Shhhh…it’s time to sleep. - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Shhhh…it’s time to sleep.

By on January 15, 2017
time to sleep

Nineteen months and ago I welcomed a little bundle of joy and happiness into this world that changed life for me and my husband. I would not trade this experience for anything. As any crazy mama, I kiss the ground my son walks on and catch every smile of his, like a hungry dog leaping for a bone.

That being said, nineteen months ago I had NO idea that I would be exploring the realms of exhaustion, fatigue and sleep deprivation to the point of losing my cognitive ability, seeing things that are not there (hallucinating? yes!), and riding an emotional roller coaster.

If you are a mother, you know what I am talking about. Some call it Baby Blues, a more serious version could be depression, but this is not the point of this confabulation.

A huge contributor to a new mom’s breakdown is… POOR SLEEP

Not enough sleep, interrupted sleep, and overall low quality of sleep. You might argue, how about other reasons like nutrition or stress levels, etc.? Yes, of course, all of them too. But it is hard to imagine sometimes what a profound effect the quality and amount of sleep we get has on the rest of our lives.

So, here are some facts:

  • In his book, The Promise of Sleep, William C. Dement, perhaps the world’s most famous sleep researcher, cites a massive research study undertaken in the 1950s, when more than 1 million Americans were surveyed about their exercise, nutrition, smoking, sleep and other health-related habits. The survey was repeated in six years, and all of the respondents who had died in the meantime were identified. Out of all of the lifestyle factors investigated, habitual sleep time had the best correlation with mortality. This so often overlooked aspect of lifestyle was more predictive of mortality than even nutrition. (1)
  • In his the NYT article “Diagnosing the Wrong Deficit” Mr. Thakkar states: ‘A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also have sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted’.
  • And further on… ‘Attention-deficit problems are far from the only reasons to take our lack of quality sleep seriously. Laboratory animals die when they are deprived of delta sleep. Chronic delta sleep deficits in humans are implicated in many diseases, including depression, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, chronic pain, diabetes and cancer, not to mention thousands of fatigue-related car accidents each year’.

This is modern research. On the other hand, thousands of years ago Indian sages and Ayurvedic doctors knew what they were talking about. Charaka, a legendary Ayurvedic physician, considered to be the father of Ayurveda, wrote:

Happiness and misery, growth and wasting, strength and weakness, virility and sterility, knowledge and ignorance, life and death all depend upon sleep. In the matter of keeping up the body, sleep is regarded to be productive of as much happiness as the taking of food. (2)

Charaka’s comparison of sleep and nutrition as equal factors contributing to our well being made a lot of sense during my year-and-a half-long survival mode.

I noticed one SOLID correlation: on the days following a poor night sleep (let’s say if my son was sick and I had to get up 4-5 times a night), I would inevitably want to eat something sweet in addition to all regular symptoms of tiredness, lack of focus, forgetfulness and a bad mood.

Why? Because my deprived body needed energy, which it didn’t get at night, in order to go through the day and perform regular activities. Amazingly enough, when I started choosing an afternoon nap or a deep relaxation instead of a plate of dried fruit, a sweet pastry, or several Ginger Chew candies, and had good quality sleep the next several nights, the cravings for sugar magically disappeared! My body didn’t need to rely on the faulty crutch of sugar as an easily available form of fuel.

The point is: Ayurveda, as an ancient science of longevity, assigns a profound role to the ability of the body to self-heal.

In order to self-heal, the body needs energy. When natural, easily available sources of it–such as sleep–are cut off, the body will seek other ways to replenish it, either through sugar, caffeine or other substances. Caffeine, unfortunately, as well as sugar is a very rotten friend to rely on: in order to give you a so needed boost now, it will rob your system of deeper resources, borrowing them from the kidneys and adrenals, leading to deeper imbalances later.

So, you got the game now. Even if you are not a mother but still have a stressful job or a very taxing lifestyle with a few hours of sleep here and there; if you feel fatigued, emotional, crave sugar, are restless or agitated (particularly in the light of the coming fall, which tends to bring even more frenzy), maybe the body is gently brushing you with a feather, saying, “Take care of yourself. Simplify life. Take a pause. And go to bed before 10pm. PLEASE.”

I recommend listening to that little voice and not to wait until the hammer that will follow the feather.

It’s Friday. It’s the end of the week. Take care of yourself. And enjoy catching extra zzzzz’s. Sweet dreams!

————–
(1) – P. Dugliss, Ayurveda – The Power to Heal (MCD Century Publications), 40
(2) – A. Chandra Kaviratna and P. Sharma, Charaka Samhita (Delhi, India: Sri Satguru Publications), 160.

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About Jenya Grant

Jenya Grant, mama, Yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner, shares her passion for these ancient healing systems through public classes, workshops, teacher trainings and private coaching in Charleston, SC. She believes in big transformations through small and enjoyable changes, a loving attitude and patient timing :) You can connect with her through Facebook or her website: www.yogarasalife.com

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