“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Most people are familiar with this adage. However, we hardly ponder over the wisdom behind it. It signifies the importance of a healthy sleeping routine. Unfortunately, due to sleep disorders, work schedules, and the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century, sleep does not come easily to everyone.
Research suggests that around “50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes are affected by sleep-related problems”. A big part of this population relies on prescription sleeping aids. The problem is that prescription sleeping drugs can cause side effects ranging from minor to extreme.
Moreover, these drugs are standardized and do not take into account the individual needs of the body. The good news is that there is a safe, healthy, and natural alternative to tackling various sleep-related problems – Ayurvedic sleep-inducing herbs!
The Ayurvedic Theory
Anuradha Singh, a researcher in the Medicinal Chemistry field, explains the basis of Ayurveda, "The actionable experiential reasoning is at the foundations of Ayurveda, with its Praxis and theory being inseparable." In intelligible terms, Ayurvedic praxis and theory are intertwined.
A characteristic trait of the Ayurvedic theory is that it can be tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals. Ayurveda considers the unique needs and healthcare experiences of every individual to offer Ayurvedic treatments that include herbal preparations, diet interventions, and mind-body interventions, depending on the individual’s body constitution to ensure the safety and efficacy of the therapy.
Furthermore, it considers the effects of social determinants, such as nutrition, access to clean water, literacy, income, public distribution, etc. Therefore, the Ayurvedic concept of Kritasamjatha (Habit Formation) recommends that everyday and personal health practices must go hand in hand with treatment to produce effective results.
Ayurvedic Advice on Sleep – The Concept of Bahu Kalpa
When it comes to using Ayurvedic herbs for sleep disorders, the concept of Bahu Kalpa (Multi-Directional Approach) treatment is important. It entails the use of various mediums and methods to address the issues causing sleep troubles. It involves the use of multiple formations, including the following.
- Powder – Churna
- Concoction – Kashaya
- Fermented drink – Arishta
- Oil – Thailam
The Bahu Kalpa treatment is often recommended with other cleansing and rejuvenating external therapies, including:
- Massage – Abhyanga
- Pouring medicated oil on the forehead – Shiro Dhara
- The sweating therapy – Swedhana
- Applying medicated oil on the bregma region – Thailam
These practices are recommended based on the needs, goals, and body composition of an individual to help them achieve sound and restful sleep every night.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Sleep Disorders
The state of Kapha dosha is considered while suggesting Nidrajanaka (sleep-enhancing) Herbs. Let’s take a look at some of the best sleep-enhancing herbs.
Also known as the Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic treatment for centuries. Dhanvantari Nighantu, one of the oldest encyclopedias of Ayurvedic Pharmacology, explains Ashwagandha as Laghu (Light) and Snigdha (Unctuous). These qualities balance the Kapha dosha in the body to normalize the sleep cycle.
The benefits of Ashwagandha are backed by science, and the herb is also known to improve overall health through its Balya (Strengthening) and Rasayana (Rejuvenative and immunomodulatory) properties. A recent study has confirmed the effectiveness of Ashwagandha in coping up with anxiety and sleep-related issues.
Another study published in the Cureus medical journal shows that the herb can be used as an effective treatment for insomnia and anxiety. Its Balya and Nidhrajanaka properties are also reinforced through research.
The active ingredients in the herb work to ground the body and prepare the mind for a peaceful sleep. Ashwagandha is commonly available in the form of organic root powder.
Brahmi is native to the wetlands of Southern and Eastern India. It is cooling in nature owing to its Soumya (calming) property. It calms the emotional turbulence to promote restful sleep. While it is an Ayurvedic herb for sleep disorders, it is also used to address digestion problems and enhance blood circulation in the body.
Furthermore, research supports the effectiveness of Brahmi in reducing cortisol, which is a stress-inducing hormone. Currently, Brahmi is available in the market as powder, tablets, oil, and herbal concoctions.
All three major Ayurvedic texts – Charaka, Susrutha, and Vagbhata – have mentioned this wonder herb as a vital ingredient in memory-enhancing formulations. Shankapushpi is found effective in a variety of stressors, that could be physical, emotional and mental in origin. Moreover, it also possesses Snigdha (moistening) and Pichhila (smearing) qualities that enhance the overall health of the body.
Shankapushpi has promising research to support that it could help in an occasional depressive and anxious state. These benefits work together to induce sound sleep. It is typically available as powder, capsule, and syrup.
Just like Ashwagandha, the Jatamansi plant is laghu (light) and Snigdha (Unctuous), which means it reduces Kapha and Pitta doshas in the mind and body. Therefore, it is used as an effective sleeping aid in Ayurvedic treatments.
Jatamansi is known as a sleep initiator in Ayurveda and has the ability to enhance the quality of sleep. Studies done on this Himalayan herbs suggest that it is a mild detox for the body and uplifting herb for the mind. Another name for Jatamansi is Indian Spikenard. It is generally available in the form of powder and oil.
Jyothishmathi often goes by the name of the Staff Tree in English and Malkangani in Hindi. Unlike the Ayurvedic sleep-inducing herbs discussed above, Jyothishmathi has very hot potency. It is Teekshna (strong) in nature, and the seed powder produces a feeling of heat and warmth in the body after consumption. Therefore, Ayurvedic physicians often recommend it in smaller dosages. Larger doses are typically administered in winter.
The seeds are rich in fatty acids and alkaloids that induce calming and motivating capabilities. As a result, this Ayurvedic herb works extremely well for stress management. Research has revealed that Jyothishmathi also improves memory function, eyesight, and mental & cognition alertness. It is available in both oil and powdered form.
How to Use Ayurvedic Sleep-enhancing Herbs Safely
Is it safe to use Ayurvedic sleep-inducing herbs?
This is one of the most common concerns of people trying Ayurvedic treatments for the first time. The good news is that all the Ayurvedic herbs mentioned are safe, effective, and ideal for long-term use. They may have minimal or temporary side effects.
However, it is recommended to consult an Ayurvedic physician before starting on any herbs or supplements, especially pungent herbs such as Sarpagandha and Cannabis Sativa. These drugs are generally recommended to treat severe cases of insomnia. Prolonged use may have negative impacts on the intellectual or cognitive abilities of the body.
The Bottom Line
If you are considering an Ayurvedic treatment for the first time and have doubts about its efficacy, you are not alone because practitioners always find it difficult to convince patients with just words and explanations. Since results can’t be experienced in advance of the treatment, this can be sorted by making an appointment with a healthcare practitioner.
So, what can you do to make sure that Ayurvedic treatment is for you? Ayurvedic treatments are an excellent alternative to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues. The best approach is to give it a try because it not only helps improve your sleep cycle, it is also beneficial for various health conditions and enhances overall health and wellbeing.
Remember, the long-term goal of Ayurvedic practices is to achieve Kritasamjatha (Habit Formation) through various Ayurvedic herbs, supplements, and healthy lifestyle changes. It can transform your life forever!