According to Ayurveda, a normally functioning Kapha dosha (humour) provides a healthy sleep and rest. But when Vata and pitta humour take over and Kapha is reduced, insomnia can result.
Sleep is a natural phenomenon in which we rest and restore our mind and body. But many people encounter problems sleeping when they go to bed. Some people go to bed but cannot fall asleep, while others wake up at night and cannot resume sleep.
It is estimated that one in three adults worldwide suffers from one or more symptoms of Insomnia. Research has also shown that 75-90% of those suffering from insomnia are also at risk of developing various pain conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, and gastric disorders*. Sleep disturbances associated with these chronic risk factors adversely affect an individual’s quality of life
Insomnia is the condition of sleeplessness. When it persists over extended periods of time, the consequences can be debilitating and devastating. Our bodies must have rest to function.
Ayurveda understands sleep as one of three pillars of healthy sustenance of life, along with Aahara (food) and Brahmacharya (conscious relationships). Moreover, the ancient textbook of Ayurveda, from 2nd century AD, by Acharya Charaka clearly mentions the significance of sleep in various physical and mental health parameters.
Causes of Insomnia
Improper diet and lifestyle leading to aggravation of vata and pitta
Regular use of stimulants such as tea and coffee
Excess cold, dry, fried, spicy food
Over-excitement and emotional disturbances such as worry, anger, and overwork
Ayurvedic approach to insomnia
The ayurvedic approach to insomnia is to re-establish balance throughout the body and restore the natural sleep-wake cycle. According to the teachings of Ayurveda, most of the chronic conditions, including insomnia, are triggered by a build-up of impurities in the body. Poor diet, weak digestion, excessively busy lifestyle, and too much stress can generate toxins and impair our body’s ability to get rid of them. Accumulated toxins interfere with our biochemistry and disturb our metabolism, including sleep functions.
Panchakarma for insomnia
Panchakarma and other allied therapies are recommended to detox the body and remove the physical and mental toxins that can give rise to insomnia. Treatments include:
Vasti (medicated enema) Most of the time, sleep problems have a relationship with your gut health. The colon is known as the seat of the vata dosha. Colon cleansing using therapeutic herbs helps to re-establish balance in your vata dosha and lower intestine. An ayurvedic specialist will plan the right type of therapeutic enema for you.
Shirodhara is an excellent treatment for insomnia and related stress, and anxiety as it profoundly relaxes the nervous system. A stream of warm medicated oil is poured very slowly onto the centre of your forehead (the location of the ‘third eye’) for about 30-45 minutes, followed with a gentle scalp massage and reflexology treatment. The effect is amazing! Shirodhara is non-invasive and enables the non-pharmacological management of insomnia. For best results, it is ideal to experience Shirodhara several days a week for about a month.
Shiroabhyanga (massage of the head) Therapeutic massage of the head helps to calm the nervous system. During the massage, we use medicinal oils tailored to your condition, which absorb well on the head, scalp and hair roots.
Padabhyanga (massage of the feet) Padhabyanga is soothing, revitalizing and calming. It stimulates vital marma points, thereby providing balance for disturbances of the autonomic nervous system.
Abhyanga (body massage) Therapeutic massage of the whole body with medicated oil helps improve blood and lymphatic circulation through the body. It balances the body’s chakras, nadis (energy channels) and marma (energy centres) and can bring deep peace and happiness to the body and mind.
Yoga and meditation Ayurveda suggests relaxing therapies such as yoga and meditation to support good sleep.