Updated: Sep 1
Why is sleep so important, what happens during sleep and how do we get a restorative night's sleep?
An occasional night of poor sleep may seem a nuisance but when ongoing lack of sleep impacts on our quality of life. Sleep deprivation challenges us by affecting our concentration, memory and motivation, leaving us feeling irritable, moody or even depressed. Increasing our appetite and craving for sugary foods.
What may cause us to have difficulty getting off to sleep or awakening during the early hours can be a variety of reasons. From diet, stress, anxiety, worry, blue light from phones; even the comfort of our bed mattress plays an important part.
What is happening in our bodies during sleep? The sleep cycle moves between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement. REM is when your eyes move quickly in different directions and intense dreaming takes place, as the brain is more active. It usually takes 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep to arrive at this deeper state of sleep.
What happens in Non-Rapid Eye Movement After you close your eyes you are still awake for about 10 minutes. Then you drift into light sleep where your heart rate begins to slow down and body temperature lowers. During the final stage of non-REM sleep your body repairs, regrows tissues, builds bone and muscles and strengthens your immune systems.
What happens in Rapid Eye Movement After about 90 minutes you enter REM sleep, the heart rate and breathing quicken and intense dreaming takes place. At first lasting 10 minutes. Then each stage of REM lengthens, lasting up to an hour in the final stage.
Why is restorative sleep so important?
During sleep the immune system is strenghtened, producing more cytokines to fight infection, increasing resilence and reducing risk of chronic illness. Sleep helps the heart vessels to heal and rebuild as well as maintaining blood pressure, sugar levels and inflammation control. In addition, sleep regulates hormones that control our appetite, body weight and lowers risk of type 2 diabetes.
If you keep having sleep problems then it's advisable to speak to your G.P. as there may possibly be an underlying issue.
Ayurvedic Rituals for Better Sleep -prepare your mind into a state of relaxation.
Go to bed at the same time every night, preferably by 10pm before going into Pitta time when you begin to wake up again.
Take a warm bath before bedtime, it's said jasmine and rose essential oils reduces stress. Always dilute essential oils in a base oil and then add to bath water.
Practice 10 rounds of alternate nostril breathing. Close your eyes. Then close your right nostril and inhale through your left, then close your left nostril and exhale through your right. Inhale through your right nostril, close your right, and then exhale through your left.
Sit quietly in meditation or silent sitting for 10 minutes.
Drink a cup of warm milk or milk alternative with a half a teaspoon of ashwagandha or nutmeg before bedtime. Milk contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, which both induce sleep.
Massage your scalp and feet. There are over 7,000 nerve endings on each foot, so giving both a massage helps relax the entire body.
The Ayuvedic Bible - Anne McIntyre