According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 3 people now have problems with sleep. In the last 50 years, The National Sleep Foundation says the average amount of sleep we get has reduced from 8 to 7 hours – that’s a month of sleep lost each year.
People who struggle with sleep often fall into 2 categories:
Those who can't get to sleep
Those who wake in the middle of the night or the early hours
Sleep can be affected by myriad factors like stress, anxiety, depression, or chronic pain, to name a few, and often when we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, we don’t feel on top of our game mentally or physically.
We talked to our friends at Pukka about the importance of sleep and how we can improve it. Read on to learn more about sleep hygiene and what Ayurveda can teach us about sleeping better.
Sleep is key to physical and mental health
Sleep offers the body time to repair and recharge each night. Between the hours of 10 pm-2 am, the real physical repair process happens, and between 2-6 am psychological repair processes take place – a little spring clean for the brain.
There’s no simple answer to how much sleep we need as every individual is different and healthy sleep patterns can range from 4 to 10 hours per night – although 4 is at the lower end and we certainly wouldn’t recommend this amount of sleep for a long period of time.
Good sleep hygiene habits
Sleep hygiene works on the idea that many (but not all) sleep problems are due to bad habits. Here are three very simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene.
We know you’ve heard these before, but have you mindfully tried each one, or just thought about them? How did you get on?
Schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. It’s so simple but we rarely do it.
Environment. Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only. Absolutely no screen time is allowed when you're in bed!
Relaxation. Try some breathing techniques as you lie in bed, like inhaling for a count of 3 or 4 and exhaling to a count of 6 or 8. This helps relax the nervous system.
Natural herbs for better sleep hygiene
You could try some herbs to aid your sleep as well. Ashwagandha is a hero herb for helping calm anxious nerves. Valerian is another traditional sleeping tonic and natural sedative used in lots of sleeping tablets.
Dosha types and sleeping habits
Ayurveda offers deep insights into the nature of sleep by looking at mind-body types, or doshas. It states that if sleep happens at the right time, you’ll be cheerful, strong, disease-free, and might even live to be a centenarian!
Take a look at your dosha type below and see if any of them ring true, you might find out why some people are vulnerable to disturbed sleep, while others can neck an espresso martini before bed and start snoring within seconds.
Vata types tend to be more alert and wakeful as this dosha is linked to the nervous system and movement. Though vatas can have trouble falling asleep, it is much more likely to cause waking before 2-6 am. As vatas are such light sleepers, it might help to use eye masks and ear plugs, as well as blackout blinds. Vatas can also experience teeth grinding, sleepwalking, and sleep talking.
Pitta types tend to have difficulty falling asleep as their minds are often stimulated at all times. This means pittas can often become night owls between 10 pm-2 am. They might also be a bit more restless at night, preferring fewer covers with their tendency to overheat.
It might help to limit any distractions before bed so you aren’t overstimulated and keep your bedroom cool and airy to avoid overheating. Teas containing chamomile, rose, mint, or licorice will cool and soothe pitta types.
Kapha types are heavy sleepers, rarely disturbed or awakened. However, they are the most likely to have a sleep condition called sleep apnoea (breathing difficulties) and are more likely to need to urinate at night.
They love soft beds with lots of warm covers. Kapha types don’t often need as much sleep as they have, which can lead to difficulties waking up. Invigorating teas such as those with ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric, or cinnamon will stimulate and revitalize this dosha.
Now you know more about sleep hygiene and Ayurveda, it's time to make good sleep your priority!