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  • Grazie Prokopetz

Improving sleep according to Ayurveda and recent scientific research.

Updated: 2 hours ago

Recent scientific evidence has shown that the lack of proper sleep impacts every single function of our bodies, leading to an array of illnesses from cardiovascular risk to brain damage. Kidney disease, obesity, gastritis, stroke, depression, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, infertility, increased stress and anxiety, diminished memory and focus... the list is just too long.

I wish I had a quick magic pill or a simple solution to improve the most important—and most neglected—habit one needs for a optimal health, or should I say: for survival, but the secret lies in better daily habits.

🌙 Or sleep is part of a daily light-dark cycle called the circadian rhythm, this system is regulated by the pineal gland in our brains, that receive information of lightness and darkness and triggers the production of the proper amount of hormones (cortisol and melatonin) to be released when it's time to be awake and alert (cortisol) and when it's time to wind down and sleep (melatonin). The pineal gland receives information from our eyes at all times of day and night (yes, even when we're sleeping with our eyes closed, our eyelids are slightly translucent) in order to coordinate this beautiful synchrony.

With that in mind, we must be thinking of sleep by the first ours of waking up to give our pineal gland the proper information and stimuli to release the hormones in a timely fashion.

It's a long explanation, but I think it will make the following habits easier to understand and adhere to if you're looking to get better sleep:

🕰️ Ayurveda proposes going to be around 10 p.m. and waking at sunrise, and now we have recent research showing why: we go through about 5 cycles of REM and deep sleep per night, each one has its specific importance on memory, learning, developing, organizing and even forgetting what's not useful. When we go to bed late, we miss some of those stages.

🌞 Get some sunlight in in the first hour of waking up, even if it's cloudy, soak in 10+ minutes of that free life-giving source. Please do not stare directly at the sun.

🕗 A good night's sleep goes from 7-9 hours depending on the person, so find your sweet spot! If you sleep less than 7 hours your brain is just not getting all the stages of REM and deep sleep it needs.

💻 Remove all electronics from the bedroom. The emission of waves coming from those devices disrupt Vata dosha, which intern will lead to anxiety and insomnia. You may not feel it the night of since this is an unbalance that takes days to install.

☕ Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently, but it can take several hours (some say 16!) to be completely excreted from your system. So make an experiment and try to avoid it for a couple of days to see how it affects you before you take supplements for sleep.

📱Practice sleep hygiene. As the sun sets, turn off electronic devices, especially ones that emit blue light as this light tricks our brain into thinking it's daytime and will delay the release the melatonin for several hours. Dim the lights, and avoid consuming information that causes anxiety or stress after sunset. Or should I say, always?

🌬️ Deep, slow breathing exercises, with exhalation longer than inhalation, will help you fall asleep.

💡Prefer warm (yellow) lights over white lights. And when it comes time to fall asleep, make the room completely dark.

🏃🏽 Favor exercising in the morning. It can take several hours for the body to wind down after a work out, so if you exercise at night, it will disrupt your sleep start time.

🍽️ Your last meal of the day should be before 7 p.m., warm and light to digest. This is important for both sleep and good digestion.

🌰 Important nutrients to get from diet and/or supplementation: tryptophan, magnesium, zinc, iron, B complex, C, D, omega 3

❄️ Make the bedroom a tad colder, but comfortable, as the body needs to decrease its temperature to induce sleep.

🥃 Alcohol makes us sleepy, yes, but it's very poor quality sleep. It suppresses REM sleep that is so important for memory, cognition and proper brain function.

😰 Learn a few ways to cope with anxiety and stress in this post: Managing Anxiety with Ayurveda

💤 Avoid naps during the day, unless you are a child, teenager, elderly, or really fatigued or weak. According to Ayurveda, people with Vata dosha may occasionally need naps during the day, especially in summer.

💨 Last but not least, an unbalanced Vata dosha can cause insomnia, so consult with an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner to learn how to balance your doshas.

As everything I write, every single one of these recommendations is backed by Ayurveda for thousands of years and most recently by modern science. Obviously they didn't have iPhones millennia ago, but the foundational reasons why we must avoid certain things can be found in these ancient teachings. My sources are the works of:

• Ayurveda

• Andrew Huberman Ph.D. - Professor of Neurology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University.

• Matthew Walker - Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California and author of the book Why We Sleep.

To a balanced life!


Grazie Prokopetz, Doctor of Ayurveda




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