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.