Sleep is an essential body function that recharges the mind and rejuvenates the body. Good quality sleep leaves us refreshed and keeps us alert in the morning. The brain cannot function properly without proper sleep, which is why sleep disorders can impair the ability to think, concentrate, and process information.
Moreover, adequate sleep is fundamental to a healthy body as it staves off diseases. For all these reasons and many more, it is essential to make sure you get sound and adequate sleep every night. Unfortunately, a large population suffers from a chronic lack of sleep and other sleep disorders.
While sleep medication may seem like a simple solution for all your sleep problems, popping a pill every night is neither healthy nor desirable. What you need is a natural and healthy way to improve your sleeping pattern. This is where ayurvedic treatment for sleeplessness and other common sleep disorders comes in!
Three Mantras for Sound Sleep
Ayurvedic treatment for sleep management is multidimensional. It is a well-rounded approach that targets sleep-related concerns on all levels and stimulates the body and mind. Let’s take a look at three mantras that work together to help you achieve good sleep.
- Compassion/ Self-love (Snehana)
- Touch (Abhyanga)
Considering these mantras, if you want to improve the quality of sleep, make a self-massage part of your daily routine. Self oil massage on the head improves physical and mental health. The involvement of self-love and compassion harnessed by the herbal oils makes self oil massage distinct from other types of massages.
On the other hand, touch is considered to be the primary sense in Ayurveda. Studies at the Institute of Neurological Science in Glasgow show that touch may reduce heart rate and blood pressure. It helps generate melatonin in the body and increases the level of serotonin, aka the ‘feel-good’ hormone.
Therefore, Ayurveda, compassion, and touch are part of the ayurvedic treatment for sleeplessness!
1. Ayurveda and Sleep Management Concerns
When it comes to sleep management, there are two protocols of utmost importance.
Samana Chikitsas: The Pacifying Protocol
The pacifying protocol involves the use of Herbo-mineral formulations, Single herb or Polyherbal formulations, and animal products to clear the mind and induce sleep. In addition to these formulations and products, other therapies such as Sudation (Swedhana) and local oil application (Snehana) are also employed. The pacifying protocol is used to treat a Tridosha imbalance that's neither deep-rooted nor severe.
Shodhana Chikitsas: The Purifying Protocol
The purifying protocol works at a deeper level. It helps the body cleanse the elevated doshas and reverse the pathophysiological changes. Sudation and oil application therapies are generally employed prior to using the purifying protocol to prepare the body for the physiological changes that may happen during the protocol.
Compassion/Self-Love (Snehana) & Sleep Management
Also known as oleation therapy, Snehana is an ayurvedic treatment for sleeplessness that involves the use of medicated oil and massage. Snehana (lubrication) helps the body to heal from within and attain stability. It works by administering the fatty products internally and externally.
It is interesting to note that the word ‘Sneha’ translates to love or affection. Here, it refers to self-love and compassion. Thus, when we talk about ayurvedic treatment routine for sleep management, it is Sneha (self oil massage) that creates a friendly relationship between the mind and body and ensures harmony.
Touch (Abhyanga) for Quality Sleep
The process of massaging the body with warm herbal oil is known as Abhyanga. Practicing Abhyanga daily helps the body to stay in balance and healthy. Moreover, dosha-specific oils used for massaging relieve stress from the body as well as the mind.
Abhyanga is done in the direction of the body hair, with synchronized massaging at the joint areas. The downward movement represents the movement of Vata dosha, which is responsible for our energy and movement. Breathing, circulation, digestion, and speech are all manifestations of Vata. Therefore, the normal passage of Vata induced by Abhyanga promotes good sleep.
Let’s learn a bit more about Abhyanga!
How to Perform Abhyanga?
The movement of the massage is in the downward direction. The circular massaging action is performed on the joints. Once the massage is performed, the person indulges in a mild physical activity, such as walking. It is also advised to undergo Swedanan, the Sudation therapy, that helps the oil reach the deeper tissue by opening certain pathways (Srothases).
As a result, the Kapha dosha, which is instrumental to quality sleep, increases. Swedana therapy must be followed by a brisk shower. The Ayurvedic texts always recommend hot water for the whole body and cold water for the head.
What is the Ideal Time to Perform Abhyanga?
The best time of the day to perform Abhyanga is in the morning when the Agni (digestive fire) is healthy and capable of metabolizing food in a timely fashion, stable enough to process Guru (Heaviness) and Snigdha (Softness) of oil.
How to Choose the Perfect Oil for Abhyanga?
The oils you pick for abhyanga play a significant role in determining the overall effectiveness of the therapy. The oil we choose must have Vatahara (Vata alleviating), Balya (Strengthening), Nidhrajanaka (sleep improving), and Snigdha (moistening) properties. Here is a list of oils generally used for abhyanga.
- Ashwagandhadhi Thailam
- Ksheerabala Thailam
- Balaguluchyadi Thailam
- Dhanwantaram Thailam
- Coconut oil
- Plain Gingelly Oil
What Abhyanga Methods Target Quality Sleep?
Ayurveda recommends specific Abhyanga methods that target better Nidra (Sleep). Let’s take a look at them.
Shiro Abhyanga is essentially an upper body massage that focuses on the head (Shiras), which is the main site of Vata dosha but may also include massaging the neck and shoulders. This method works like a charm to reduce stress and reverse sleep disorders.
The oil is applied to the crown and then spread throughout the head by using the fingers. Use the fingertips of both hands to apply medium pressure on the scalp. Then, move the fingers in small circular motions. It is best to wait at least 30 minutes before you take a shower after Shiro Abhyanga.
In a study published in the International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Medical Sciences, Shiro Abhyanga with herbal oil was found to be very helpful with stress-induced insomnia.
Paada Abhyangam is a relaxing ayurvedic foot massage that involves the use of medicated oil. It is a lower body massage, and while it focuses on the feet, it may also include massaging legs and knees, specifically targeting the marmas (energy points) in the body.
The treatment releases negative energy from these points, stabilizing the Vata Dosha and increasing the blood flow to the neuro-muscular junction. This procedure can improve the overall sleep cycle, owing to the foot's direct connection with the Manas (mind) and Indriyas (Senses).
Shiro-Taila Dhara is recommended to reverse a serious dosha imbalance. It involves pouring medicated oil on the forehead from a specific height by an ayurvedic therapist. A particular rhythm and temperature need to be maintained to unleash the full benefits of this ayurvedic practice.
Medicated oil, powder mixed with oil, or medicated ghee is applied to the crown, mainly on and around the bregma region for a particular period of time to help with sleep management. Thalam is found to be extremely effective in relieving insomnia, anxiety, migraines, and hypertension. It imparts coolness that soothes the mind and brings out a feeling of wellness.
The Bottom Line
When combined with Ayurvedic wisdom, compassion, and touch work to promote quality sleep, relax the mind, create inner harmony, and manifest various health benefits. If you rely on the ayurvedic treatment for sleeplessness, you will never need a sleeping pill again!